Hitting the NFC South hot spots

Time to take a plunge into the NFC South mailbag.

JM in Charlotte asks if the Panthers would use the No. 1 pick on Cam Newton due to his personal history.

Pat Yasinskas: The NCAA still is investigating the allegations against Newton, but nothing has been settled. He also had some minor trouble when he was at the University of Florida. Is that enough to keep the Panthers away? I honestly don't know. But, if Newton is even close to No. 1 on their draft board, you can bet they'll do a very thorough background check on him. If any questions remain about him, I think the Panthers would steer clear because owner Jerry Richardson has shied away from guys who have had trouble in their past and this is a critical pick for the Panthers.

Ned in Canada asks if there is any chance of the Falcons switching to the 3-4 as their base defense.

Pat Yasinskas: I doubt it. Coach Mike Smith is a 4-3 guy and I don't see him making dramatic changes. But I would like to see the Falcons add a pass-rushing end early in the draft. I also think there's hope that defensive tackle Peria Jerry could be more of a factor next season after fully recovering from a knee injury.

Tyler in Lewiston, Pa., asks if the Bucs could step outside their philosophy of building through the draft and sign a free agent or two.

Pat Yasinskas: I think they almost have to. First off, assuming there is a new labor agreement and a salary-cap floor, the Bucs will have to spend a lot of money just to reach the minimum. Some of that will come by re-signing their own guys. I don't anticipate a sudden free-agent frenzy, but I think the Bucs could make a selective strike or two. They did a great job with last year's draft and picking up guys off the streets. But I think some of those guys might have played a bit over their heads and aren't long-term solutions. I think the Bucs would be wise to sign a free agent or two to help their youth movement along and prevent the team from taking a step back.

Jeff in Georgia asks why Atlanta defensive end Lawrence Sidbury hasn't been more productive.

Pat Yasinskas: The Falcons had high hopes for Sidbury this past season, but he didn't do much. It's not like Kroy Biermann suddenly became an All-Pro, so that tells you Sidbury hasn't developed the way the Falcons would like. There still are people in the organization who believe he has potential. But Sidbury needs to expand on his natural athletic ability. He needs to develop some moves and add some upper-body strength.