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FRISCO, Texas – Time to pull the reins back, you know like, hold your horses.
Let's not totally get carried away with the Philadelphia Eagles winning the NFC East, the NFC and advancing to the Super Bowl, losing on basically a walk-off field goal to the Kansas City Chiefs, 38-35 this past Sunday.
And look, good on them. They had a helluva season in Nick Sirianni's second year as head coach. And kudos to Jalen Hurts for not only a remarkable season, but for as far he came in his third NFL season at quarterback. We knew he could run. But his passing from the pocket became the Eagles ticket to Glendale, Ariz., and nearly to Disneyland.
But let's take a deep breath, because as we know, one season in the NFL does not beget the next. Meaning just because Hurts blitzed the NFC East and NFC doesn't necessarily mean they have built some kind of dynasty, leaving the Cowboys, Giants and Commanders shaking in their boots having to so-called catch up. Like the Cowboys are so far behind.
The Cowboys biggest regret had to be not advancing to play the rubber game against the Eagles. Remember, in the first two meetings of the 2022 season the two teams split, Eagles beating the Cowboys without Dak Prescott, 26-17, though backup Cooper Rush pulling the Cowboys to 20-17 in the fourth quarter before the Eagles went on that touchdown drive midway through the quarter to put the game away at Philly.
But then the Cowboys with Dak but the Eagles without Hurts won the rematch 40-34 at AT&T Stadium, the 40 points the Cowboys scored the most given up all season by that Eagles second-ranked NFL defense and two more than K.C. scored to win the Super Bowl.
Too bad the Cowboys came up one win short of that rematch, losing to the Niners the second round of the playoffs, 19-12, though the Cowboys didn't catch the same break the Eagles did in the playoffs. They beat the Giants a third time and then eliminated the Niners in NFC title game after third-strong start Brock Purdy suffering the first-quarter elbow injury, the Niners having to then play their fourth QB Josh Johnson, who ended up leaving the game in the third quarter with a concussion, forcing Purdy to simply hand off the rest of the way.
Now consider this, too. While the Cowboys have 19 unrestricted free agents in 2023, from a team going 12-5 during the regular season and winning only the franchise's fourth playoff game in 26 seasons, the NFC champion Eagles have 20 unrestricted free agents and some big-time players like Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Javon Hargrave, Jason Kelce, Miles Sanders, James Bradberry and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.
Plus, here is betting Hurts' agent doesn't want him playing QB for the merely $4.88 million cap hit in the final year of his rookie, four-year contract, no longer a second-round roster luxury if Hurts is paid market value.
Oh, and see the Eagles lost both coordinators to head coaching jobs, OC Shane Steichen to the Colts and DC Jonathan Gannon to the Cardinals.
And if you put much value in history, let's also remember no NFC East team has repeated as division champs in the past 18 seasons now –Cowboys and Eagles each claiming six of those division titles, with Giants and Commanders now three each. Plus, only three teams in Super Bowl history losing one year and coming back to win the Super bowl the next season, the Cowboys 1970-71, Miami 1971-72 and New England 2017-18. That's it. Plus, only three teams have lost consecutive Super Bowl, that being Minnesota 1973-74, Denver 1986-87 and Buffalo 1990-93.
So, let's not automatically pencil in the Eagles showing up in Vegas this coming 2023 season. History says, for whatever reason, at best it's a long _shot_.
- Bad Karma: You never know about this karma stuff. Hey, we know the Philly fans aren't called Boo-Birds for nothing. Why they famously booed Santa Claus one Christmas time at The Vet. They won't hesitate to boo the underperforming home team. Remember them booing Drew Pearson during the NFL Draft in their City of Brotherly Shove. And now they strained their throats booing Dak Prescott when recognized Super Bowl LVII pregame for being named the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year. Maybe all that booing catches up with you at times.
