NFC Notes: Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers, Saints

     

Buccaneers

Now that the Buccaneers have punched their ticket to the Super Bowl, RB Leonard Fournette can look back at his journey and be grateful. Fournette was cut by the Jaguars on the eve of the start of the season, unclaimed on waivers and then signed by Tampa Bay, going from the league’s worst team to possibly one of its best. 

“It feels good just to be a Buc,” Fournette said via the team’s official transcript. “(Tom Brady) is a great one. I just thank God every day. I was crying for like 30 minutes — I was on the phone with my mom and my dad just [talking] about my journey. First, in Jacksonville, from me going to jail, from me getting cut — I think it’s a wonderful story how it’s playing out.”

Fournette’s time in Tampa Bay hasn’t been completely smooth sailing. He failed to seize the starting role and has shared touches all season, which was tough coming from Jacksonville where he was used to being the bell cow. But a cast of teammates, including Brady, RB LeSean McCoy, RB coach Todd McNair and HC Bruce Arians, helped keep Fournette’s eyes on the prize. 

“I come here and had hopes of being a starter [but] it didn’t work out,” he said. “I had ups and downs this whole season, but with guys like Brady, ‘Shady’, Coach T-Mac and even coach B.A. we had our personal talks. He asked me during the duration of the season, ‘What do I want to be?’ Don’t get me wrong, I was upset plenty of times after the game when I wasn’t getting the ball or anything. He just sat down and had a real talk with me, and I just had to get my mind right.”

  • ESPN’s Dianna Russini reports Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown and S Antoine Winfield Jr. are expected to be healthy enough to play in the Super Bowl. 
  • ESPN’s Jenna Laine added Buccaneers S Jordan Whitehead had an MRI on his shoulder that he injured during the conference title game but no word back on his status yet. 

Falcons

  • According to NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero, the Falcons are expected to hire former Maryland DC Jon Hoke as their new DB coach and former Bears OLB coach Ted Monachino in the same role. 

Panthers

  • Field Yates notes that the Panthers have hired former Baylor QB Garret McGuire as a coaching assistant.
  • The Panthers announced that OC Joe Brady and LB coach Mike Siravo would miss the Senior Bowl due to COVID-19 related issues. (Joseph Person)
  • Panthers CB coach Evan Cooper will also miss the Senior Bowl for the same reasons. (Bill Voth)

Saints

  • The Athletic’s Katherine Terrell writes about how the Saints can dig out of their potential $100 million salary cap hole. The first item of business is deciding on how to handle all the deferred dead money when QB Drew Brees presumably retires. New Orleans could carry Brees on the roster until after June 1 and process his retirement then. If he agreed to a pay cut on salary he won’t ever see anyway, that could be $25 million in savings for New Orleans. 
  • Saints RT Ryan Ramczyk is looking at a huge deal but Terrell notes the Saints can actually lower his cap figure by $3-$7 million with an extension. 
  • Restructuring G Andrus Peat, LT Terron Armstead and WR Michael Thomas frees up more than $20 million in space, per Terrell. 
  • Terrell adds the Saints can create an additional $44 million by cutting LB Kwon Alexander, OL Nick Easton, TE Jared Cook, P Thomas Morstead, DT Malcom Brown and CB Janoris Jenkins
  • Other moves the Saints could consider include extending CB Marshon Lattimore, adding void years to the end of QB Taysom Hill or WR Emmanuel Sanders‘ contracts, restructuring DE Cameron Jordan and cutting others like CB Patrick Robinson, per Terrell.
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