Thu Jan 17 2:14pm ET
By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The even-keeled executive with the crisp suit and winning smile stood inside the mostly empty Kansas City Chiefs locker room, his team having just won a home playoff game for the first time in 25 years.
He talked about how much it meant to their long-suffering fans. Spoke glowingly about coach Andy Reid, and his young superstar quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. He praised the rest of a team that captured its third straight AFC West title before knocking off the Colts in the playoffs.
It wasn't until Clark Hunt was asked about winning the AFC title game that he became emotional.
You see, the Chiefs were founded by his father, the late Lamar Hunt, who along with seven others in what would be called ''The Foolish Club'' founded the AFL.
The personable Texas businessman's importance to establishing the modern NFL was honored in 1984, when the league renamed the silver trophy awarded to the winner of the AFC championship game the Lamar Hunt Trophy.
So it's easy to understand why his son, now the team's chairman and the most visible face of the ownership family, would have tears in the corners of his eyes at the thought of holding it for the first time with a win over the New England Patriots on Sunday night.
''It's been a long time coming,'' Clark Hunt said. ''Since Andy came here we've had a lot of shots, but we finally have a chance to win the AFC championship, and to do it at home is so special for us.''
The Chiefs have never played an AFC title game at Arrowhead Stadium. They won at Buffalo to reach the first Super Bowl, and in Oakland on their way to their lone Super Bowl triumph in 1970.
They lost their only other appearance in Buffalo in January 1994.
Indeed, the opportunity to return to the NFL's biggest stage for the first time in 49 years has been a long time coming. The Chiefs lost eight consecutive postseason games during one maddening stretch, and squandered the No. 1 seed along the way. They had great individual players - Tony Gonzalez, Priest Holmes, Joe Montana - yet never managed to hoist the AFC championship trophy.
Former coach Dick Vermeil, who took the Eagles to the Super Bowl and won it with the Rams, said this week that ''my biggest regret'' was failing to deliver it during his five seasons in Kansas City.
''It would be great. I mean, when your name is on it, that's a pretty big thing,'' said current Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who still remembers meeting Lamar Hunt during an ownership meeting years ago.
Hunt died in December 2006 at the age of 74.
''To have the opportunity to work with his kids and Clark in particular, I understand the importance of that,'' Reid said. ''Not that he has to tell me. He doesn't have to say anything.''
In fact, the Chiefs make sure everybody knows the importance.
''One of the awesome things we do with our player development team is that they take us through the whole history,'' Mahomes said. ''We come over to the museum that we have in the stadium and they take us through how he made the AFL, pretty much from scratch, and had this vision for what is now the AFC and combined it with the NFL and made this beautiful league.
''It truly is special for someone like that who has created your franchise,'' Mahomes added. ''You want to do whatever you can to bring honor to him and that family.''
The Patriots are no strangers to hoisting the Lamar Hunt Trophy, of course. They are playing for it for the eighth consecutive season, and the coach-quarterback combination of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have succeeded in hoisting it eight times since their first real season together in 2001.
But despite a perennial juggernaut standing in the way, there is a profound sense of confidence that surrounds the Chiefs these days, an unabashed optimism that can be felt all around town.
Fountains are colored red - at least, those that haven't frozen - and Chiefs banners hang off many of the city's iconic buildings. Fans are streaming into Charlie Hustle, a local vintage clothing store, for their ''Arrowhead Collection'' of shirts. Those who aren't making a buck off the Chiefs' playoff ride are spending a buck to support them, or in many cases several hundred bucks.
The stars are quite literally aligning: There is a ''super blood wolf moon'' due Sunday night, where the sun, Earth and moon line up and the moon is cast in a rusty (Chiefs-like) red tint.
The fan fever is not unlike the way the city embraced the Royals when they made back-to-back World Series appearances. And when they won the 2015 championship, some 800,000 turned out for the parade.
Imagine how many would show up if the Chiefs won the Super Bowl.
''It means a lot just to make it to this point,'' said Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston, one of the team's elder statesmen. I've never had this opportunity, so I think it will means a lot to me, to (the Hunt family) and to the city.''
Yes, the Hunt family.
Clark Hunt knows better than to plan for parades before games are won. The Chiefs have come up short many times, and the sting of those disappointments still lingers after all these years. Yet the franchise is also on the precipice of something great, a potential salve to make that pain go away.
''It's very special, obviously, for our entire family,'' Hunt said. ''It's one of the goals that I always put out for the players at the beginning of the year. First thing we want to do is win that Lamar Hunt Trophy. Then we want to go to the Super Bowl and win that Lombardi Trophy.''
The Detroit Lions released wide receiver Bruce Ellington, safety Glover Quinn and linebacker Nicholas Grigsby on Friday. Ellington signed with the Lions after they traded Golden Tate to the Eagles and became their slot receiver until he landed on Injured Reserve on Dec. 22. He had 23 catches for 132 yards in four games for Detroit. Ellington's best year came in 2017 with the Texans when he had 29 catches for 330 yards and two touchdowns. Wherever he signs, he'll battle for a roster spot in training camp.
