Thu Feb 2 4:47pm ET
By DAN GELSTON
AP Sports Writer
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts walks on the field after the NFC Championship NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in Philadelphia. The Eagles won 31-7. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, center, reacts while speaking toTerry Bradshaw, left, after the NFC Championship NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in Philadelphia. The Eagles won 31-7. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Philadelphia Eagles' Jalen Hurts speaks during a news conference at the NFL football team's training facility, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, in Philadelphia. The Eagles are scheduled to play the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts reacts after the NFC Championship NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in Philadelphia. The Eagles won 31-7. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
Terry Bradshaw, left, stands on stage with Philadelphia Eagles players from left, Fletcher Cox, Jalen Hurts and A.J. Brown after the NFC Championship NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in Philadelphia. The Eagles won 31-7. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Brandon Graham laughed as he recalled all the doubters who rushed him during the offseason and blurted out the same question - the main concern, really - about the state of the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback.
''What's Jalen going to do?'' said Graham, the strip-sacking defensive end.
Yes, it's hard to remember now, but Jalen Hurts was a bit of a mystery headed into his second full season as the starting QB. His solid 2021 season was marred by a poor playoff performance against Tampa Bay (that included two crushing interception) and reports of a rough go at organized team activities.
So the question raised around Philly really was, what's Jalen going to do?
''I don't know how many times I got that from fans, even some media people,'' Graham said. '''I don't know, the X-factor factor is Jalen. We don't know what Jalen is going to do.'''
How about take the Eagles to the brink of their second Super Bowl championship?
Hurts launched the Eagles from preseason 30-1 odds to win the Super Bowl to staking them as 1 1/2-point favorites against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl.
As the seconds ticked down in the NFC championship victory over San Francisco, Graham and Fletcher Cox embraced Hurts on the sideline. Just a couple of defensive stalwarts who wanted to thank the quarterback that made it all happen.
''I was just telling him, I appreciate him because of all the things that he had to overcome this year,'' Graham said. ''You didn't see him get rattled not one time. Man, I'm going to fight for a guy like that every time.''
The only true setback this season was a sprained right shoulder that cost Hurts two games. He still is playing through it; Hurts was a modest 15-of-25 passing for 121 yards and ran for 39 yards and a touchdown against the 49ers. The 24-year-old Hurts has downplayed the severity of the injury from the beginning. He simply said Thursday, ''I'm getting there.''
The AFC champion Chiefs are prepared for Hurts at full speed.
''This is the Jalen Hurts Show at the end of the day,'' defensive end Frank Clark said. ''If you can stop what he's doing, you can possibly slow them down. But he's playing some great football.''
Hurts is appreciative of the magnitude of the moment. Mahomes and Hurts are both Texas natives. They are both NFL MVP finalists. And they will be the first Black QBs to face off in a Super Bowl.
Hurts said he tried to live up to the trail blazed in Philadelphia by fellow Black quarterbacks such as Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick and Randall Cunningham. While they are the most notable names, Rodney Peete and Vince Young were also Black starting QBs in Philly.
Hurts was honored to match up with Mahomes.
''I think it's history. I think it's something that's worthy of being noted,'' Hurts said.
The Chiefs beat the Eagles in October 2021 when Hurts threw for 387 yards and two touchdowns. Mahomes? Well, he threw for five. But the game was one of the earliest signs that Hurts would grow into the man in Philly.
''He had a great game this day,'' Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said, ''but he continues to get better.''
The Eagles stunned their fans when they drafted Hurts out of Oklahoma in the second round in 2020. They seemingly had Carson Wentz entrenched at QB and had more pressing needs. Hurt was expected to serve as insurance for Wentz. Instead, he supplanted him. Now the Eagles are on the road to Glendale, Arizona.
''When we drafted him, it was the upside we were banking on,'' Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said. ''We thought he had a huge upside. It takes a couple years. And somebody so dedicated as Jalen and such a great teammate, inevitably he is going to maximize everything he has and that's what he's done.''
The only mystery surrounding Hurts these days is just how much he can maximize his next contract. Hurts is due for a raise and he's going to get paid. Mahomes agreed in July 2020 to a 10-year extension worth up to $503 million. The deal is worth $477 million in guarantee mechanisms and included a no-trade clause and opt-out clauses if guarantee mechanisms aren't met. What's Hurts worth? Try in the neighborhood of $50 million a season when it's time to negotiate his second contract.
