Next in line for contract extensions?

May, 2, 2013
5/02/13
10:52
AM ET
There has been a lot of talk about Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan eventually getting a contract extension.

It’s going to be an expensive proposition for the Falcons. But it shouldn’t be all that complicated. The Falcons want Ryan for the long term and he wants to stay in Atlanta. Thanks to Aaron Rodgers and Joe Flacco, the parameters are in place for a potential Ryan deal.

My guess is the Falcons and Ryan will reach an agreement sometime between now and the start of training camp. Of the NFC South players heading into the final year of their contracts, Ryan is the biggest name.

But I just scanned through the contract situations of all four NFC South rosters and I’m seeing at least one player from every team that could be in line for an extension. Let’s take a look:

Atlanta Falcons. Ryan obviously is the priority. But there’s one other player to keep an eye on in Atlanta. Defensive tackle Corey Peters is heading into the final year of his contract. Peters has become a solid starter and he’s helped by the fact that fellow defensive tackles Jonathan Babineaux and Peria Jerry also are headed into the final season of their contracts. Babineaux is aging and I don’t see the Falcons extending him. Jerry’s career has been thrown off track by injuries, so I don’t see him as a candidate for an extension. It would be nice to have a little bit of long-term stability at defensive tackle. The Falcons likely will free up some cap room when they extend Ryan and that could allow them to give Peters a new deal.

Carolina Panthers. They’ve spent this offseason trimming salary-cap space, but it might be time to think about spending a little money. Defensive end Greg Hardy is heading into the final season of his contract. Hardy reached double-digit sacks last season and he and Charles Johnson give the Panthers one of the league’s top defensive end tandems. The Panthers might be wise to extend Hardy soon. If he turns in another big season, his price tag is only going to go up.

New Orleans Saints. They’ve worked their way through a difficult salary-cap situation this offseason, but it might be time to take care of the most underpaid guy on the team. Tight end Jimmy Graham is heading into the last year of his contract. In becoming one of the league’s best tight ends, Graham clearly has outperformed his rookie contract. Graham hasn’t complained about his relatively low salary, but it might be wise to make a pre-emptive strike and make him happy.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Wide receiver Mike Williams is headed into the final season of his contract and there have been indications the Bucs want to extend him soon. That would be a smart move. The Bucs have enough cap room to give Williams a front-loaded contract. He and Vincent Jackson form a very good combination at receiver. If the Bucs wait too long and Williams puts up another big season, he could get huge money on the free-agent market.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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