NFC Notes: Buccaneers, Panthers, Saints


Tampa Bay already had one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses in 2019, ranking No. 3 in total yards, No. 4 in scoring and No. 1 in passing. To that incendiary unit, Tampa Bay added two Hall of Fame-caliber players in QB Tom Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski, which have teammates like TE O.J. Howard seeing just as much success coming in 2020. 

“You look at us and line us up versus any offense in the league, we’re right up there with the top of them,” Howard said on NFL Media’s Good Morning Football via Kevin Patra. “So only time will tell how good we are. But I think when you put us on paper, we’re one of the best in the league, if not the best.”

Despite Tampa Bay’s success, Howard’s individual stats didn’t proliferate in the same way in his first year under HC Bruce Arians. With Gronkowski in the fold and veteran TE Cameron Brate still on the roster, Howard will still have to battle for snaps and looks in 2020. But he sees the chance to work with Gronkowski as a major opportunity. 

“There’s so much you can take from Gronk,” he said. “Just the way he plays physical down the field, at the second level of his routes, his run-after-catch ability, his YAC. I mean, there’s so much you can take from him. I mean, you can take his personality. Gronk’s such a cool guy. I met him a couple times already. There’s gonna be so much fun in our room. We’ve got so much talent.”


  • ESPN ranked the Panthers No. 30 in their power rankings for the next three years, as they have a brand-new coaching staff and return the lowest percentage of snaps from 2019.
  • The biggest question for Carolina in 2020 is whether QB Teddy Bridgewater is a franchise quarterback or not.  
  • Panthers DT Kawann Short will have a cap hit north of $20 million in 2021 and it’s unlikely he’ll remain at that number given the team’s selection of DT Derrick Brown this year. 
  • The Panthers rank seventh in the NFL in dead money for the past three seasons, according to Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap, with a total of $69 million. 


  • The Athletic’s Katherine Terrell notes that while re-signing G Andrus Peat to a five-year, $57.5 million surprised some, the Saints wanted to keep a veteran presence on the interior of their line. She adds New Orleans can get out of the deal in two years. 
  • Terrell writes the battle to watch this year is who will start at center between first-round OL Cesar Ruiz and last year’s second-round C Erik McCoy. One player will shift out to guard to replace Larry Warford
  • The Athletic’s Larry Holder predicts Saints DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson will be the team’s breakout player in 2020 and establish himself as an impact starter. 

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