NFC South: Bank of America Stadium

John Kasay's career will end exactly the way it should, on a rather understated note and with a lot of dignity.

The Carolina Panthers just sent an email to the media saying a “retirement reception’’ will be held at Bank of America Stadium on Tuesday afternoon. I’m a little surprised Kasay is allowing even that much fanfare.

I covered Kasay for much of his tenure in Carolina and the kicker didn’t like a lot of attention. Even though he has a journalism degree from the University of Georgia, Kasay didn’t spend a lot of time talking to the media. When he did speak, he was polite and insightful, but those opportunities were rare.

I always got the feeling that Kasay was much more focused on doing his job (and doing it very well), and I respected him immensely for that. That approach worked quite well for Kasay during an NFL career that began with Seattle in 1991.

Kasay joined the expansion Panthers in 1995 and stayed through the 2010 season. He kicked for New Orleans in 2011 and spent last season out of the NFL after being released by the Saints in training camp.

Kasay ends his career with 1,970 points. I’m glad Kasay is at least letting the Panthers hold this reception. Kasay deserves a proper send-off from the Panthers.
NFC schedule analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Breakdown: The Panthers have the NFL’s hardest schedule, with opponents combining for a .543 winning percentage in 2012. Six games are against opponents that went to the playoffs last season. But there’s plenty of good news that comes along with Carolina’s schedule. The Panthers will open at home against Seattle. That will mark the first time the Panthers will open at Bank of America Stadium since 2009. Plus, the Panthers, who haven’t had a winning season since 2008, will get some pretty good national exposure. They’ll appear in two prime-time games. They’ll play at Tampa Bay in a Thursday night game on Oct. 24 and they’ll host the New England Patriots on Nov. 18. The New England contest will mark the first "Monday Night Football" game from Bank of America Stadium since 2008. The way I see it, the first seven games will go a long way in setting the tone for Carolina's season. The Panthers, who have started off 2-8 in each of coach Ron Rivera's first two seasons, have to start fast because their schedule becomes much more difficult over the final nine games.

Complaint department: The bye for Carolina is coming in Week 4. That’s way too early because the Panthers will be only a month removed from training camp. The league also didn’t do the Panthers any favors by giving them back-to-back road trips to Arizona and Minnesota in the two weeks following the bye. But the biggest challenge of all may be the end of the schedule. Four of Carolina’s final five games will be against NFC South foes.

Quick turnaround: The biggest quirk on Carolina’s schedule might be the timing of the two New Orleans games. The Panthers will play in New Orleans on Dec. 8. Exactly two weeks later, the Saints will come to Bank of America Stadium. At least the scouting reports will be very fresh for the second meeting.

Panthers Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 8, Seattle, 1:00 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15, at Buffalo, 1:00 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 22, NY Giants, 1:00 p.m.
Week 4: BYE
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6, at Arizona, 4:05 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, at Minnesota, 1:00 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, St. Louis, 1:00 p.m.
Week 8: Thursday, Oct. 24, at Tampa Bay, 8:25 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3, Atlanta, 1:00 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 10, at San Francisco, 4:05 p.m.
Week 11: Monday, Nov. 18, New England, 8:30 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, at Miami, 1:00 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, Tampa Bay, 1:00 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, at New Orleans, 1:00 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, NY Jets, 4:05 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, New Orleans, 1:00 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, at Atlanta, 1:00 p.m.

Around the NFC South

April, 18, 2013
4/18/13
9:50
AM ET
Let's take a look at some odds and ends from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

D. Orlando Ledbetter runs through the list of draft trades made by general manager Thomas Dimitroff. The Falcons have made at least one trade in every draft since Dimitroff come on board in 2008. That’s why I’m not discounting reports that the Falcons are trying to trade up in the first round.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

The city of Charlotte’s economic development committee will meet Thursday for another round of talks about potential financing help for renovations to Bank of America Stadium. The key thing to keep an eye on is the desire of local officials to get the Panthers to agree that the team won’t be moved for a long period after renovations.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

The Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District board has authorized a consultant to assess the emergency lighting system at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The emergency system did not fail when the regular power went out during the Super Bowl in February. But it became obvious that things like elevators and message boards did not work with the regular power off.

The Saints have finalized the dates and times for their preseason schedule.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Scott Reynolds has 24 reasons why the Bucs should trade for Darrelle Revis. I’ll have a column with a somewhat similar theme this afternoon.

