Thu Jan 27 7:39am ET
By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Pro Football Writer
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) A person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press Thursday morning the Denver Broncos are finalizing a deal to hire Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett as their new head coach.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was still in the works and the team hadn't announced the hiring.
Hackett's hiring will bring immediate speculation about the Broncos trying to lure star quarterback Aaron Rodgers to Denver, perhaps along with his star receiver Devante Adams.
Rodgers said he's contemplating his future, including retirement, after the Packers' early exit from the playoffs last weekend when the top-seed was upset at home 13-10 by the San Francisco 49ers.
General manager George Paton interviewed 10 candidates to replace Vic Fangio, whom he fired after a disappointing 7-10 season, Denver's sixth consecutive without a playoff berth.
After crisscrossing the country with a team of evaluators, Paton narrowed that list to three finalists: Hackett, Cowboys defensive coordinator and former Falcons head coach Dan Quinn and Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell.
Quinn has received the most interest from teams looking for new head coaches after helping Dallas turn around its defense in 2021 and was seen as an early favorite in Denver because of his previous ties to Paton. O'Connell is seen as the next in a growing list of hires from the Sean McVay coaching tree.
In turning to Hackett, the Broncos have turned away from their focus on defensive-minded head coaches. Fangio replaced Vance Joseph, who has roots as a secondary coach, in 2019.
Fangio finished 19-30 in three seasons in Denver, his unremarkable tenure dotted with poor quarterback play, uncreative offenses under Pat Shurmur and sloppy special teams play under Tom McMahon, all of which negated a stout defense that was Fangio's calling card.
The Broncos have had 10 starting quarterbacks and no playoff appearances since Peyton Manning's retirement six years ago, and they are in the market for an upgrade at QB from oft-injured Teddy Bridgewater (7-7), who's set to become a free agent in March, and Drew Lock (0-3) this offseason.
They're also on the lookout for a new owner.
Joe Ellis, the team's outgoing president and CEO, said that once a new head coach was in place he would release details about the franchise's future in what's expected to be the most expensive team sale in U.S. sports history.
The Broncos are valued at nearly $4 billion and if sold for that much, it would surpass the record $3.35 billion that Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai paid for the Brooklyn Nets and the Barclays Center in 2019.
The team this month cleared the final legal hurdle to a sale when a district judge ruled a right of first refusal claim stemming from late owner Pat Bowlen's purchase of the team from Edgar Kaiser in the 1980s was no longer valid.
John Elway, who is in the final months as the team's president of football operations, and Manning are expected to get involved in the bidding as minority partners of billionaires competing to win the NFL's approval to acquire the iconic franchise.
The Broncos won two Super Bowl titles in the late 1990s with Elway under center and again in 2016 with Elway in the front office and Manning at quarterback in the final game of his Hall of Fame career.
The only holdover from their last championship parade is kicker Brandon McManus. Paton traded Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller to the Rams for a pair of second-day draft picks last fall and Miller has shined in his return to the postseason. The Rams host the 49ers Sunday in the NFC championship.
The second- and third-round draft choices the Broncos received in return for Miller give Paton 11 draft picks in April, including five of the top 100, which he could either use to beef up his roster or package to acquire a quarterback such as Rodgers or the Seahawks' Russell Wilson.
Also interviewed for the Broncos head coaching vacancy were: offensive coordinators Kellen Moore of the Cowboys, Brian Callahan of the Bengals and Eric Bieniemy of the Chiefs and defensive coordinators Aaron Glenn of the Lions and Jonathan Gannon of the Eagles.
Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo and Packers QBs coach Luke Getsy also spoke with Paton about the job.
All of those who interviewed for the Broncos' vacancy are at least a decade younger than Fangio, who was 60 when he was hired as a first-time head coach in 2019, and six of them - Moore, Callahan, O'Connell, Gannon, Mayo and Getsy - are in their 30s.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (knee) popped up on the injury report with a knee issue. Despite showing up on the latest injury report, the 25-year-old was a full participant in Wednesday's practice. He is expected to be all systems go for the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs. The former No.1 overall pick completed 28-of-37 passes for 348 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception in Saturday's 19-16 Divisional-Round win over the Tennessee Titans. He's been on absolute fire recently, throwing for 1,563 yards, 10 touchdowns, and one pick over his last four games. Burrow is an excellent QB option with a $7,500 price on FanDuel for Sunday's main DFS slate.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (thumb) popped up on the injury report with a thumb issue. He was a full participant in Wednesday's practice despite showing up on the latest injury report. In last week's Divisional-Round win over the Tennessee Titans, the 23-year-old hauled in seven receptions on nine targets for 96 yards. He is expected to be all systems go for the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Higgins caught three passes for 62 yards in the Week 17 win over the Chiefs and is an excellent mid-tier option at his $6,400 price tag on FanDuel for Sunday's main DFS slate.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Darrel Williams (toe) participated fully in Wednesday's practice. Last week, the 26-year-old was limited with a toe injury and was inactive for the Divisional -Round game against the Buffalo Bills. He is expected to be available for Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Williams will split touches out of Kansas City's backfield with Clyde-Edwards Helaire and Jerick McKinnon. Due to the uncertainty of his role, Williams is more of a GPP option in Sunday's main DFS slate.