The Buffalo Bills released tight end Charles Clay on Friday. Clay provided only 21 catches (36 targets) for 184 yards (career-low 8.8 yards per catch) and no touchdowns in 13 games for Buffalo in 2018. He was rarely in the game plan for the Bills the last two seasons and won't be a very popular target on the free-agent market. His best season came in 2013 with the Dolphins when he had 69 receptions (103 targets) for 759 yards and six scores over a full season. The days of Clay being on fantasy rosters is over.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles would "probably" be interested in playing for the New York Giants if they decide to move on from Eli Manning, according to one person with knowledge of Foles' thinking. Foles landing with the Giants would be less likely if the Eagles place the franchise tag on him, which is unlikely. The Jaguars are another team to watch out for, and there is mutual interest between them and Foles. After winning Super Bowl MVP two years ago and playing well as a starter again in 2018 when Carson Wentz was injured, Foles should earn a starting gig on the open market with several teams looking for a signal caller. While Foles has QB1 upside in the right matchups, his 2019 fantasy value will ultimately depend on where he winds up.
All indications are that the Pittsburgh Steelers plan to use the transition tag on running back Le'Veon Bell by the deadline on March 5. It's expected to have a value of $9.5 million to $14.5 million for one season and gives the Steelers a chance to match any offer he'd receive on the open market. Pittsburgh doesn't plan on matching any offer to retain Bell, but only to trade him. However, even if the Steelers find a taker in a trade, they'd need Bell to sign the transition tag first, which is highly unlikely. This situation continues to get uglier, but Bell won't be playing in Pittsburgh in 2019 no matter what. Despite having 1,229 rushing attempts in five seasons, Bell is in the prime of his career and has reached the 1,000-yard mark three times. He's one of the more versatile backs in the NFL and should remain an RB1 in his next home.
Arizona Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson will return to shadowing the top opposing wide receivers in 2019, according to defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.
Free-agent RB Mike Gillislee (Saints) worked out for the Detroit Lions Thursday, Feb. 14.
Miami Dolphins WR Danny Amendola could fill the slot receiver role for the Detroit Lions in 2019 because of his connection to head coach Matt Patricia, in the opinion of Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com.
Denver Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles') said he is no longer wearing a walking boot but still has a 'slight limp' when walking around.
Fantasy Spin: After suffering an Achilles' injury late in the year, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Sanders miss time in 2019. He showed last year that he can be a WR2 as the top option in Denver's passing attack, but fantasy owners will need to be patient as he returns to form.
Arizona Cardinals WR Chad Williams caught 37 percent of the passes thrown his way in 2018 and had two catches or less in all but two games.
Minnesota Vikings WR Laquon Treadwell averaged 5.7 yards per target last year, the fourth-worst mark among receivers with at least 50 targets, and Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com expects Treadwell's fifth-year option to be declined.
Fantasy Spin: The former first-round pick has been a bust, and he didn't show any signs of righting the ship despite a bigger role in 2018. Even in dynasty formats, it may be time to give up on Treadwell.
Philadelphia Eagles impending free-agent WR Golden Tate and Washington Redskins impending free-agent WR Jamison Crowder are options to fill the need the Green Bay Packers have at slot receiver, according to Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com.
Fantasy Spin: The Packers need a dependable option to support Davante Adams, and both Tate and Crowder would quickly become potential WR3 options if Aaron Rodgers is throwing them the ball.
Atlanta Falcons SS Keanu Neal (knee) posted a video of himself going through agility drills without a brace on his injured left knee.
Washington Redskins QB Colt McCoy (leg) was seen without any braces or supports for his injured leg.
Los Angeles Chargers impending free-agent LB Denzel Perryman will be re-signed this offseason if the Chargers have their way, according to a source.
Updating a previous report, free-agent QB Colin Kaepernick (49ers) desired at least $20 million to play in the Alliance of American Football, according to a source.
Free-agent QB Nick Foles (Eagles) is expected to 'keep tabs on' the New York Giants this offseason, according to NJ.com's Zack Rosenblatt. A source with knowledge of Foles' thinking said the former Super Bowl MVP would 'probably' be interested in starting for the Giants if they were to release QB Eli Manning.
Fantasy Spin: There are many pieces that must fall in order for Foles to the Giants to work out. It's a sensible destination, though, with Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley leading one of the most talented offenses in the NFL. Foles could be the piece that makes them take a forward step. Were this signing to come to fruition, Foles would demand QB1 consideration given the pieces that would be around him.
Free-agent QB Nick Foles (Eagles) is not expected to return to the Philadelphia Eagles as the backup to Carson Wentz.
Fantasy Spin: Foles deserves a starting job. He won't want to play as a backup and make less money when there are teams willing to pay him to be their starter. He can be a part of the QB1 conversation if he lands in the right spot. Of course, when Wentz is healthy he too has QB1 appeal.
Free-agent QB Colin Kaepernick (49ers) and former NFL QB Tim Tebow were asked if they wanted to join the Alliance of American Football, according to league co-founder Bill Polian. Polian said he doesn't know what transpired with Kaepernick, but added that he spoke personally with Tebow, who declined.
Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown and Steelers impending free-agent RB Le'Veon Bell are not expected to be intensely pursued by the Indianapolis Colts this offseason. The Colts will have the most salary cap space in the league this offseason and will do their due diligence, but Brown's off-field drama and Bell's asking price may be too much for the Colts.
Fantasy Spin: The Colts did just fine last year without the services of Brown or Bell. Brown seems like more of an immediate need, but general manager Chris Ballard wants a cohesive and cooperative locker room. While the fantasy marriage of Brown and/or Bell with the Colts might be ideal, don't get your hopes up.
Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee is considered a strong candidate to be cut this offseason, in the opinion of NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal. Lee's extensive injury history, $10 million cap hit and the presence of fellow LBs Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith don't bode well for a possible return.