The only hiccup might be the length. The NFL's salary cap will be $224.8 million in 2023, an increase of $16.6 million. At that rate, Hurts could be in his late 20s when the cap creeps toward $300 million and there's more room to spend.
The Eagles are addressing those thorny topics after the Super Bowl.
''He is a great young leader. He is a terrific young quarterback,'' Lurie said.
In just over a week, he could be a Super Bowl winner.
NOTES: The Eagles activated the 21-day practice window for punter Arryn Siposs to return from injured reserve. Siposs had been sidelined since mid-December with an ankle injury. The Eagles have since used veteran Brett Kern. Siposs could be activated for the Super Bowl ahead of Kern.
Interview with TFC Winner
Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn is expected to get another interview for the Arizona Cardinals' head-coaching position, according to a league source. Glenn also had a second interview for the head-coaching job for the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday, so he's in play for the final two head-coaching opportunities in the NFL this cycle. He was responsible for resurrecting Detroit's defense last season in the second half of the year. In addition to Glenn, the Cardinals interviewed Mike Kafka, Lou Anarumo and Brian Callahan for the head-coaching gig this week. Arizona is looking to replace Kliff Kingsbury, who was fired after a disappointing 2022 campaign.
Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen is scheduled to have his second interview for the Indianapolis Colts' head-coaching position on Saturday. It was reported on Thursday that the Colts could have a rare third round of coaching interviews, so they're clearly taking their time with a decision. Steichen has plenty of competition for the Colts head-coach job, as Aaron Glenn, Raheem Morris, Ejiro Evero, Don Martindale, Rich Bisaccia and Brian Callahan are also in the running. The Colts fired Frank Reich, who is now the Carolina Panthers head coach, after a rough start to the 2022 season. They replaced him with interim head coach Jeff Saturday, who went 1-7 down the stretch as a first-time head coach with zero previous coaching experience in the NFL.
New York Jets impending free-agent quarterback Mike White is likely to draw interest on the open market this offseason as a high-end backup. White had his moments in 2022 after taking over for the struggling Zach Wilson, but he's injury-prone and commits too many turnovers. He has started only seven games in his NFL game, but he's averaged 308 passing yards and completed 62.1 percent of his passes in six of those starts. Former Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur preferred White as the starter over Wilson, so there's a chance the Los Angeles Rams could be interested in signing White as the backup to Matthew Stafford. The Jets will keep Wilson around for now, but they're expected to make a big splash at the position via a trade or free agency.
The Atlanta Falcons are expected to re-sign impending unrestricted free-agent wide receivers Olamide Zaccheaus and KhaDarel Hodge this offseason. Zaccheaus was second on the team with 40 catches for 533 yards in 2022. "Just an extremely unselfish guy and the kind of guy you want in your program," wide receivers coach T.J. Yates said. Hodge had just 13 receptions for 202 yards but led the team with nine special teams tackles. Both wideouts entered the league as undrafted free agents and can probably be brought back on affordable deals. Zaccheaus struggled with rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder under center over the final four games, catching just eight passes on 17 targets for 55 yards. Neither Zaccheaus nor Hodge will open the 2023 season on the fantasy radar.
It sounds as though the Atlanta Falcons haven't given up on making Feleipe Franks a tight end. The former college quarterback was moved to the tight end position last year and showed flashes during training camp, but he didn't have any catches during the regular season and was only targeted twice. Franks is under contract for less than $1 million for 2023, so the Falcons can afford to be patient with his development. It's disappointing that the 25-year-old didn't do anything at all in the passing game, especially considering Kyle Pitts' season-ending knee injury. Franks played more than five offensive snaps in a game just once in 2022. He should have a bigger offensive role in 2023, but he won't be on the fantasy radar at all unless Pitts misses time with another injury.
The Athletic's Josh Kendall writes that the consensus is that nobody outside the Atlanta Falcons building knows whether the team is committed to quarterback Desmond Ridder for the long term because no one inside the building is talking. Ridder started the final four games of 2022 and went 73-for-115 for 708 yards, two touchdowns and a 112.9 passer rating on third downs. "I don't think it's smart business strategy ever to give away what your plan is," head coach Arthur Smith said. One private QB coach watching practices at UNLV this week expressed concerns about Ridder's throwing motion and how it will affect his accuracy and arm health down the road. Ridder's QB coach Jordan Palmer, however, notes how cerebral he is and says he's "set up for success." Atlanta has the No. 8 overall pick in this year's draft and enough salary cap space to add a high-profile QB, but they could also be content to let Ridder open the 2023 season as the starter under center.