In his look back at the 2010 draft, Pete Prisco gives the Bucs the best grade of any team in the division. That is due almost entirely to defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and receiver Mike Williams.

Around the NFC South

April, 9, 2013
4/09/13
9:43
AM ET
Time for a look at the latest headlines from around the NFC South:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Jay Adams writes that the latest consensus among mock drafts is that the Falcons will take cornerback Desmond Trufant. That makes a lot of sense. Cornerback is the one position where the Falcons still have a glaring need. Trufant is a guy that could come in and start right away.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

An official said the city of Charlotte likely will fall short of its original pledge of $144 million to help finance renovations for Bank of America Stadium. The official also said there are no plans to use other tax dollars to help the Panthers. The team hasn’t given any official reaction.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

In their latest mock drafts, Nakia Hogan has the Saints taking LSU outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo at No. 15, and Larry Holder has the team taking Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. Both picks make plenty of sense. The Saints have a big need for a pass-rushing linebacker in their new 3-4 scheme.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Strange news out of Tampa Bay. Roy Cummings reports that the Bucs will re-sign backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky, who recently was released. I’d imagine Orlovsky will be coming back for less than the $1.5 million he had been scheduled to make in his previous contract, but it’s not like the Bucs have to pinch pennies because they’re so far under the salary cap. I still expect the Bucs to add another quarterback later in free agency or in the draft.

In his latest mock draft, Charlie Campbell has the Bucs taking Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes at No. 13. That, of course, comes with the assumption that the Bucs don’t trade that pick away for Darrelle Revis.

NFC South evening update

April, 8, 2013
4/08/13
6:45
PM ET
Time for an evening run through some news and notes from around the division:

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

There are all sorts of new reports -- that sound a lot like the same old reports -- about what’s happening (or not happening) on a potential trade with the New York Jets for cornerback Darrelle Revis. This one says the Bucs are willing to part with this year’s first-round pick, but the Jets are asking for more. My unsolicited advice to Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik is to sit tight and wear a poker face. With each day that passes, the more I think the Bucs have the upper hand and the Jets may drop what they’re seeking in compensation.

The agent for Howard University linebacker Keith Pough says the Bucs and Falcons have shown substantial pre-draft interest in his client.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

The Saints agreed to terms with free-agent safety Jim Leonhard, who spent last season with the Broncos and the three seasons before that with the Jets. I don’t think strong safety Roman Harper and free safety Malcolm Jenkins have anything to worry about. Leonhard was brought in purely to provide depth.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

The team will open up Bank of America Stadium to fans to watch Day 3 of the NFL draft. The Panthers may have to deal with a fan mutiny if they haven’t added a defensive back or two by then.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Former Atlanta tight end Greg McCrary reportedly is hospitalized and in serious condition.

Around the NFC South

April, 3, 2013
4/03/13
8:33
AM ET
Time for a quick run through the morning headlines from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

In this Insider post, Bill Polian, who knows a thing or two about evaluating talent, ranks Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff as one of the top six talent evaluators in the NFL. You can’t argue with Dimitroff’s track record. He’s had nothing but winning seasons since arriving in Atlanta.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

A local lawyer filed a motion asking for Charlotte City Council to be cited for contempt and fined $1.4 million for agreeing in a closed session to support a tax increase to help fund renovations at Bank of America Stadium. The lawyer claims the meeting violated North Carolina’s open meetings law.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Linebacker Curtis Lofton, one of the few New Orleans defenders to play well last season, said there’s room for improvement. Lofton said he feels he can be more explosive.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Former Giants and Rams wide receiver Steve Smith reportedly received a $715,000 base salary and a $65,000 signing bonus to join the Bucs. The Bucs continue to be conservative in their spending. They still have more than $20 million in salary-cap space. That gives them plenty of room to trade for Darrelle Revis and sign him to a long-term deal. It also means the Bucs could make several more moves before all is said and done.

Around the NFC South

March, 26, 2013
3/26/13
9:33
AM ET
Let's take a quick run through the morning headlines from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

The Atlanta defensive coaching staff recently spent time with Clemson’s coaching staff to get some ideas on how to better deal with the read option. Good move by the Falcons who struggled with the read option at times last season and will continue to face it at least twice a year as long as Cam Newton is in the division.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

The Charlotte chapter of the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association has thrown its support behind a half-cent tax that would help fund renovations to Bank of America Stadium. But the state restaurant association is opposed to any increase in taxes.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Linebacker Victor Butler, who visited with the Saints last week, continues to make the free-agent rounds. His next stop is a visit with Philadelphia.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Was Tampa Bay’s decision not to keep free-agent defensive end Michael Bennett due to his torn rotator cuff? I doubt it. If the Bucs were totally sold on Bennett, they would have encouraged him to have the surgery and they would have re-signed him. I think the Bucs simply wanted to get Da’Quan Bowers into the starting lineup because they believe he has more upside as a pass-rusher than Bennett.

