NFC South mailbag

Lots of great questions in the mailbag as we approach the start of free agency (it comes at 12:01 a.m. Friday). Let’s get to it.

Scott in Alexandria, La., writes: Do you think that the Saints will retain Scott Fujita and Darren Sharper?

Pat Yasinskas: I think the Saints are being smart here. We’re talking about two veteran guys coming off very productive years. In other times, they probably already would have contract extensions. But we’re entering a very different free-agency period. Owners are going to be fiscally responsible, in other words, cheap, in free agency. I believe the Saints have interest in retaining Fujita and Sharper and I believe both players would like to stay. But the Saints are going to let them test the market and see what’s out there. I think the agents for both players will be in touch with the Saints and give them a chance to bring them back before they sign elsewhere.

Dylan in Las Vegas writes: Pat, It doesn't make sense to me that the Bucs would go public with their intent not to re-sign Antonio Bryant if they did not already know who they were going to replace him with. Is this a signal that Dez Bryant is their #1 draft choice or does it show that they have their sights on a certain WR in free agency that will be in Tampa come March 5?

Pat Yasinskas: I don’t think the Bucs know exactly who will replace Antonio Bryant just yet. Dez Bryant is at least a possibility with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, but I think the Bucs would prefer to get a defensive tackle there, if possible. The Bucs haven’t been big players in free agency in recent years, but I think they might make something of an exception at wide receiver this year. Josh Freeman needs a true No. 1 receiver and the Bucs are well aware of that. The top guys available in free agency and possibly trades all come with some baggage. That comes with the territory at wide receiver. The Bucs just have to figure out how much baggage they want to take on.

David in Raleigh writes: I remember when the Panthers drafted Julius Peppers. He was all, "I am going to show why I should have been No. 1’’. How did that work out for you? And after 9 years, if you felt you could do more, guess what...you can speak up, you mute!!! Someone please shed some light on why he wants out of Carolina?

Pat Yasinskas: I took a crack at explaining the mystery surrounding the Peppers situation in this Feb. 19 column. I’ve been told by several former and current Carolina employees that was the most accurate portrayal that’s ever been written on this complex situation. I’ve got to disagree with you on one thing. Although Peppers might once or twice have said he believed he should have been the top overall pick in the 2002 draft, he never shouted it from the rooftops. One thing about Peppers is he never was anything remotely close to what I call a “helicopter," a guy that constantly beats his chest and tells you how good he is. No doubt Peppers deserves some of the blame for this breakup. The Panthers made several strong offers to keep him, including a last-ditch effort in recent weeks. Peppers turned all of them down. This one was never all about money. Peppers just wants to go somewhere else. That right there tells me that the Panthers probably deserve some blame in this one, too. They were good to Peppers, no doubt, but he never was totally comfortable in Carolina.

Robbie in Murphy, N.C., writes: What are your thoughts on the Panthers putting a second-round tender on Richard Marshall? I feel like you need to retain as many starting DBs as possible.

Pat Yasinskas: Yeah, I was a little surprised by that, too. But, basically, I think it’s a calculated gamble. The Panthers would like to keep Marshall, but they’re taking a chance that nobody’s going to come in and give him an offer they can’t match. Like I’ve said repeatedly, I think owners around the league are going to be very hesitant to spend big money this year.

Glenn in Lancaster, Pa., asks about Michael Vick possibly coming to the Panthers:

Pat Yasinskas: Glenn, I’m summarizing your note because we have space rules here and I’m already pushing them with the length of this mailbag. Yes, Vick has done his time and he does have Tony Dungy battling for him. But I will keep saying that Jerry Richardson is a man who was very scarred by the sagas of Kerry Collins and Rae Carruth. There’s no way he’ll pursue Vick. Besides, I don’t think Vick fits Carolina’s style of play. I do think he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL again, but not in Carolina.

Carlos in Panama City, Fla., writes: When are we going to see some releases for the Bucs? Free agency is one day away and we haven't done anything.

Pat Yasinskas: Hang loose. I’m anticipating a very busy day and night. One thing I’ve learned is NFL teams don’t make moves until they absolutely have to. Although we’re heading for an uncapped year, I anticipate some teams will be trimming veterans very soon. Stay tuned.