NFC Notes: Buccaneers, Panthers, Saints



  • ESPN ranked the Buccaneers No. 9 in their power rankings for the next three years, with QB Tom Brady joining a star-studded supporting cast and ascending defense. 
  • The biggest challenge for Tampa Bay will be integrating all the new pieces to contend at a championship level in a limited window. 
  • As far as future needs, the Buccaneers could target a quarterback of the future or another pass rusher to pair with EDGE Shaq Barrett.
  • The Athletic’s Greg Auman writes that while the Buccaneers signed 13 undrafted free agents, nearly half of that number could be cut if Tampa Bay needs to get down to 80 players from their current number of 86. 
  • However, there are opportunities for some of the undrafted rookies despite limited chances this offseason to prove themselves. UDFA EDGE’s Cam Gill and Michael Divinity signed with the Buccaneers because the team didn’t draft any pass rushers, per Auman. 
  • Auman notes former Texas C Zack Shackelford elected to sign with Tampa Bay because there weren’t many established options as backups along the interior of the offensive line. 
  • Former West Georgia WR John Hurst is likely targeting a spot on the practice squad given Tampa Bay’s depth at receiver, according to Auman. 
  • Auman writes if Buccaneers S Justin Evans continues to struggle to come back from a foot injury, UDFA S Javon Hagan will compete with 2019 UDFA S D’Cota Dixon for the fifth safety spot. Barring that, he’s another potential practice squad candidate. 
  • The Buccaneers hired former NFL QB Thaddeus Lewis as a coaching intern for 2020 as a Bill Walsh coaching fellow. Lewis previously was an analyst for UCLA and had a starting stint with the Bills in 2013. (Auman)


  • While it might be hard for rookies to make an impact in 2020, the Panthers will have no choice but to rely on a number of rookies given the turnover on their roster. The Athletic’s Joe Person highlights first-round DT Derrick Brown as one example, as he’s expected to start immediately at nose tackle. 
  • Person says Panthers second-round DE Yetur Gross-Matos should figure prominently into the defensive end rotation, and DC Phil Snow says they think the 6-5, 265-pound Gross-Matos can get bigger: “I don’t know how big he’s gonna be because he’s so young. But we’re gonna try get ‘em as big (as they can), but not lose the mobility.”
  • Panthers second-round S Jeremy Chinn should start in Carolina’s sub-packages, per Person, and could see time at strong safety, nickel defender and even outside linebacker. 
  • Person writes Carolina’s addition of CB Eli Apple means fourth-round CB Troy Pride Jr. won’t be forced into the starting lineup immediately. 
  • Though sixth-round picks aren’t usually considered roster locks, Person believes Panthers rookie DT Bravvion Roy should be a factor as a rotational player for his former college head coach Matt Rhule
  • While the Panthers used all seven draft picks on defense, they didn’t add a linebacker unless you count Chinn. Person highlights UDFA LBs David Reese and Sam Franklin as rookies who could crack the roster. 
  • According to the NFLPA, the Panthers are one of eight teams to have their Infectious Disease Emergency Response plan approved by both the NFL and NFLPA. The other 24 are submitted and are being reviewed. 
  • In a roundtable discussion by The Athletic, Panthers owner David Tepper was mentioned as someone who could succeed Cowboys owner Jerry Jones as the most prominent and powerful of the group: “I really don’t see a young Jerry, or a new Jerry on the horizon. The one who might be able to develop into that is Tepper, but calling him that at this point might be premature. We don’t know enough about him as an NFL owner yet, I don’t think. I don’t know that any of the people who have inherited control deserve to be in that category.”


  • ESPN ranked the Saints No. 4 in their power rankings for the next three years, calling New Orleans possibly the most complete team in the NFL. 
  • However, it’s unclear if either Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston can be a competent successor if 2020 is QB Drew Brees‘ last season. 
  • New Orleans is also facing a pending need at linebacker, with players like Demario Davis and Kiko Alonso in or nearing their 30s. 
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