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Thursday, March 11, 2010
How I See It: NFC South Stock Watch

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Falling

Darren Sharper. The New Orleans safety is finding out the hard way what it’s like to be 34-years-old. Despite a huge season, he doesn’t seem to be drawing a lot of attention in free agency. He also has made some comments about the Saints not showing him enough “love" (money) in their talks about bringing him back. Both sides say they want Sharper to return to New Orleans, but it’s only going to come at a price the Saints think is reasonable. They’ve got Malcolm Jenkins, last year’s first-round pick, sitting around. He spent his rookie year at cornerback, but the Saints are set there. Jenkins has the size and skills to play safety and the Saints have said, since the day he was drafted, that he eventually could end up at safety. That time might be coming sooner than we thought.

Rising

Atlanta’s defense. Look around the NFC South and ask yourself how many teams truly have gotten better in the first week of free agency. Forget your allegiances and be honest. The only answer is the Falcons. Although the Saints, Panthers and Buccaneers may end up improving themselves, all they’ve done so far is lose their own free agents and cut some prominent players. The Falcons are the only team that, right now, is better than they were at the end of the season. That’s largely because they went out and spent a fortune on cornerback Dunta Robinson and also re-signed cornerback Brian Williams, who was hurt -- and sorely missed -- the second half of last season. That suddenly solidifies the cornerback spot, which was a major problem area. The Falcons also have last year’s top two picks, defensive tackle Peria Jerry and safety William Moore, coming back from injuries. Throw all those guys on the field and add a defensive end somewhere in the draft and Atlanta suddenly looks like a strong playoff contender.