Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Chad Henne, right, chats with quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) before an NFL preseason football game against the Green Bay Packers in Kansas City, Mo., in this Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, file photo. If Patrick Mahomes is unable to play in the AFC title game following his concussion, the Chiefs have the utmost confidence in Chad Henne. After all, the 35-year-old journeyman already proved he could rise to the occasion on Sunday, helping Kansas City hold off the Cleveland Browns in the divisional round of the playoffs. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, FIle)
Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski, left, talks with Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid after an NFL divisional round football game, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Kansas City. The Chiefs won 22-17. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) celebrates after an NFL divisional round football game against the Baltimore Ravens Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in Orchard Park, N.Y. The Bills won 17-3. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, left, talks to Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott before an NFL divisional round football game Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Ten years after firing Sean McDermott as his defensive coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid will stare across the field inside Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday and see his protege trying to spoil his hopes of a Super Bowl repeat.
Funny thing: Even after firing him, Reid suspected deep down that McDermott was destined for big things.
''Very organized, very smart and very tough,'' he explained this week. ''He came from a coaching family - his dad was a heck of a coach. Sean just kind of picked up right from there. Very solid, very good.''
In fact, downright exceptional.
McDermott has the long-suffering Buffalo Bills playing in their first AFC championship game since beating Kansas City on Jan. 23, 1994, when they advanced to their fourth straight Super Bowl. They have won 11 of their past 12 games since losing to the Chiefs in Week 6, beating the Colts in the wild-card round and the Ravens in last week's divisional round.
''He deserves coach of the year, man. He's taken a franchise there, both he and his general manager, have put this thing together with some bold moves and production now,'' Reid said.
''I think he's done a tremendous job. What a great thing for the NFL and for Buffalo. They love football in Buffalo and he's really done a nice job with that whole program.''
Not surprisingly, the job McDermott has done with the Bills neatly parallels the job Reid has done in Kansas City.
Both took over downtrodden organizations and quickly built them into juggernauts. Both have bright young quarterbacks in the Bills' Josh Allen and the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes. Both have surrounded them with playmakers, such as the Bills' Stefon Diggs and the Chiefs' Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. And both have built defenses to not only complement two of the best offenses in the NFL, but capable of clinching wins under pressure, as each did last weekend.
Mahomes, who sustained a concussion last week against Cleveland, has been cleared to play after practicing all week.
McDermott never harbored any animosity toward Reid when he was fired from the Eagles on Jan. 15, 2011. Instead, he went to Carolina and over the next five years honed his craft and built his reputation to the point the Bills - who at the time had not made the postseason since 1999 - were willing to give him a shot in charge.
Buffalo reached the wild-card round in 2017 and again last year before reaching the brink of a Super Bowl this season.
''It's always an honor to go up against great coaches, and Andy will be a Hall of Fame coach here in the future sometime down the road,'' McDermott said. ''I've learned a lot from Andy in my time with him in Philadelphia, so I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and his family, the way they helped guide me then and still do today.''
MOMENT ON MAHOMES
The Chiefs' quarterback, who was knocked out of last week's game against Cleveland with a concussion, took first-team reps all week. He was finally cleared to play by team doctors and an independent neurologist on Friday.
''You have to take it day by day. I think that's the biggest thing,'' Mahomes said. ''You can only control what you can control. Try to come in with a positive attitude, make myself better, prepare myself like I was going to play and luckily enough, I didn't have any symptoms and now I can play.''
OTHER CHIEF CONCERNS
Chiefs cornerback Bashaud Breeland, who also sustained a concussion last Sunday, practiced this week while awaiting clearance from doctors. Running back Le'Veon Bell was held out Thursday and Friday because of a swollen knee.
On the flip side, Clyde Edwards-Helaire is expected to play for the first time since a high-ankle sprain in Week 15 and Sammy Watkins could be back from a calf injury that he sustained the following week. The rookie running back and the veteran wide receiver both practiced this week and moved around well in the portion of practice open to reporters.
