- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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Let's take a look at the top Wednesday morning headlines from around the NFC South.
The Atlanta Falcons reportedly are on the verge of making a trade with Philadelphia for cornerback Asante Samuel. Unless there’s a snag, it will be completed before the start of the draft Thursday. This would give the Falcons three starting-caliber cornerbacks, with Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes already in place, but new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has said he plans to play three cornerbacks much of the time. It’s pretty much a given that Samuel will have to restructure his contract if he does join the Falcons.
Here’s a column that suggests the Buccaneers could take Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly at No. 5, if Alabama running back Trent Richardson and LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne are gone. Kuechly is easily the best linebacker in the draft, has no flaws on or off the field and the Bucs certainly need help at linebacker. But I’m not sure we would see this scenario play out unless new coach Greg Schiano places a higher premium on the middle-linebacker position than the previous coaching staff did. General manager Mark Dominik refused to pay Barrett Ruud big money and replaced him with third-round draft pick Mason Foster last year. If Schiano is intent on getting a top-notch middle linebacker, then Kuechly makes lots of sense. If the Bucs still don’t view middle linebacker as being all that crucial a position, then I think they’d consider USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil and Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon at No. 5. One other thing to keep in mind about Kuechly -- he spent most of his offseason working out at IMG Academies in nearby Bradenton. Several of the Bucs were down there working out and Kuechly made some new friends. They might be in Schiano’s ear about Kuechly.
Carolina receiver Steve Smith said he was told by one of the Saints last season that he would have been fined if he hadn’t gone after Smith’s ankles out of bounds. That doesn’t quite fit the parameters of the bounty program, but it doesn’t look good. And who thinks it’s a good idea to give Smith anything, real or perceived, that might motivate him? Smith thrives on that kind of stuff.
Without a pick until the third round, the Saints will need to pull of some magic in the middle and late rounds of the draft. They’ve done it before. They previously have found gems like receiver Marques Colston and guard Jahri Evans later in the draft.
Addressing the bounty program, interim New Orleans coach Joe Vitt said the Saints crossed the line with words in meetings, but not with their on-field deeds.