Around the NFC South

March, 8, 2013
3/08/13
9:45
AM ET
Time for a look at the Friday morning headlines from around the NFC South:

ATLANTA FALCONS

With John Abraham gone, D. Orlando Ledbetter throws out the possibility of the Falcons moving defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux to defensive end. Babineaux did shift outside times last year and I could see the Falcons again doing that on a part-time basis. But I think the Falcons still need to go out and get a true edge rusher in free agency or the draft.

In this Insider post, Matt Williamson lists the Falcons as a possible destination for St. Louis running back Steven Jackson. I see this happening only if the Jackson is willing to come at a reasonable price. The Falcons have made it clear their priority is to re-sign their own free agents. I think there’s a better chance of them landing a running back in the draft.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

The team said it made $66.5 million in the 2010 and 2011 seasons after a published report said the number was closer to $100 million. Either way, the fact the team has been making money while losing isn’t going to get the Panthers a lot of sympathy as they attempt to get financing for renovations to Bank of America Stadium.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Larry Holder writes that all is quiet on the Saints’ front. Consider this the calm before the storm. The Saints still have to make some moves to get under the salary cap and they may try to re-sign some of their own free agents. Things should start to heat up very shortly.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Rick Stroud takes a look at the offensive tackles in free agency. This might not seem like a priority area for the Bucs, but anything is possible. The team could look for an upgrade over right tackle Demar Dotson.

NFC South afternoon update

March, 5, 2013
3/05/13
4:24
PM ET
Time for a run through some odds and ends from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

D. Orlando Ledbetter writes that a contract extension for quarterback Matt Ryan could end up costing the Falcons nearly $140 million. That’s a huge sum, but I have no doubt the Falcons will make this deal happen. Owner Arthur Blank once gave Michael Vick a 10-year contract worth $130 million. Ryan’s value is even higher, due to inflation and the fact the Falcons have more confidence in him than they ever did in Vick.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

An Elon University poll found that 88 percent of those sampled are opposed to North Carolina using state money to help fund renovations at Bank of America Stadium. This comes after Gov. Pat McCrory said state money wouldn’t be available for the Panthers. Get ready for another round of Los Angeles rumors.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Mike Triplett lays out what may be a dream draft scenario for the Saints. He writes about how the stock of Georgia’s Jarvis Jones seems to be all over the board. There are some medical questions about Jones and he didn’t work out at the scouting combine. But, if medical questions are answered in a positive way, Jones could be exactly the kind of edge rusher the Saints need.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Roy Cummings reports the Bucs met with the agent for quarterback Josh Freeman during the scouting combine. I wouldn’t read too much into this. The Bucs already have given indications they’ll let Freeman head into the final year of his contract without an extension. The meeting likely was more of a get-acquainted session because Freeman’s former agent has retired.

Around the NFC South

March, 5, 2013
3/05/13
8:39
AM ET
Time for a morning look at some headlines from around the NFC South:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Scott Carasik has a list of free-agent tight ends the Falcons could pursue if Tony Gonzalez retires. He has Martellus Bennett and Jared Cook at the top of the list and I think both could be decent fits, although they wouldn’t be Gonzalez. Speaking of Gonzalez, I still think there’s a better than 50-50 shot he decides to play another year.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

It seemed like all the news we were hearing about the potential funding for stadium renovations was almost too positive. Well, sure enough, this isn’t going to be as easy as many thought. Governor Pat McCrory, a former Charlotte Mayor, said the state will not fund upgrades at Bank of America Stadium. Stay tuned on this one. Anytime there is negotiating, there is posturing and things can change.

Former Carolina receiver Keary Colbert has been hired as receivers coach at Georgia State. Of the many No. 2 receivers Carolina tried opposite Steve Smith in the middle of the last decade, Colbert probably came the closest to succeeding. There were moments when people with the team thought Colbert was about to click. But those same people also thought the reason Colbert never thrived was because had to deal with some difficult family issues away from the field.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Mike Triplett has the rundown of all the contracts the Saints have restructured. There probably will be more in the coming days because the Saints still are almost $3 million over the cap.

