- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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Time for an evening run through the headlines from around the NFC South.
New Orleans assistant coach Joe Vitt said the Saints have the deepest group of linebackers he has been around. Vitt said the Saints have seven or eight linebackers that could start for most NFL teams. There’s no doubt the Saints upgraded at linebacker in the offseason. Newcomer Curtis Lofton is working with the first team at middle linebacker, and free-agent pickup David Hawthorne and incumbent Scott Shanle have been working on the outside. After them, the Saints have Chris Chamberlain, Nate Bussey, Will Herring and Jonathan Casillas. The NFL has suspended linebacker Jonathan Vilma, but he is appealing. Even if Vilma ends up serving his suspension, the Saints have plenty of depth at linebacker.
For those who think the Buccaneers gave up tight end Kellen Winslow for basically nothing (a seventh-round pick that could end up turning into a sixth-round choice) to Seattle, John Clayton runs through the history of some other similar trades. In general, older players that are shipped for late-round draft picks, haven’t produced much with their new teams. Ironically, the one recent success story Clayton points to involves an NFC South team. Clayton writes that Reggie Bush, who was traded from New Orleans to Miami last season, was a notable exception to this trend.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he’s confident bounty programs no longer will be an issue. Goodell said that’s because the punishments handed down to the Saints spoke very loudly. I’m sure the message was heard around the league. But this thing isn’t completely over yet. The players facing suspensions are appealing, and also are awaiting on rulings from arbitrators on two different grievances.
Mark Cook reports that the Buccaneers have hired former NFL defensive back Terry Cousin as their director of player engagement. Different teams have different names for that job, but it basically is about helping players deal with NFL life off the field. Or as I like to tell Kevin Winston, who holds a similar job in Atlanta and held a similar job in Tampa Bay back in the 1990s, his job is to be a social worker/big brother. The Bucs have had their share of off-field trouble in recent seasons, and I think it’s safe to say that part of Cousin’s job will be to end that.
Daniel Cox has a column on Atlanta’s receiving duo of Roddy White and Julio Jones. Is that the best duo in the league? Maybe not yet, but I think it could work out that way this season. Jones should be even better in his second season, and White needs to lose the case of the drops he had last season. If both things happen and new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is a little more creative than Mike Mularkey, this could be the best receiver duo in the league.