Green Bay Packers PK Mason Crosby is likely to be released during the offseason as a cap casualty, according to The Green Bay Press-Gazette's Pete Dougherty.
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers indicated he should have made a decision about his future by late February during an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show, which coincides with when the Packers would potentially utilize the franchise tag on WR Davante Adams, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
Fantasy Spin: If Rodgers and Adams return to Green Bay in 2022, or reunite elsewhere, both would be No. 1 options at their respective positions. Rodgers' decision as to whether he'll play in 2022 figures to be the first domino to fall.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (thumb) practiced fully on Wednesday. The 49ers have removed his sprained shoulder from the injury report, but his sprained right thumb remains. The 30-year-old has somehow led the 49ers to the NFC Championship despite throwing for 303 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions over both playoff games. He threw for 316 yards, one touchdown, and two picks in the Week 18 win over the Rams. Garoppolo should be all systems go against the Los Angeles Rams and is the only value option at quarterback for Sunday's main DFS slate with a $6,200 price tag on FanDuel.
San Francisco 49ers running back Jeff Wilson Jr. (knee) did not participate in Wednesday's practice. Teammate Elijah Mitchell also missed Wednesday's session with an ongoing knee issue. Wilson suffered a low-ankle sprain during the first quarter of Saturday's Divisional-Round game over the Green Packers and did not return. According to head coach Kyle Shanahan, he could play in the NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams. The 26-year-old has two more chances to practice in some capacity and will most likely be questionable for Sunday's game. If active, Wilson could have an expanded role if Mitchell (knee) cannot suit up. Stay tuned.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson (knee) did not practice on Wednesday due to a knee injury. The 25-year-old did not participate in the Rams walkthrough session and was listed as a non-participant. He's considered day-to-day, and it's unclear if Van Jefferson will miss the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers. He caught two passes for 31 yards in the Week 18 loss to the 49ers. Fantasy managers should continue to monitor his status throughout the week. If active, Van Jefferson provides salary relief with his $5,200 price tag and is a solid option against the 49ers in Sunday's main DFS slate. Stay tuned.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle isn't listed on the injury report ahead of Sunday's NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams. He was seen limping at the end of the Divisional-Round win over the Green Bay Packers but is expected to be all systems go for Sunday. The 28-year-old logged a full practice Wednesday and was removed from the injury report. He caught five of seven targets for 10 yards in his previous contest against the Rams. Despite the dud against Los Angeles in Week 18, Kittle provides excellent value at his $5,800 price tag on FanDuel for Sunday's main DFS slate.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (knee) isn't listed on Wednesday's injury report ahead of the NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams. The 26-year-old said he was sore after taking a helmet to the knee in last Saturday's Divisional Round win over the Green Bay Packers. On Wednesday, he logged a full practice and was removed from the injury report. Samuel caught four passes for 95 yards and rushed for 45 yards on eight carries and a score in his previous game against the Rams. Deebo will have a vital role in the NFC Championship Game and is a strong option with his $8,400 price tag on FanDuel for Sunday's DFS slate.
San Francisco 49ers DE Nick Bosa (non-injury), C Alex Mack (non-injury), RB Elijah Mitchell (knee), OT Trent Williams (ankle) and RB Jeff Wilson Jr. (ankle) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Jan. 26. CB Ambry Thomas (knee) was limited during practice, while QB Jimmy Garoppolo (thumb) fully participated in practice.
Atlanta Falcons TE Lee Smith announced his retirement from professional football Tuesday, Jan. 25.
Free-agent WR Josh Gordon was signed to the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad Wednesday, Jan. 26.
Kansas City Chiefs S Tyrann Mathieu (concussion) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Jan. 26. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder), CB Rashad Fenton (back), WR Mecole Hardman (hip), WR Tyreek Hill (heel), LB Anthony Hitchens (back), DT Chris D. Jones (groin), CB L'Jarius Sneed (knee), CB Charvarius Ward (neck), RB Darrel Williams (toe) and OG Andrew Wylie (elbow) fully participated in practice.
Buffalo Bills OG Ike Boettger (Achilles) and CB Tre'Davious White (knee) are on schedule in their recoveries, according to head coach Sean McDermott.
Seattle Seahawks impending free-agent S Quandre Diggs is a candidate for the franchise tag this offseason, in the opinion of ESPN.com Brady Henderson.
Atlanta Falcons impending free-agent LB Foyesade Oluokun said he would like to re-sign with the Falcons this offseason, and the Falcons have indicated they are interested in bringing him back.
Arizona Cardinals impending free-agent DE Chandler Jones likely will test the free-agent market before deciding on if he will re-sign with the Cardinals or join another team, in the opinion of ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss.
Minnesota Vikings impending free-agent CB Patrick Peterson is a player the Vikings may be willing to re-sign if he is open to signing for less than the $8 million in received in 2021, in the opinion of ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin.