NFC South: Dan Campbell
Potential unrestricted free agents: CB Brian Williams, WR Marty Booker, QB Chris Redman.
Potential restricted free agents: RB Jason Snelling, RB Jerious Norwood, P Michael Koenen, CB Brent Grimes, OL Quinn Ojinnaka, T Tyson Clabo, G Harvey Dahl.
Franchise player: None.
What to expect: General manager Thomas Dimitroff repeatedly has used the phrase “fiscally responsible’’ when talking about the approach to free agency. In other words, the Falcons aren’t going to go on some wild spending spree. This organization prefers to build through the draft. But history has shown the Falcons aren’t afraid to make a strategic strike or two in free agency. They have a huge need at defensive end and that’s a tough spot to get guaranteed production from when you’ve got the No. 19 overall pick in the draft. The Falcons aren’t likely to target elite free-agent DE Julius Peppers, but you could see them make a move for another pass-rusher.
Potential unrestricted free agents: DE Julius Peppers, WR Muhsin Muhammad, QB Josh McCown, QB A.J. Feeley.
Potential restricted free agents: LB Thomas Davis, QB Matt Moore, TE Jeff King, CB Richard Marshall, DT Louis Leonard, LB James Anderson, DT Tank Tyler, CB C.J. Wilson.
Franchise player: None.
What to expect: Owner Jerry Richardson is very concerned about the uncertain labor situation and that may keep him from spending big money in free agency. The Panthers avoided a $20 million hit by not placing the franchise tag on Peppers, but that doesn’t mean all of that money is going to be used in free agency. The Panthers traditionally are a team that builds through the draft and they didn’t sign a single UFA last year. But look for at least a few smaller moves because coach John Fox has to win this year and needs to improve this roster, especially on the defensive line, at wide receiver and perhaps at quarterback.
New Orleans Saints
Potential unrestricted free agents: QB Mark Brunell, S Darren Sharper, TE Dan Campbell, TE Darnell Dinkins, DT Kendrick Clancy, LB Scott Fujita, S Pierson Prioleau, LS Jason Kyle.
Potential restricted free agents: G Jahri Evans, RB Mike Bell, RB Pierre Thomas, WR Lance Moore, TE David Thomas, T Jermon Bushrod, S Roman Harper, S Usama Young, DT Remi Ayodele, DT Anthony Hargrove, T Zach Strief, S Chris Reis, WR Courtney Roby, LB Marvin Mitchell.
Franchise player: None
What to expect: As a final-four team the Saints aren’t allowed to sign any unrestricted free agents unless they lose one of their own at a similar price tag. That’s likely to keep the Saints from being big players in free agency. But the good news is they don’t have a lot of dramatic needs. They will have to keep a protective eye on some of their restricted free agents, who may draw interest from other teams.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Potential unrestricted free agents: WR Antonio Bryant, DE Jimmy Wilkerson, S Will Allen, LB Angelo Crowell, S Jermaine Phillips.
Potential restricted free agents: RB Cadillac Williams, LB Barrett Ruud, T Donald Penn, WR Maurice Stovall, T Jeremy Trueblood.
Franchise player: None.
What to expect: The Bucs haven’t spent a lot of money in free agency in recent years and they’ve been sending out signals this year won’t be much different. They’re focused on the 10 draft picks they hold. But the Bucs could pull a small surprise or two. They’ve got a restless fan base and more needs than those draft picks can handle. A couple of signings in free agency could energize the fan base and help the rebuilding process. The Bucs really need a No. 1 wide receiver and they’re not truly positioned to get that in the draft.
This season, they ended with 15 players on injured reserve, and some of those guys were significant players.
Here’s the complete list of Saints on injured reserve with comments about the more significant ones.
- FB Heath Evans: This actually might have been the most significant injury the Saints suffered. Evans was a jack-of-all-trades and a perfect fit in this offense. Without him, the Saints have had to scramble because they did not have another proven fullback. They’ve had to throw some guys in there as well as line their tight ends up in the backfield at times.
- TE Dan Campbell and TE Billy Miller: These guys also could have helped the fullback situation. They were both good blockers to go along with Jeremy Shockey, who is used mostly as a pass catcher. The Saints did pick up David Thomas and he’s done a nice role filling in.
- DE Charles Grant: He didn’t get hurt until the end of the regular season, so we won’t know the full impact until the Saints hit the field again. Backup Bobby McCray might get some time at end on passing downs. McCray is at least as good a pass rusher as Grant and Anthony Hargrove, who also plays inside.
- LT Jammal Brown: It’s pretty amazing the Saints won 13 games when they didn’t have their Pro Bowl left tackle for any of them. Jermon Bushrod and Zach Strief have alternated at the position. They’ve had some ups and downs, but the coaching staff has done an excellent job of putting help near them.
- DT Kendrick Clancy: This veteran was kind of an unsung hero. Losing him hurt, but players like Hargrove have done a nice job filling in.
- FB Marcus Mailei
- WR Rod Harper
- WR D’Juan Woods
- LB Mark Simoneau
- LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar
- LB Stanley Arnoux
- CB Leigh Torrence
- CB Reggie Jones
- S Chip Vaughn
METAIRIE, La. -- Saints tight end Dan Campbell will have knee surgery Monday, but is expected to be back in time for the start of training camp.
Coach Sean Payton said Campbell will have arthroscopic surgery to repair damage to his medial collateral ligament. Campbell will miss the rest of the team's organized activities. Campbell wasn't the only tight end injured in Friday's minicamp. Darnell Dinkins sprained his ankle. Payton said he wasn't aware of the severity of Dinkins' injury.
In other injury news, linebacker Dan Morgan, who's coming out of retirement, strained a calf muscle early in the afternoon session and left practice. That might not come as a surprise to those who have followed Morgan's star-crossed career.