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Monday, February 15, 2010
NFC South mailbag

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

I fell behind on the mailbag during the last few weeks because I was a little busy with the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl. But it’s time to start catching up.

Also, now that we’re into the offseason and I have more time, I’d like to get back to doing team-by-team mailbags on a fairly regular basis. So fire away with the questions.

John in Raleigh writes: With the Saints winning the Super Bowl, the NFC South has to start getting some national attention as one of the top divisions in the NFL. The NFC South has been represented in 6 of the last 8 NFC Championship Games. With that said, we will sit through hours of NFC East breakdown and live feeds from Cowboys training facility documenting their every move. Such is life.

Pat Yasinskas: You’re preaching to the choir here, but, hey, I’m probably partial because the NFC South is my territory and I wouldn’t trade it for any other division. True, we may not have the mega-markets of some other divisions, but we don’t have to go around beating our chests and calling ourselves something like, oh, the “NFC Beast’’ because we’ve got a great division and we know it. For the record, Atlanta is the only NFC South city that ranks among the top 10 television markets, at least according to a 2009 list provided by the NFL. Tampa and St. Petersburg, with Sarasota thrown in, ranks No. 13. Charlotte is No. 24, right between Pittsburgh and Indianapolis and behind four markets that don’t even have NFL teams. Other than Green Bay-Appleton, which is No. 70, New Orleans has the smallest television market of any NFL city. And you could make the argument that Green Bay’s market should also include Milwaukee, which comes in at No. 35. New Orleans comes in at No. 53. It’s one spot ahead of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pa., the area I grew up in. With all due respect to my native territory, I’m absolutely stunned that New Orleans has only about 7,000 more television households than Northeastern Pennsylvania. Bottom line, the NFC South might have some small markets and that may keep attention down, but, thankfully, we’ve got some great football.


Matthew in Orlando writes: Hey Pat. I dig your articles. Good stuff. My question is, if the Panthers let Julius Peppers walk and free up some room on the budget do you think they may go after Donavon McNabb for a suitable QB? Or do you think the Panthers will tag Peppers and may try to send him to Philly for a draft pick and McNabb? Just a passing thought I had. Thanks man, keep on writing good things.

Pat Yasinskas: Despite all the rumors about McNabb, I’m not sure the Eagles will really part ways with him. The guy’s had an incredible career, far better than a lot of Philadelphia fans give him credit for. If the Panthers tag Peppers and the Eagles made McNabb available in a trade, I think that’s something the Panthers would have to consider. But it’s sounding more and more like the Panthers just might let Peppers walk. If that happens, I don’t know that will instantly free up $20 million. I think the Panthers, like a lot of teams, are going to be conservative this year because of the labor situation. Still, somehow, I’d like to see them get a quality quarterback. I think Matt Moore is an option, but he certainly isn’t a sure thing. John Fox needs a sure thing at quarterback.


Eric in New Orleans writes: Pat, just read your sum up of this year’s free agency, and had one question. From your understanding if Peppers is tagged by the Panthers, could the Saints then trade for him (under the rules) since they can't sign him if he's an unrestricted free agent?

Pat Yasinskas: Yes, the Saints can’t sign Peppers if he’s an unrestricted free agent. As one of the final four teams, they’re prohibited from signing an unrestricted free agent unless they lose one at a similar salary to another team. I don’t think the Saints have anyone that fits that bill. If the Panthers place the franchise tag on Peppers, then the Saints could trade for him. But the cost would be steep -- most likely a first- and third-round pick. But the Saints have shown a willingness to trade draft picks for proven players (see Jonathan Vilma and Jeremy Shockey) in the past.


Tom in Clearwater writes: Come on man, you know the Glazers did not 'get us the stadium'. The Glazers never expected the voters of Hillsborough County to vote for a 1-cent tax to pay for the stadium. They were ready to bolt town with the Bucs. The only way the vote went through was it was tied to education and police. To say the Glazer (sons) are not being cheap is asinine. They are so darn strapped due to Manchester United - you know it; the NFL knows it. I enjoy your column.... but c'mon man!!

Pat Yasinskas: I know it’s popular among Tampa Bay fans to say the Bucs are being cheap, but I think those fans are taking the easy route and just speaking off the top of their heads. That’s dangerous territory, unless you really know what you’re talking about. Have you seen the Buccaneers’ financial books? I don’t think you accurately can call them cheap unless you have some real evidence. We all know about the reported debt with Manchester United and we know the Bucs didn’t sign a lot of the big-name free agents many of you wanted last year. But that was part of a rebuilding plan because the Bucs had decided they weren’t going anywhere with Jon Gruden’s annual patchwork. By the way, they paid Gruden and former general manager Bruce Allen a fortune not to work last year. They also gave huge contracts to Josh Freeman, Kellen Winslow, Derrick Ward, Michael Clayton and gave Antonio Bryant $10 million as the franchise player. As far as the stadium, the Glazers did what they had to do and that kept the team in Tampa and gave the city one of the best stadiums in the NFL. They also won a Super Bowl. I'm not saying the Glazers are perfect owners and some of the points fans make about them may be valid, but I think fans need to support their thoughts instead of simply saying the Glazers are cheap. You want the real definition of cheap, think back to the Culverhouse days.