Owner Tom Benson ranks No. 360 on Forbes 400 list. His reported net worth is $1.2 billion.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Roy Cummings points out that we’re about to find out what the Bucs think of reserve running back LeGarrette Blount. Although he was seldom used last year, I still think Blount can be a decent backup to Doug Martin. Blount’s about to become a restricted free agent and that creates a bit of a dilemma. With the low tender, the Bucs would have the right of first refusal if another team tried to sign him. They could put tenders on him that would bring either a first- or second-round pick if Blount is signed away. But those tenders cost more than $2 million and I’m not sure the Bucs want to tie up that money in Blount.

Eric Dellaratta did what any beat writer covering the Bucs should do. He took a look at Rutgers’ draft prospects. You know, Greg Schiano seems to like his ties with Rutgers.

Around the NFC South

March, 4, 2013
3/04/13
9:40
AM ET
Time for a look at the top headlines from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

D. Orlando Ledbetter reports that it appears St. Louis running back Steven Jackson will be the top target in free agency. I’m not totally opposed to the move because Jackson will be an upgrade to Michael Tuner. But I think the Falcons would be better off using a mid-round pick on a running back and pairing him with Jacquizz Rodgers. Jackson’s good, but he is almost as old as Turner.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Steve Harrison reports that it’s possible early talk about tying new amateur sports facilities to funding for Bank of America Stadium could be scuffled.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

The controversy from the bounty scandal should be over, but it’s not. Remi Ayodele is strongly denying former teammate Anthony Hargrove’s claim that it was Ayodele captured on audiotape saying “pay me my money."

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Roy Cummings writes that this is the week the Bucs and Ronde Barber should sit down and discuss the veteran safety’s future with the team. It’s possible Barber may want to continue playing and the Bucs would welcome him with open arms. It’s also possible the Bus may want to move in another direction. It also is possible Barber will elect to retire.

Around the NFC South

February, 20, 2013
2/20/13
10:28
AM ET
Time for a look at some news and notes from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

D. Orlando Ledbetter throws out the possibility of the Falcons taking South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore in the second round of the draft. Lattimore is a great talent. But he’s coming off a knee injury that might prevent him from being much of a factor in 2013. I don’t think the Falcons are in a position where they can afford to redshirt a running back. They need an immediate impact at that position and there should be other running backs available in the second or third round.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

The team took another step forward in its attempt to get financing for renovations at Bank of America Stadium. The Charlotte Chamber threw its support behind the plan and asked the North Carolina General Assembly to make a quick decision on if it will raise food and beverage taxes to pay for the upgrades. Charlotte City Council already has agreed to pitch in $144 million, but that’s contingent upon the state throwing in $62.5 million.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Draft analyst Mike Mayock mentions LSU’s Barkevious Mingo and Oregon’s Dion Jordan as possibilities for the Saints with the No. 15 overall pick. They both are guys who could play outside linebacker in the 3-4 system that new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will be running. I could also see the Saints going with a defensive tackle with that pick.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

An official at Tampa International Airport said authorities there would have tried to help defensive end Da’Quan Bowers properly transport his gun if notified. But Bowers was in New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Monday when he told airline officials he was carrying a gun and ended up getting arrested. New York has stringent gun laws and it’s a criminal offense to carry a registered weapon outside your home or place of business. All indications are that Bowers didn’t have any bad intentions, but it still is possible he could face prison time.

Around the NFC South

February, 13, 2013
2/13/13
7:42
AM ET
Let's take a look at some odds and ends from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Knox Bardeen writes that the Falcons shouldn’t release veteran running back Michael Turner. I have a different point of view on that one and I’ll share it with you in my Thursday column.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Team president Danny Morrison said the current plan is to begin renovations to Bank of America Stadium immediately after the 2013 season.

Motorsports guru Bruton Smith said he’d consider buying the Panthers and wouldn’t make taxpayers foot the bill for the stadium renovations. But I don’t think Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is looking to sell the team.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Coach Sean Payton said he can see a role for linebacker Jonathan Vilma in the 3-4 scheme the Saints are switching to. I think this might be a case of a coach showing respect for a veteran leader. Vilma didn’t fit in the 3-4 scheme when he was with the Jets. More importantly, I don’t know that the Saints have the salary-cap room to even keep Vilma on the roster.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Mark Cook points out tight ends the Bucs could potentially target in free agency. He starts the list with Martellus Bennett. That would make a lot of sense. Bennett’s brother Michael is a defensive end for the Bucs. Michael Bennett also is a potential free agent, but I expect the Bucs to make a push to keep him. If they do, Michael Bennett could help recruit his brother to Tampa Bay.