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is particularly optimistic that wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) and Kadarius Toney (ankle, hamstring) will be able to play in the Super Bowl on Feb. 12 against the Philadelphia Eagles. "He's in a good place," Reid said about Smith-Schuster. Smith-Schuster and Toney have yet to practice this week, but they'll have another whole week to rest up before the big game. Smith-Schuster had just one catch for seven yards in the AFC Championship before getting hurt, while Toney had a nine-yard catch. We'll have a better read on their statuses for the Super Bowl next week, but with Mecole Hardman (pelvis) unlikely to play, it could mean more work for Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore and Justin Watson if Smith-Schuster and Toney are limited or out.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (ankle) said he didn't aggravate his right high-ankle sprain in the AFC Championship win over the Cincinnati Bengals and just experienced general soreness from a physical game. "Other than that, I'm in a good spot," Mahomes said. He was somehow able to practice in full all of last week leading up to the game against Cincy and also put in a full practice on Wednesday. The 27-year-old certainly wasn't 100% last weekend, but he did enough to lead the Chiefs to a win by going 29-for-43 for 326 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Mahomes should be in better shape for the Super Bowl on Feb. 12 against the Philadelphia Eagles, but his mobility probably will continue to be hindered.
Dynasty | Kyle Shanahan said he doesn't envision "any scenario" where veteran Jimmy Garoppolo returns to the team for the 2023 season. Dynasty Analysis: He called Trey Lane and Brock Purdy both "starters" and is "content enough" with the situation. Without a series of catastrophic events, Garoppolo will depart and will likely find plenty of suitors. While not a high-end producer, he's a fine game manager and should have little difficult finding an under-center role to begin the 2023 regular season. He's listed as DLF's QB29.
Dynasty | There's no indication, either way, if the Falcons see sophomore Desmond Ridder as a potential starter in 2023 Dynasty Analysis: Apparently, no one "inside the building" is talking about Ridder or the opportunity to address the position via the draft. While some times prefer to put up smoke screens, others just go quiet as is the case with the Falcons. It's still early and with the Combine taking place later this month, there's a possibility more will emerge at that time. Ridder finished under-center in the team's final four games, producing a 63.5% completion percentage, throwing for 708 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. With added mobility, Ridder does possess an intriguing skillset and it's possible he could grow into the starting role with another year of experience but, at the same time, the team possesses the 8th-overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft and should have options if deemed necessary. Ridder is found as DLF's QB27 and this ranking hangs in the balance as the offseason plays out. A highly drafted rookie or the acquisition of a top free agent would send Ridder's dynasty stock off a cliff.
Dynasty | It's not out of the question the Bengals seeks to trade Tee Higgins for a high 2023 NFL Draft selection. Dynasty Analysis: While the team possesses the fourth-most ($44M) cap space in the NFL, they are also seeking to make Joe Burrow the highest paid player in league history and, while Higgins is not a free agent until 2024, the belief is that it could be better to receive compensation now rather than see him walk in free agency next season. Ultimately, it's expected the team will allow Higgins to play out his final season and the team can then best determine how to proceed in 2024. Listed as DLF's WR7 and still only 24, Higgins' best potential comes on the end of Burrow's passes, and a move to a new team could significantly impact, not only his production, but also his dynasty ranking.
Dynasty | Joe Mixon "hasn't been spectacular" and the Bengals could choose a cheaper option to save money while drafting a a mid-round back. Dynasty Analysis: It's more guesswork as Mixon still has two years remaining on his contract though the team is soon to face significant salary/cap issues due to a number of young upside players entering or closing-in on free agency, including Joe Burrows likely extension, making him the highest paid player in NFL history. As pointed out in the article, Mixon's effectiveness continues to remain below the league average and given the depth of this year's running back class, in addition to cheaper names available on the open market, his time in Cincinnati may be drawing to a close. The 26-year-old runner continues to be a streaky fantasy performer and a move out to a new team may, or may not, provide movement in his current RB11 ranking on DLF.
Dynasty | Mike White is a free agent in 2023 Dynasty Analysis: It's not likely White returns to the Jets as the starter in 2023 following the spectacular flameout of Zach Wilson. Wilson had been showing enough to enter consideration for the job but a rib injury all but ended his bid. With as many as 19 teams possessing quarterback issues, White is certainly in position to move with a chance of competing for a job. It's all guesswork as to which team will step up to offer an opportunity and until that is known, it's difficult to project White's QB39 status on DLF.
