Hitting the NFC South hot spots

Chuck in Ponchatoula, La. asks how Sean Payton will do as a television analyst leading up to the Super Bowl because his interviews often “leave something to be desired."

Pat Yasinskas: With the possible exception of Rex Ryan, I don’t know of too many coaches who view themselves as entertainers when they are coaching. Like a lot of coaches, Payton is guarded when speaking to the media. That’s largely because coaches try not to give competitive advantages with injury information and they’re careful not to provide bulletin-board material for other teams. But this will be a different venue for Payton and I’m sure he’ll approach it that way. In his coaching days, Tony Dungy was as dry as could be. In his television job, he’s opened up. I’m sure Payton will do the same and the fact he’ll be working with his old buddy Jon Gruden should make him more comfortable.

Michael in Rockton, Ill. asks if I can post how much each team has committed to the 2011 salary cap.

Pat Yasinskas: For spaces purposes, I’ll limit it to the four NFC South teams and try to provide some perspective by telling you that the league average for team salary-cap figures is $99.9 million. The Saints and Falcons are slightly above average, while the Panthers and Buccaneers are well below average. At the moment, the Saints lead the division with $104.8 million committed toward a 2011 cap. The Falcons are at $102.1 million. The Panthers are at $73.1 million and the Bucs are at No. 32 with $59.4 million scheduled to count toward the cap.

Dwayne in Sacramento, Calif. writes that the Bucs tried to trade for Jay Cutler when he wound up in Chicago and asks how things might have played out if he had come to Tampa Bay.

Pat Yasinskas: Well, it’s impossible to know for sure. But the one certainty is the Bucs would not have drafted Josh Freeman if they had traded for Cutler. I think we all can agree that Freeman is well on his way to being a true franchise quarterback. There aren’t many of those out there, so I’d say it’s a good thing the Bucs didn’t get Cutler.

Anil in Atlanta asks if the Falcons will dive into free agency this year.

Pat Yasinskas: It’s hard to give a complete answer right now because we don’t know what’s going to happen with the labor situation. If it does get resolved, I wouldn’t look for the Falcons to go crazy. General manager Thomas Dimitroff has set a precedent in recent years. He generally goes after only one or two free agents and relies on the draft for everything else. I’m guessing Dimitroff will follow a similar path again. I think defensive end could be a possibility due to John Abraham’s age and the fact the Falcons didn’t get huge production from the rest of their pass rush.