Around the NFC South

Time for a look at the Sunday morning headlines from around the division.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera said reserve quarterback Jimmy Clausen remains in the mix for next season. Let’s see if that holds true next month when Clausen is due a roster bonus of nearly $1 million. That’s a lot to pay a guy that was inactive for every game last season.

Atlanta coach Mike Smith revealed defensive end Ray Edwards had postseason knee surgery. Smith said the knee was bothering Edwards during the season. That may explain why Edwards, Atlanta’s top free-agent pickup last year, had such a quiet season.

The Falcons reportedly are exploring the possibility of extending quarterback Matt Ryan’s contract. Although Ryan has two years remaining on his original deal, this would make sense because the Falcons could knock down Ryan’s cap figure for this year and create more room to sign free agents. An extension for Ryan also would silence the critics who are saying that the quarterback is not the long-term answer for the Falcons.

The Falcons are considering the possibility of using the franchise tag on cornerback Brent Grimes. That would cost the team $10.6 million.

LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers, who many are projecting as Carolina’s pick at No. 9, has decided not to run the 40-yard dash or do the bench press at the combine. Brockers said he will do both at his pro day.

For the second time this offseason, Smith has publicly declared the Falcons will limit running back Michael Turner’s carries going forward. Makes sense because Turner has handled a lot of carries the past four seasons and he’s not getting any younger. Turner still will be the feature back, but the Falcons plan to give more playing time to Jacquizz Rodgers.

Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik said the team wants to re-sign kicker Connor Barth. If that doesn’t happen, Dominik implied the Bucs would use the franchise tag on Barth.

Jeff Duncan writes that the Saints’ offseason will be considered a success if the team can find a way to keep quarterback Drew Brees, guard Carl Nicks and receiver Marques Colston. He’s right, but that’s going to be a challenge. The Saints have been so tied up with the Brees deal that Nicks and Colston said talks about new deals for them haven’t begun. It’s likely those talks will heat up as soon as a deal gets done with Brees and the Saints could use the franchise tag on Nicks and Colston. Even if the Saints find a way to keep all three, they probably will lose some free agents they’d like to keep. Receiver Robert Meachem and cornerback Tracy Porter are likely to draw some interest from outside and the Saints might not have enough cap room to keep them.

The Bucs reportedly have paid $500,000 to Rutgers as part of the buyout clause coach Greg Schiano owed the university. A Rutgers spokesperson said a $300,000 balance remains on a home loan that Rutgers gave Schiano.