NFC South Notes: Falcons, Panthers, Saints

     

Falcons

Falcons owner Arthur Blank feels that the Falcons are in “good position” for the 2020 NFL Draft with three selections in the opening two rounds. 

“I think we are in a good position in the draft,” Blank said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Consitution. “We’ll have three picks in the first two rounds, and we’ll be appropriately active in free agency. But I think primarily it is going to be improvements through the draft. We’ll see how that shapes up.”

  • Jason Butt of the Athletic can see the Falcons doubling down at defensive line in this year’s draft.
  • Butt lists Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa, LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson, Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos, Boise State’s Curtis Weaver and Alabama’s Terrell Lewis as potential edge defenders to watch for Atlanta along with defensive tackles Auburn’s Derrick Brown and South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw.
  • Butt mentions that if the Falcons want to re-sign TE Austin Hooper, they’ll need to figure out a way to carve out a contract that fits into their cap situation.
  • As for RB Devonta Freeman, Butt believes the Falcons will need to consider the possibility of releasing him and picking up $3.5 million of cap space this offseason.
  • Should Atlanta move on from Freeman, Butt expects them to target a running back in the draft.

Panthers

  • According to the Athletic’s Joe Person, multiple teams have already made preliminary contact with Panthers TE Greg Olsen to express interest. Carolina is expected to release Olsen soon. 
  • Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller writes the early word out of Carolina is the Panthers don’t anticipate drafting a quarterback early in the draft this year. 
  • Miller adds things could change given not much is known about first-year HC Matt Rhule. The Panthers are also planning to evaluate QB Cam Newton‘s health in March, which will be another key input into their offseason plan. 

Saints

Saints HC Sean Payton confirmed that QB Drew Brees has been clear in his communication with the team that he’s going to take the next month to weigh things over before deciding on whether to play in 2020. Payton dispelled any notion that Brees was looking for leverage, saying the 41-year-old is honestly evaluating what it would take to keep playing versus retiring. 

“Currently I know speaking to Drew right before the Pro Bowl, he’s gonna take some time and decide on whether he’s coming back or not,” Payton said via the Athletic’s Katherine Terrell. “We’ve always had great communication. It’s not something where he’s looking to leverage for more money or play with another team. It’s really about his time, the commitment that it takes, the family, all those things. And then once that decision takes place, we were in a good position.”

Payton was also clear-eyed about the realities New Orleans is facing at quarterback. None of the trio of Brees, Teddy Bridgewater or Taysom Hill are under contract at the moment, and given the state of the market he called it “unrealistic” to think the Saints could keep all three. Hill is easier to keep than Bridgewater as a restricted free agent — though it would not be impossible for another team to make a run at him if they think as highly of him as Payton does. If Brees comes back, Bridgewater likely leaves for a starting job and starting salary. 

“Taysom’s a (restricted) free agent. That means there’s a little bit more of a built-in protection for us,” Payton said. “Once Drew makes his decision, then we’ll be better able to look at both Teddy and Taysom. Teddy went 5-0 for us. And Taysom we’ve been playing on every position other than (QB) and he’s unique. But look, we feel like that heir apparent potentially is in the building as well.”

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