Falcons to L.A. a very long shot

January, 30, 2013
1/30/13
9:14
AM ET
There’s a sudden stream of speculation that the Atlanta Falcons could be moving to Los Angeles. I’m not buying it.

Maybe you never say never, but I see this one as an extreme long shot. I see it simply as another step in the negotiating process to get a new stadium built in Atlanta.

Owner Arthur Blank reportedly has let local leaders know that he’s received overtures from business leaders in Los Angeles. But it doesn’t sound like that’s something Blank is extremely interested in.

“Arthur Blank has never played that card and I give him credit for that,’’ Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said.

The fact is the Los Angeles thing is going to come up any time a team is looking for public help for a new stadium or renovations. It already has come up in Charlotte, where Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is looking for public money to help with renovations for Bank of America Stadium.

It’s come up elsewhere and will continue to come up in other spots until Los Angeles does get a team.

But I don’t think the Falcons really are in play for Los Angeles. First off, Blank and team president Rich McKay already have several years of talks with local leaders invested in getting a new stadium built. I don’t think the talks have suddenly fallen apart.

I also don’t get any sense that Blank is looking to get out of Atlanta. He has some pretty deep roots there and it’s a huge market that may be just starting to fully embrace the Falcons for the first time in franchise history. A lot of work has gone into that and I don’t think Blank wants all of that to go to waste. I also don’t think the NFL would want to give up a market like Atlanta.

Blank wants a new stadium in Atlanta and I think that still is likely to happen. There also has been some talk that a stadium could be built in the suburbs if a deal can’t be worked out to make it happen downtown.

I see the Los Angeles option only as a last resort if Blank simply can’t get a new stadium built in Atlanta or anywhere near the city. Until a deal is reached, the rumblings about Los Angeles probably will continue.

I think there are some owners out there who might be eager to move their team to Los Angeles or sell it to someone who will take it to California. But I don’t think Blank is one of those owners.

Around the NFC South

January, 29, 2013
1/29/13
7:46
AM ET
NEW ORLEANS -- Before I run off to Super Bowl media day, let’s take a look at the top headlines from around the NFC South:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Although uncertainty remains about the funding, five finalists have been selected as potential designers of a new stadium for the Falcons.

Jay Adams writes that most of the early mock drafts have the Falcons going for a tight end or defensive lineman in the first round of the draft. That makes plenty of sense because tight end Tony Gonzalez has given indications he’s leaning heavily toward retirement and the Falcons need an eventual successor to defensive end John Abraham. But, if the Falcons don’t re-sign Brent Grimes and/or Sam Baker, I could see them turning their attention toward cornerback or left tackle.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Owner Jerry Richardson met with state officials to ask for a reported $62 million in funding for renovations for Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers already have been lobbying Charlotte officials for $125 million in funding. If both the state and city come through with that kind of money, the total will come to $187 million. Presumably, Richardson and the Panthers would come up with the other $63 million. I recognize it’s common for state and city tax money to finance new stadiums or renovations. But it’s still a little weird that Richardson is asking for help because the owner was very proud of the fact he was able to build the stadium without any taxpayer money in the first place.

The Jim Harbaugh vs. John Harbaugh storyline is probably the biggest of this Super Bowl. In the spirit of telling what family rivalries can be like, Joseph Person got Carolina offensive coordinator Mike Shula to recall what it was like coaching against his father, Don, and brother, David.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

The name of Times-Picayune columnist Jeff Duncan appeared in transcripts of testimony about the bounty scandal in December. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt testified that the team believed former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was texting the names of who the Saints were going to draft to Duncan before the picks were announced publicly. This supposedly happened during the 2011 draft. I wouldn’t put anything past Williams. But Duncan says, if there were such texts being sent, they weren’t coming to him. I’ve known Duncan for more than a decade and if he says he wasn’t getting texts, then I can assure you he wasn’t getting texts.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Baltimore running back Ray Rice had some high praise for Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano. Rice played for Schiano at Rutgers. Although Schiano has drawn some criticism for perhaps being heavy handed, Rice said the Ravens use the same team-first approach that Schiano believes in. The Ravens obviously are in the Super Bowl, so maybe Schiano’s style isn’t a bad thing. We’ll find out for sure in time.

SPONSORED HEADLINES