NFC South: Eight in the Box 030112

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Welcome to Eight in the Box, an NFL Nation feature that will appear each Friday during the offseason. This week’s topic: How each NFC South team needs to address its quarterback position.

Atlanta Falcons. The big story at the position this offseason will be getting Matt Ryan signed to a long-term extension. Ryan is the franchise, and both sides want this deal to happen, but it will be expensive and complicated. But there’s another storyline worth watching. Backup Luke McCown is scheduled to become a free agent, and it’s unclear whether the Falcons will keep him. He has ties to offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter from their time together in Jacksonville but is nothing more than a veteran backup with no upside. Dominique Davis showed tons of upside in his rookie preseason. He spent last year as the third quarterback, but it might be time for the Falcons to let McCown go and promote Davis to No. 2 on the depth chart.

Carolina Panthers. Cam Newton is set as the franchise quarterback, but the question comes at the backup job. Derek Anderson has been the backup the past two years. He is a free agent, and Carolina’s cap situation might make it difficult to keep a high-priced veteran backup. The Panthers also have Jimmy Clausen, who started as a rookie but hasn’t played the past two seasons. Still, Clausen knows the system and might be ready to be the backup.

New Orleans Saints. With Drew Brees in place, the Saints have no questions at starting quarterback, but backup Chase Daniel can become an unrestricted free agent. The Saints likely will try to keep Daniel because he knows their system so well. But Daniel could have some value on the open market because teams are likely to have interest in someone who's been Brees’ understudy. If Daniel leaves, the Saints will have to find a new backup, and they aren’t likely to have much cap room to bring in a veteran free agent. They may have to use a mid-round draft pick on a quarterback.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Coach Greg Schiano backed off his end-of-season comment about wanting to add competition for Josh Freeman. Schiano now has made it clear that Freeman is his guy. But the fact that Freeman is headed into a contract season makes this a big year. He’s played well at times but hasn’t always been consistent. Freeman needs to play consistently well in 2013 to earn a big contract. The Bucs might try to see whether anyone better than Dan Orlovsky becomes available for the backup role.

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