The Carolina Panthers have requested permission to interview Jacksonville Jaguars passing-game coordinator Jim Bob Cooter for their offensive coordinator opening, according to a source. The Panthers have also added Detroit Lions assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley to their staff, and although his title is not known, he clearly wasn't hired as the offensive coordinator. The last two years, Cooter has worked with coaches who are connected to Panthers head coach Frank Reich. Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson and Reich coached together with the Philadelphia Eagles and won Super Bowl LI. Cooter worked as a consultant for the Eagles under Nick Sirianni in 2021. He has experience calling plays for the Detroit Lions from 2016-18.
Detroit Lions assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley is leaving to join the Carolina Panthers and head coach Frank Reich's coaching staff, according to sources. The title and nature of Staley's role in Carolina is unknown at this time. Staley and Reich have history working together, as Staley served as the running backs coach for the Philadelphia Eagles during Reich's two years as the offensive coordinator. Staley spent 10 seasons with the Eagles as a coach and also played seven years for the organization as an RB. It's likely that Staley will be involved with RBs again in Carolina, which is great news for both D'Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard. Meanwhile, back in Detroit, it's a big loss for the position.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that head coach Mike McCarthy will call the offensive plays in 2023, and a version of the offenses he ran with the Green Bay Packers will be coming to Dallas. It will be the first time the Cowboys' head coach has also called offensive plays since Jason Garrett did so in 2012. It will also be quarterback Dak Prescott's first scheme chance in his career with the team. Dallas agreed to part ways with previous offensive coordinator Kellen Moore after the season, and executive vice president Stephen Jones hinted at differences in opinion between Moore and McCarthy. Dallas has interviewed Jeff Nixon and Thomas Brown for their coordinator vacancy, but it's been established that McCarthy will be running the offense in 2023.
As of Wednesday, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (elbow) was still considering his options, although general manager John Lynch said all the experts seem to be suggesting a surgery to fix his torn UCL that will require a six-month rehab. If that's the case, head coach Kyle Shanahan said he's content with Purdy and Trey Lance being the top quarterbacks heading into training camp. It's why both Lynch and Shanahan said they don't foresee a scenario where they re-sign impending QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Purdy will likely have surgery on his right elbow, and there's no guarantee that he'll be ready to rock for the start of spring training. Lance is also coming off two serious injuries suffered early in the 2022 season, but he should be fully ready by the summer, making him the most likely starter under center for the Niners to open 2023.
Both Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and executive vice president Stephen Jones were adamant that they want running back Ezekiel Elliott back in 2023, but Stephen Jones reiterated it "has to work financially" for both sides. Elliott said recently that he'd be willing to take a pay cut to stay in Dallas. He has a dead salary cap hit of $12 million, so there's a chance the Cowboys cut him this offseason if they can't work something out. Tony Pollard, who has been much more explosive than Elliott the last two years, is a free agent, but the Cowboys want to re-sign him. The 27-year-old Elliott had a career-low 3.8 yard-per-carry average in 2022, gaining 876 yards and 12 touchdowns on 231 carries. If he stays in Dallas and Pollard returns, he'll continue to see his role decrease as more of a short-yardage, goal-line back.
Hayden Hurst signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Bengals this past offseason. He is set to be a free agent in 2023. The 29-year-old made a decent impact for the Bengals this season, catching 54 passes for 414 yards and two touchdowns over 13 games. Cincinnati has $44 million in cap space but is expected to sign star quarterback Joe Burrow to an extension, making him of the highest-paid players in league history. According to Paul Dehere of The Athletic, the Bengals would like to bring Hurst back in 2023, especially with backup Drew Sample becoming a free agent this offseason. Hurst will be a steady contributor and a mid-range TE2 if he returns to Cincinnati in 2023.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (ankle) was listed as a full participant on Wednesday's practice estimate. Mahomes initially suffered a high right ankle sprain in the divisional round win over the Jaguars. The 27-year-old played through the ankle injury in the AFC Championship win over the Bengals. He appeared hobble at times but threw for 326 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions in last Sunday's playoff win over Cincinnati. The superstar quarterback could be without some of his targets as JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee), Kadarius Toney (ankle/hamstring), and Mecole Hardman (pelvis) all missed Wednesday's practice. Mahomes should be all systems go in the Super Bowl against the Eagles, as the star quarterback will look to lead the Chiefs to their third championship win in franchise history.