NFC South Notes: Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers, Saints


Never in Buccaneers HC Bruce Arians‘ wildest dreams did he imagine that he’d ever get the chance to coach QB Tom Brady, who seemed secure in his status as a fixture for the Patriots for the past two decades. Then this offseason happened and the unthinkable happened. 

“When did I die, and how did I get back? No way,” Arians said when asked about his reaction on the Rich Eisen Show. “Never did I think that he’d ever leave New England. This year, you kinda got a feeling, maybe. So you do your due diligence as an organization and you rank all the quarterbacks that might become available. We had him ranked No. 1. If it happened, we would make a concerted effort and we did.”

Arians said adding Brady made sense on a number of levels. Tampa Bay has one of the best receiving corps in the NFL and had the NFL’s stingiest run defense in 2019. While there are still things to be worked out in the secondary, offensive line and running game, adding Brady boosts the ceiling of the entire team. 

“What he brings to us more than anything is a proven leader,” Arians said of Brady. “A leader of men that knows how to win championships. We’ve got a really good young football team that needs a leader like that.”

Arians also confirmed that re-signing QB Jameis Winston was Plan C for the Buccaneers this offseason if they missed on Brady and Teddy Bridgewater, who left the Saints for the Panthers. Winston’s inability to fix his turnover issues, particularly late in the season in December, was the final straw for Arians, though he did praise his former quarterback’s work ethic and said he put in a few calls with other teams to recommend Winston. 

“I think it was that regression in those last two ballgames after he made such good progress,” Arians said. “Those turnovers in December made us look to see if, was there something better behind door No. 2.”

“We were so close last year. I mean 7-9 doesn’t sound close, but you eliminate 20 turnovers, we’re in there.”



New Panthers WR Robby Anderson hasn’t had an easy road in the NFL. The former undrafted free agent worked his way to a starting role, nearly threw it away with a pair of arrests, then buckled down and stayed clean for the past few years before the Jets let him hit unrestricted free agency. So it only made sense for Anderson to join his former college head coach at Temple, Panthers HC Matt Rhule, as he looks to take the next step in his career. 

“Matt Rhule is a great coach,” Anderson said a few months ago when Rhule was hired, via the Athletic’s Connor Hughes. “I was texting him not too long ago, and I wanted to thank him. He put me through a lot of stuff at Temple that I used to get mad about, but now I understand why he was doing those things. Matt didn’t want me to coast off my talent. He taught me work ethic. Rhule is more than just a good coach. He’s a great person, more importantly. I got kicked out of the program at Temple and he fought to get me back there. If he didn’t fight and help me get that opportunity, I wouldn’t be here right now with the New York Jets.”

  • ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler says the Panthers also evaluated QB Marcus Mariota and were open to keeping QB Cam Newton without an extension before they signed QB Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year deal.
  • An NFL source said Carolina wanted to take a measured approach as they’re high on the 2021 class of quarterbacks: “But Teddy gives them flexibility either way. You don’t have to draft a quarterback with him in the fold, but he’s a good guy to learn from if you do.”


  • Per Nick Underhill, Loomis said the Saints tried to trade for WR Emmanuel Sanders last year before the deadline but couldn’t make it work with compensation and the salary cap. 
  • Once Sanders saw the Saints were interested in free agency, he dropped all of his other suitors: “Right when I saw the Saints offer, I talked to Sean Payton and told him I wanted to be a Saint. We made it happen. I was just ecstatic. I didn’t care to answer more calls from anybody.” (SiriusXM NFL Radio)
  • The Saints were one of the teams in the running for CB Chris Harris before he signed with the Chargers. (Jeff McLane)

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