NFC Notes: Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers, Saints

     

Buccaneers

The Buccaneers officially announced Monday that they’ve re-signed veteran DT Ndamukong Suh to a one-year contract. 

Suh explained that while he did consider signing with other teams, returning to Tampa Bay was “always the ultimate goal” for him. 

“Tampa was always the ultimate goal. I’m super-comfortable in that city . . . I love playing in Coach Bowles’ defense,” Suh said, per Greg Auman.

Falcons

  • ESPN’s Michael Rothstein notes that while a quarterback is in play for the Falcons at No. 4 overall, if Atlanta thinks they can get three or more years out of Matt Ryan, then a rookie doesn’t make sense as they’d spend most of their first contract backing up Ryan. 
  • Rothstein doesn’t think a rookie quarterback would start in 2022 but points out that the Falcons would save $23.75 million and create $24,921,500 in dead money by designating Ryan a June 1 cut in 2022.
  • However, if the Falcons fall head over heels in love with a quarterback who’s available when they pick, Rothstein thinks they’ll draft him and figure it out later. 
  • As for Atlanta’s other options, Rothstein mentions Oregon LT Penei Sewell and Florida TE Kyle Pitts if the team sticks at No. 4 and doesn’t trade down.
  • Pitts would probably push out Falcons TE Hayden Hurst, whose fifth-year option is due this May. Rothstein adds Sewell might have to play guard initially but the Falcons could eventually shift either LT Jake Matthews or RT Kaleb McGary inside to open up room for him.

Panthers

  • The Athletic’s Joe Person writes now that the Panthers probably won’t take a quarterback in the first round, Florida TE Kyle Pitts becomes an option. However, another NFL GM thinks Pitts will be long gone by Carolina’s pick: “He won’t be there at 8. He’s a freak. To me, you take him over those receivers because you can still get a good receiver (later in the draft). You can’t get a freak like that. I don’t think he gets past Cincinnati.” 
  • Person adds if Oregon LT Penei Sewell is available that could be a potential solution to a position that’s been a revolving door for the Panthers for several seasons. 
  • Northwestern OL Rashawn Slater is also a possibility but a scout tells Person it will depend on whether the Panthers see him as a guard or tackle: “He is (good). I just don’t know if he’s a top-10 player. It’s close. He’s a guy that could definitely end up being a better guard than tackle.” 
  • Cornerback is also a major need for the Panthers and Person says either Alabama’s Patrick Surtain or South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn would be good fits to fill that. 
  • Penn State LB Micah Parsons would also be intriguing, according to Person, as he’s clearly a cut above what the team currently has at the position even if it’s not their biggest need. 

Saints

The biggest challenge for the Saints in 2021 will obviously be adjusting to life without Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees, and HC Sean Payton has already identified Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill as the two contenders to replace Brees. Both are very different quarterbacks but Payton points out that the Saints have already had test runs the past two seasons when Brees has been hurt with extended periods of time with other starting quarterbacks. 

“Those were stretches of five and four weeks,” Payton said via Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. “There are certain things that you begin to do and you take for granted, and then when you go back through it all, each year, there’s a little evolution to what you do offensively. Drew played a big part in that, relative to us building on it. And that five-game stretch with Teddy [Bridgewater], it was, ‘Hey, let’s not just try to just throw it out there.’ We treated it differently. The offense was the offense, the communication, the system. It’s no different than an iPhone and an Android. So there’s terminology that stays constant; there’s all of that. But it’s trying to look at what the player’s strengths are and how can we try to win each game.”

Payton revealed the standards he’ll be using to judge which quarterback between Winston and Hill will get the starting nod. 

“The most important thing is leading this team, leading the offense to scores—protecting the football and scoring,” he said. “There are certain commandments that we think are real important. Both of them have shown great leadership skills. Both of them have been very unselfish. It’s been a really good room here for a while, even back when Teddy was in the room. The rest of it will take care of itself. Obviously, it’s on us to give these guys the best stuff that we feel like they can execute and allow them to play.”

He also didn’t rule out drafting a rookie and adding them to the mix. 

“Well, when it comes to the draft, same way, you’ve gotta grade and not be afraid of drafting on top of strength,” he said. “When you put the final grades on these quarterbacks, we’ve been close to drafting quarterbacks before, we have drafted later-round quarterbacks. A lot of it just falls on where you’re at, and what you’re seeing in the value of the player in that round.”

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