Around the NFC South

February, 20, 2012
2/20/12
10:02
AM ET
Time for a look at the top Monday morning headlines from around the division.

The Falcons reportedly have begun preliminary negotiations with some of their 17 prospective free agents. I think it’s pretty safe to assume cornerback Brent Grimes and linebacker Curtis Lofton are at the top of the list. What isn’t as clear is what the Falcons will do with defensive end John Abraham. He’s near the end of his career and the Falcons have to decide if they want to bring their top pass rusher back.

The Panthers made a minor signing, adding defensive end Jyles Tucker, who sat out last season. But Tucker previously played for Carolina coach Ron Rivera in San Diego. The Panthers have had decent luck previously when they’ve signed one of Rivera’s former players. They picked up defensive end/linebacker Antwan Applewhite last season and he wound up being a solid contributor.

New Orleans, which hasn’t hosted a Super Bowl since 2002, already is gearing up to host next year’s event.

Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber reportedly is recovering well from a fractured forearm, but has yet to decide if he wants to retire or continue playing.

Teams can start using the franchise tag Monday and the deadline is March 5. The prime candidates for the tag in the NFC South are New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees and guard Carl Nicks and Atlanta's Grimes and Lofton.

Brees and wife Brittany are expecting a third son, the quarterback said.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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