NFC South Notes: Buccaneers, Falcons, Saints

     

Buccaneers

  • The Athletic’s Greg Auman writes that Buccaneers HC Bruce Arians told reports 10 roster spots were still up for grabs, with special teams likely the deciding factor for most of them. 
  • Short of a meltdown, Auman says fifth-round K Matt Gay likely locks up the starting kicker slot ahead of Cairo Santos.
  • The final wide receiver spot likely comes down to Bobo Wilson or sixth-round rookie Scotty Miller. Auman says Wilson has been more impressive but also might be more likely to make it to the practice squad. 
  • Wilson is also battling with RB Andre Ellington as a wildcard player on offense, per Auman.
  • Auman mentions undrafted rookie OL Zack Bailey as the current leader for the final backup offensive linemen slot, though he believes Tampa Bay will try to address the position during cutdowns. 
  • Auman believes LB Jack Cichy sticks around as a fifth inside linebacker. 
  • Buccaneers LB Noah Spence would seem to have the edge as the final outside linebacker given his status as a former second-round pick, but Auman says it’s worrisome he played the entire third preseason game. 
  • Tampa Bay could keep only three tight ends, but Auman mentions TE Tanner Hudson could stick due to injury problems at the position right now. 
  • Auman says veteran S Darian Stewart, DB Isaiah Johnson and CB De’Vante Harris are battling for the final spot or two at defensive back. 
  • Buccaneers DE Jason Pierre-Paul attended practice without the neck brace he’s been spotted in, but he remains on the non-football injury list. (Rick Stroud)

Falcons

Falcons owner Arthur Blank said the team was still working to sign WR Julio Jones to an extension before the start of the regular season. Blank, however, would not commit to a deal being done before then. 

“I would hope so, but I don’t know that,” Blank said via D. Orland Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We’ll have to let things take their course. I know that we are definitely in serious negotiations. It’s our goal and their goal as well to get it done before the start of the season.”

There was some speculation the two sides were waiting due to an NFL rule requiring teams to wait a year between modifications to existing contracts. Jones tweaked his deal last year at the end of July, but the anniversary of that date came and went without a new deal. Blank and Jones have both said this offseason they’re dedicated to getting a deal done and Blank maintained that stance. 

“I’ve said this publicly and privately to Julio and Julio has said the same thing to me, both privately and publicly,” Blank said. “We expect Julio to be a Falcon for life and we have no reason to think that’s going to change at all. “The negotiations continue to move along in a positive way. It’s a big contract and it’s complex and what have you. It takes a little more time than we’d like. Probably a little more time than he would like, but I know we are in a good place.”

Falcons first-round OL Kaleb McGary says he’s happy with where he is in his recovery from heart surgery.

“Of course, no one wants to go through heart surgery, whether it’s minor or not,” McGary said, via ESPN.com. “Not exactly my idea of a fun Wednesday night, you know? But, you know, it could have been a lot worse. There’s not much to complain about. So, I’m happy with how things have gone and how they went. And I’m confident that they did what they could to fix the problem. Yeah, I’m happy with where I am.”

  • According to ESPN’s Vaughn McClure, McGary will play in Atlanta’s preseason finale Thursday against the Jaguars.

Saints

Saints DT Sheldon Rankins practiced for the first time since tearing his Achilles in the Saints’ playoff win against the Eagles. Rankins also dealt with a broken fibula his rookie season, so he’s no stranger to long recoveries, but he’s looking forward to fully rejoining his teammates soon. 

“Sadly for me, this isn’t my first time going through something serious, so it’s not foreign to me, but it is different,” Rankins said via the Athletic’s Katherine Terrell. “You watch your teammates go out here and battle throughout training camp and OTAs, so in a sense you’re isolated a bit, but you know, if you dwell on that too much, you can lose focus on what’s important, and for me that was getting better every day and putting myself in a position to get back out here as soon as possible.”

  • Saints DE Carl Granderson had his jail sentence of six months suspended on Monday and he has been placed on supervised probation. (Nola.com)
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