NFC Notes: Buccaneers, Falcons, Saints

Buccaneers

  • The Athletic’s Greg Auman analyzes a potential extension for Buccaneers QB Tom Brady, noting he’s currently set to have a $15 million base salary and $10 million roster bonus for 2021. 
  • Tampa Bay could add another year with the same structure and convert his roster bonus and $10 million of his base salary to a signing bonus that would be split over both years, creating $10 million in cap space in 2021. 
  • Buccaneers DE Jason Pierre-Paul is another extension candidate given his productivity this past season even though he just turned 32, per Auman, who adds Tampa Bay could get another $5 million in space from his deal. 
  • Auman writes that while another restructure for WR Mike Evans makes a lot of sense — with a potential for up to $8.166 million in savings — the Buccaneers should be wary if they have any thought of potentially trading Evans at some point over the final three years of his deal, as a restructure would make that harder. 
  • Auman believes the Buccaneers need to move on from one of either TE O.J. Howard or Cameron Brate, as both are set to make more than $6 million in 2021 and that’s far too much for a No. 3 tight end. Howard has drawn trade interest in the past and Auman thinks Tampa Bay could potentially even get a late-round pick for Brate, though cutting him is obviously an option. 
  • Both Buccaneers LT Donovan Smith and C Ryan Jensen are candidates for two-year extensions to lower their cap hits in 2021 and provide them with more guarantees, per Auman. The lack of guaranteed money in their deals had them speculated as cap cuts this offseason until GM Jason Licht shot that idea down Wednesday. 
  • Buccaneers HC Bruce Arians joked that he’s not going to retire until his golf game improves: “If it stays this bad, I’m going to coach for a hell of a long time. If it gets really good, maybe.” (Pro Football Talk)
  • Arians added on a more serious note he’ll reassess after seeing what happens with Tampa Bay’s quest to repeat as Super Bowl champions: “But no, we’re coming back and going after two and see what happens from there.” 

Falcons

Falcons GM Terry Fontenot jokes that new cap administrator Chris Olsen‘s beard gets a little longer every time he sees him as he’s working long hours to get on top of Atlanta’s cap situation. The Falcons are $20 million in the red even after cutting S Ricardo Allen and DL Allen Bailey and only have 39 of the 53 players they’ll eventually need on the roster. Cuts alone won’t get the Falcons out of this hole, restructures are a lever that might need to be pulled, which has long-term consequences to consider. 

“They are working hard because there are so many variables with everything,” Fontenot said via the Athletic’s Tori McElhaney. “… We challenged them and said, ‘Hey, we have to look at the big picture. It’s not just about getting underneath the cap (in 2021). We have to make sure we’re making big picture decisions.’ It’s going to be a challenge because it’s going to be on us to find value.”

With how top-heavy the Falcons’ roster is, they’ll have no choice but to rely heavily on undrafted free agents, late-round picks and veteran minimum signings to fill out the roster and as key contributors. That puts the onus squarely on Fontenot and his scouting department. 

“We’re scouts, and we’re going to have to go find players because you can’t just build your roster with overpaid players in free agency or top draft picks,” Fontenot said. “We’ve gotta really dig. We have to dig and find value in free agency and that’s working with the coaches and finding out exactly what they need and going and finding the players they need.”

Saints

After starting just one game over the last two seasons due to injuries, New Orleans DT Sheldon Rankins says that he’s finally healthy and excited for the next chapter of his career.

“This past year, my left [Achilles tendon] that I ruptured was all the way back, but I still had to recover from the right one that I had surgery on. So I never really got to feel like myself again,” Rankins told Sirius XM NFL Radio. “Now, I wake up and feel like me again. I have that bounce back in my step. That’s what is exciting to me going into free agency. No matter where I end up, you can cut that 2018 tape on and see that’s the guy they’re getting.”

If the 2016 first-round pick doesn’t re-sign in New Orleans, he says he has nothing but love for the Saints.

“It’s been an awesome five years with [the Saints]. They’ve done nothing but embrace me as a player and a person. In my five years, it was nothing but an amazing experience,” Rankins said. 

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