The Bills don't run often - in fact, they called just one running play in the first half against the Ravens last week. They finished with 16 carries, including four kneel-downs by Allen, for 32 yards in their lowest rushing output since a game in Minnesota in 2002. The Bills' total of 1,482 yards this season was their fewest since 2014, which they balanced out by setting a franchise record with 4,786 yards through the air.
''We're not going to change who we are,'' Allen said. ''It's the biggest game because it's the next one, but we understand that we don't have to be anyone different that who we are.''
Though the Bills would love to have Star Lotulelei enjoy this playoff run with them, cornerback Tre'Davious White and several teammates continued backing the starting defensive tackle's decision to opt out because of COVID-19 concerns.
''You can't make a wrong decision in this thing,'' said White, who contemplated opting out before signing a $70 million, four-year extension in September and earning second-team All-Pro honors. ''Obviously he chose his family over a game and the things that he had going on. I don't think that he's necessarily missing out on anything.''
SLEEPING ON BIENIEMY
One of the hottest names on the coaching carousel was Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who interviewed with just about every team with an opening. But the only job left after the Eagles hired Nick Sirianni on Thursday was with the Houston Texans, where the Bills' Leslie Frazier is also among the front-runners for the job.
''It's always good to be mentioned and have an opportunity to pursue your dreams,'' Bieniemy said. ''I want to be a head coach, but when it's said and done, I have to make sure I'm not taking away from the goals were trying to accomplish.''
Tennessee Titans impending free-agent TE Jonnu Smith ranks fourth among tight ends with an average of 7.1 yards after catch over the last three seasons.
Fantasy Spin: Smith has the athleticism to be a matchup problem for opposing defenses, but he has never been in a high-volume role. He has TE1 upside depending on where he plays in 2021.
The Baltimore Ravens have agreed to re-sign DT Justin Ellis to a one-year deal worth $1.2 million with $400,000 guaranteed, according to a source.
Miami Dolphins impending free-agent DT Davon Godchaux would like to re-sign with the Dolphins this offseason, but agent Drew Rosenhaus said he is not sure if the Dolphins will be to offer what Godchaux will be looking for in free agency.
Seattle Seahawks WR Josh Gordon was released Thursday, March 4.
Denver Broncos general manager George Paton said the team plans to tender impending free-agent running back Phillip Lindsay a contract, but they aren't sure at what capacity yet. An original-round tender for Lindsay would allow the Broncos to match any offer he receives, but it wouldn't bring anything in return. A second-round tender, estimated at $3.4 million, could scare interested teams away or give Denver a high pick in return if Lindsay signs elsewhere. The 26-year-old was a surprise Pro Bowler in his rookie season after going undrafted and he managed 1,000 yards rushing in his first two years, but he took a major step back in 2020. Not only was Lindsay playing second fiddle to Melvin Gordon III, but he dealt with nagging injuries all season that limited him to 11 games. If he stays in Denver, he'll be a weak RB3/flex as a Gordon handcuff.
Updating a previous report, free-agent DE Stephen Weatherly (Panthers) agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings Thursday, March 4, worth $2.5 million. The deal can be worth as much as $3 million with incentives.
Denver Broncos impending free-agent DT Shelby Harris will be a priority for the Broncos this offseason, according to general manager George Paton.
Denver Broncos impending free-agent S Justin Simmons' agent has had contract talks with the Broncos, and general manager George Paton said the goal is to sign Simmons to a long-term contract this offseason.
Updating a previous report, Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger signed a restructured contract Thursday, March 4. He agreed to reduce his pay to $14 million from $19 million in the final year of his contract and spread the cash payment through 2022, per source. The moves lowered his cap hit to $15 million in 2021, giving the team more flexibility.
The Pittsburgh Steelers officially signed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a new contract for the 2021 season on Thursday. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that Roethlisberger willingly reduced his pay to $14 million from $19 million in the final year of his deal, spreading his cash payment through 2022, according to a source. The move lowered Pittsburgh's salary cap hit by over $15 million, allowing them to make other moves to remain as competitive as possible. Big Ben was initially set for an exorbitant cap hit of $41.25 million. The 39-year-old will have one more shot at a championship and will likely retire after the 2021 season. Pittsburgh's offense could lose wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster this offseason and Roethlisberger is pretty injury prone, so he'll mostly be targeted as a fantasy backup as he heads into what will likely be his final NFL season.
Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald could return for an 18th season with the team, but head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Thursday, March 4, that the wide receiver's status remains a mystery. 'I don't know anything,' Kingsbury said in a news conference, adding it's been honor to work with Fitzgerald and hopes he plays five more years.
Fantasy Spin: Once an annual locked-in WR2, Fitz hit career season lows across the board last season at age 37 with 54 grabs for 409 yards and one TD and is off the fantasy radar outside of deeper leagues if he does play in 2021.
Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is not being 'shopped,' according to a source Thursday, March 4, but calls from other teams interested in trading for Wilson have been answered.
Fantasy Spin: Translation: The Seahawks have every intention of sticking with Wilson unless they're absolutely blown away by an offer. Then it would be a matter of Wilson approving the deal as well. It remains an ongoing offseason hot topic, but it's most likely Wilson and his QB1 talents remain in the Pacific Northwest.
Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger on Thursday, March 4, signed a restructured contract with the team and will return for an 18th season. Terms of the new deal were not immediately available. 'We are excited we were able to come to an agreement with Ben Roethlisberger on a new contract for him to return to the Steelers in 2021,' general manager Kevin Colbert said in a story posted on the team's website. 'We know that Ben can still play at a high level and do special things for this team. Our goal remains the same - to put together a roster that will compete for another championship. We are happy that Ben will be one of our leaders to help us accomplish that goal.'
Fantasy Spin: Roethlisberger's return boosts the fantasy value of the team's pass-catchers, but Big Ben's own fantasy value at age 39 is now in the mid-QB2 range.
Detroit Lions CB Desmond Trufant on Thursday, March 4, was informed by the team that he will be released at the start of the new league year later this month, per a source.
Chicago Bears WR Allen Robinson has totaled 131 receptions resulting in first downs since the start of the 2019 season, third most in the league according to Pro Football Focus data.
Fantasy Spin: Robinson's 12.4 yards-per-catch average in Chicago (three seasons) has dipped from his 14.1 average from his four seasons in Jacksonville, but he's caught 53 more passes in one fewer season with the Bears. The bottom line is that Robinson possesses one of the league's strongest all-around WR skill-sets and is a legit fantasy WR1 if he can finally get better QB play.
Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce leads the league with 145 receptions resulting in first downs since 2019, according to Pro Football Focus data.
Fantasy Spin: Kelce is fantasy gold. He has been a top-two fantasy tight end in each of the last five seasons and shows no signs of slowing down. He's a legit top-25 pick as the first non-RB or WR off the board in drafts.
Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who shares the same agent as Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, said on the Huddle and Flow podcast that, "I highly doubt (Deshaun Watson) will suit up in a Texans uniform again. He's extremely serious." The Texans and Watson are in a standoff, with Houston saying they will not trade the 25-year-old signal-caller. But Watson remains steadfast in his trade demands and wants out of Houston. Eventually, something has to give. If this continues to play out, the Texans may have no choice but to find the best available offer for the star quarterback. Watson was still a top-five fantasy QB without All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins in 2020, so he should be drafted as an elite quarterback again in 2021. A trade out of Houston could make him even more attractive.
The New Orleans Saints restructured kicker Wil Lutz's contract on Thursday to create $1.74 million in salary cap space, according to a source. New Orleans continues to maneuver around the lowered 2021 salary cap, but they still have plenty of work left to do as the new league year approaches on March 17. The 26-year-old kicker made 23 of his 28 field-goal tries in 2020 and also was successful on 57 of his 58 extra points last season. The Saints offense should be pretty solid under either Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston in 2021, which should at least make Lutz a low-end fantasy kicking option. Lutz finished as the No. 9 fantasy kicker in most leagues in 2020.
Free-agent DE Stephen Weatherly (Panthers) agreed to an undisclosed deal with the Minnesota Vikings Thursday, March 4.
Free-agent LB Thomas Davis (Football Team) will sign a one-day contract with the Carolina Panthers March 11 to retire with the team.