Here are the latest Whispers we're hearing from our sources throughout the AFC:
• As much-deserved attention and praise continues to be directed at Colts interim head coach Bruce Arians, the chatter is growing louder that he could get his first full-time head-coaching opportunity after the season. Arians, we’re told, would jump at the opportunity, potentially leaving the Colts with a big void to fill. This is extremely speculative at this point, but, if the Colts are in the market for a new coordinator after the season, we hear Chargers head coach Norv Turner would be someone to keep an eye on were he to get fired, as rumored. Turner is a proven offensive mind and play-caller who would be a great fit with Andrew Luck.
• The Bills took a big step at staying in Buffalo for the long haul on Friday by agreeing to a new 10-year lease deal with Erie County and the state of New York. Owner Ralph Wilson remains committed to Buffalo, but it’s still expected that the highest bidder will take over the team after Wilson's death. This new deal has a reported penalty of $400 million if the team relocates, except in the seventh year, when the exit fee reduces to $29 million. Bills fans in Western New York can be confident that the franchise will stay put for at least six years, and likely more, but questions about the Bills' future will remain until new ownership shows a similar commitment to Buffalo that Wilson always has shown.
• Jets veteran DL Mike DeVito, who took a pay cut last offseason, maintained this week his desire to remain with the team, even if his role has decreased. We hear DeVito is very popular amongst the fans and could be one of the easier free agents to re-sign because he likely won't be trying to break the bank.
• Despite a second consecutive subpar season for Chargers QB Philip Rivers, we hear that the team is content with that position. Charlie Whitehurst is a decent backup, Rivers is locked up through 2015 and the team has plenty of other priorities to consider. While things could change under a new coaching staff, including potentially drafting a quarterback, for now it appears that San Diego will have the Rivers-Whitehurst duo in 2013.
• Jaguars GM Gene Smith has a reputation for leaving no stone unturned in the draft, often looking at smaller, lesser-known schools to nab talented but less-tested players. That was the case with WR Cecil Shorts, the second-year Mount Union product and most consistent and explosive member of the Jaguars offense in 2012. On a conference call with Jacksonville media this week, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick indicated Smtih was not alone in his affinity for Shorts: “We thought a lot of him coming out,” he said. “Obviously, Jacksonville got him first before anybody else did, but it’s a great addition to their football team. He’s really done a good job. Whenever you take those guys from a little lower-level competition, it’s a big jump. He’s made it and more.”
• One of the Texans brightest stars in Week 15 was PK Shayne Graham, who converted 5-of-6 field-goal attempts and booted a critical touchback when his team needed it the most late in the fourth quarter. About a month ago, a daily team observer called Graham “shaky” and said the veteran kicker didn’t exactly inspire confidence in the coaching staff. Since then, Graham has connected on 6-of-7 FG attempts and, though he doesn’t have the strongest leg — his one miss came from 50 yards out — we hear his kicking the past three weeks has allowed head coach Gary Kubiak to breathe easier.
• It’s unclear what the future holds for Mike Holmgren after his departure as the Browns’ club president. A league source familiar with Holmgren noted his competitiveness and speculated that an opportunity that allowed Holmgren to have more of an active role coaching as well as in personnel might draw him back into the NFL. While not knowing Holmgren’s exact plans, the source suggested this: “If there is an opportunity, I think he’d want to take another shot at it.”
• The way we hear it, the Bengals could very well look to re-sign CBs Terence Newman and Adam Jones in the offseason. Both have had solid seasons for Cincinnati, with Newman taking a starting role at cornerback and Jones contributing on defense and special teams. We’re told Jones, whose early-career off-field struggles are well-documented, has been a good and helpful teammate.
• It has been extremely quiet in Kansas City regarding the futures of head coach Romeo Crennel and GM Scott Pioli. We still have no idea what the Chiefs will do with either, as perhaps only owner Clark Hunt knows what their fate is. But one likely scenario, floated by another team’s front-office member, is that Hunt could fire Pioli and keep Crennel for now until a new general manager is hired. That’s one possibility to consider in the next few weeks.