- QB3: Be interesting when the NFL owners convene for their annual meetings March 26-29 in Phoenix if they discuss the possibility of re-instituting teams being allowed to dress three quarterbacks, the designated third guy only eligible to play if the first two are knocked out of the game with an injury that was abolished in 2011 Especially after what happened to San Francisco in the NFC title game, Purdy leaving the game that first quarter with the elbow injury and Johnson leaving in the third quarter with a concussion. And as we know, quarterbacks drive this show, and a single season high 66 of them played during 2022.
- Dark Times: So, if we are to take Aaron Rodgers at his Pat McAfee Show word, he should be entering into his self-proclaimed four-day darkness retreat any day now to contemplate his football future. To play or not to play? Retire? Or ask to be traded? Wonder if we will get Packer Smoke wafting out of some cave when he arrives at his decision. Maybe he's entering this darkness so $$$ signs won't be floating overhead. Like, if he plays for the Packers in 2023, he will make $59.5 million in 2023, all but $1 million guaranteed. If he decides to retire, he forfeits all that. All that, even if he's made more than $300 million during his 18-season NFL career (2005-2022). As for the Packers, if Rodgers walks away, they incur $40.3 million in dead money since those dollars are restructure bonus money already paid and can't be recouped for quitting under contract. And if the Packers actually pick up his option bonus before he decides to walk away or is traded to a team of his choice, then the Packers dead money increases to $99.7 million they can spread over two seasons. Certainly the Packers most of all wait with bated breath.
- Walk Offs: No-game season begins next Tuesday, Feb. 21, the first day teams can tag unrestricted free agents with the franchise designation, and must do so before March 7, and then a week after Tuesday the NFL Combine begins in Indy . . . Give Eagles Sirianni credit for not openly complaining over the Bradberry holding call giving the Chiefs the necessary new set of downs to run down the clock to eight seconds after kicking the game-winning field goal, since he probably knows he might have gotten away with that 17-yard first down catch on third-and-14 to Dallas Goedert was upheld after video review, enabling Philly to eventually kick the 33-yard field goal late in the third quarter to extend their lead to 27-21 . . . The Cowboys 54 QB sacks tied them for third most with the Patriots, but the two teams leading the league, Eagles (70) and Kansas City (55) ended up with just two combined sacks in Super Bowl LVII, both by the Chiefs coming with Hurts running out of bounds for minus-1 yard each time . . . And condolences to Emmitt Smith after the passing of his father, Emmitt Smith Jr., on Wednesday, the NFL Hall of Fame running back Tweeting out, "The man who inspired me to play the game of football has transitioned to be the lord. I will miss your timely advice but will hold on to the things you and my first love (mother) taught me, my brothers and sisters."
And for today's last word, know what, I'm turning to former Cowboys defensive lineman Marcus Spears, who had this to say Tuesday on ESPN's "Get Up" show.
"If the Dallas Cowboys want to show me they're serious about going to a Super Bowl they better be in the trade market for DeAndre Hopkins. They better be thinking how do we get DeAndre Hopkins on this team? What do we have to sacrifice?"
Glad you asked my buddy Marcus. Answer: A lot.
First of all, two things. Hopkins has a $19.4 million base salary for 2023 and just two years left on his contract, that for a Cowboys team already cap-strapped in 2023. And if the Cards decide to trade Hopkins to anyone, they incur $22.6 million in dead money. So, the Cardinals would want to be appropriately compensated, starting with a first-and for taking on that much dead cap space and losing one of the NFL's best wideouts. Second, Hopkins has a no-trade and no franchise tag clause, so Hopkins would have the first and final say where he would go. And he turns 31 this year. Plus, with your own top receiver CeeDee Lamb entering his fourth season the Cowboys will have to guarantee $19 million by May 1 for his 2024 fifth-year option. Remember they gave away Amari Cooper to save $20 million in cap space.
Now the Cowboys do need to stock that wide receiver position, but they also must decide how many of those 19 unrestricted free agents they'd like to re-sign, plus having to deal with restricted free agent starting right tackle Terence Steele.
Yep, taking shots like that are easier said than actually done.