NFC South: Eric Olsen

Most significant move: The fact the Saints didn’t release or put Jonathan Vilma on injured reserve or the physically unable to perform list is a very strong sign that the veteran linebacker is expected to be healthy early in the season. That’s very significant. Vilma may be nearing the end of his career, but he still is the emotional leader of this defense and his mere presence makes this unit stronger.

Going in a different direction: Courtney Roby had been a fixture on special teams since his arrival in 2008. But the Saints have some younger, more athletic guys, like Rafael Bush, they want to get involved on special teams. Roby’s value also was hurt by the fact he brought little as a wide receiver. The team elected to keep Andy Tanner over Roby because Tanner has some upside as a receiver.

What’s next: After losing outside linebackers Will Smith and Victor Butler to injuries, the Saints could look at the waiver wire to add some more help for the pass rush.

Saints moves: Released WR Courtney Roby, DE Jay Richardson, CB Chris Carr, S Jim Leonhard. Waived QB Ryan Griffin, WR Preston Parker, FB Austin Johnson, WR, Saalim Hakim, G Elliott Mealer, TE Keavon Milton, TE Michael Higgins, G Andrew Tiller, C Jeremiah Warren, LB Ray Shipman, LB Rufus Johnson, DT Isaako Aaitui, S Jerico Nelson, LB Baraka Atkins, T Marcel Jones, CB Korey Lindsey and CB Jumal Rolle. Placed C Eric Olsen on injured reserve.

Reviewing NFC South free agents

March, 7, 2013
3/07/13
10:42
AM ET
We’ve shown you the lists of potential NFC South free agents before. But let’s do it again because there have been some minor moves and the free-agency period is getting ready to start Tuesday.

Here’s the list of potential free agents for all four NFC South teams:

Atlanta Falcons. Tony Gonzalez, Brent Grimes, Sam Baker, William Moore, Will Svitek, Mike Cox, Todd McClure, Luke McCown, Christopher Owens, Mike Peterson, Garrett Reynolds, Lawrence Sidbury and Vance Walker all can become unrestricted free agents. Michael Palmer can become a restricted free agent.

Carolina Panthers. The potential unrestricted free agents are Derek Anderson, Antwan Applewhite, Gary Barnidge, Dwan Edwards, Ben Hartsock, Sherrod Martin, Captain Munnerlyn, Louis Murphy and Mike Pollak. Richie Brockel can become an exclusive-rights free agent. Andre Neblett, Nate Ness and Jason Phillips are scheduled to become restricted free agents.

New Orleans Saints. Jermon Bushrod, Jonathan Casillas, Chase Daniel, Sedrick Ellis, Devery Henderson, Ramon Humber, Elbert Mack, Turk McBride, Will Robinson, Courtney Roby and Scott Shanle can become unrestricted free agents. Brian De La Puente, Justin Drescher, Junior Galette and Chris Ivory are scheduled to become restricted free agents. Eric Olsen and Michael Higgins can become exclusive-rights free agents.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ronde Barber, Dallas Clark, Michael Bennett, E.J. Biggers, Andrew Economos, Roy Miller, Roscoe Parrish, Sammie Stroughter and Jeremy Trueblood can become unrestricted free agents. LeGarrette Blount, Jacob Cutrera, Corvey Irvin and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim are scheduled to become restricted free agents.

NFC South evening update

February, 14, 2013
2/14/13
6:18
PM ET
Time to take a run through some odds and ends from around the division:

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Pete Prisco tops his list of under-the-radar free agents with Arizona cornerback Greg Toler. In a year when there aren’t a lot of big-name cornerbacks available (and those that are come with question), Toler is a guy worth keeping an eye on. The Bucs have a desperate need at cornerback. They need to add several and they aren’t all going to come through the draft.

There has been some previous talk about a reunion of the Bennett brothers before and this will fuel it more. Martellus Bennett, the tight end for the Giants, tweeted that he would like to stay in New York. But he added that his next choice would be to play with his brother Michael, who has been with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but can also become an unrestricted free agent. The Bucs are likely to make a strong attempt to keep Michael Bennett. They also could be in the market for a tight end if they don’t re-sign Dallas Clark, and Martellus Bennett could be a nice fit.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

The Saints have re-signed safety Rafael Bush, tight end Michael Higgins and guard Eric Olsen. This was a mere formality. All three were exclusive-rights free agents and didn’t have any alternative. But this shows the Saints’ front office is hard at work and that means some moves to free up more than $20 million in salary-cap space will be coming soon.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Bryan Strickland writes that the recent signing of Colin Cole doesn’t mean the Panthers will ignore defensive tackle in the draft. Cole hasn’t played in the NFL since 2010. If he gives the Panthers anything at all, it’s a bonus. Defensive tackle still remains one of this team’s biggest needs and the Panthers better address it in the draft.

ATLANTA FALCONS

Owner Arthur Blank will serve as honorary chairman Saturday when the Black College Football Hall of Fame holds its annual enshrinement.

Looking at Saints' offensive snaps

February, 12, 2013
2/12/13
2:32
PM ET
Aside from right tackle, where a series of injuries forced many changes, the New Orleans Saints' offensive line was exceptionally durable in the 2012 season.

Guard Ben Grubbs and center Brian De La Puente each took part in all 1,107 of New Orleans’ offensive plays. Guard Jahri Evans missed two plays and left tackle Jermon Bushrod missed four.

Here’s the percentage breakdown of playing time for the rest of the New Orleans offense:

Looking at New Orleans' free agents

February, 11, 2013
2/11/13
1:17
PM ET
Time to continue our look at the NFC South’s potential free agents with the New Orleans Saints.

Their list includes left tackle Jermon Bushrod, linebacker Jonathan Casillas, backup quarterback Chase Daniel, defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, receiver Devery Henderson, linebacker Ramon Humber, cornerback Elbert Mack, defensive end Turk McBride, tackle Will Robinson, receiver Courtney Roby and linebacker Scott Shanle. Center Brian De La Puente, center Justin Drescher, defensive end Junior Galette and running back Chris Ivory can be restricted free agents. Safety Rafael Bush, guard Eric Olsen and tight end Michael Higgins can be exclusive-rights free agents.

The big names are Bushrod, who has made himself into a Pro Bowler, and Ellis, a former first-round pick. Although the Saints have major salary-cap issues, they are likely to at least make an attempt to keep Bushrod. But it’s important to remember the Saints aren’t like most other teams when it comes to their philosophy on paying offensive linemen. They have a history of paying more to guards (see Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs) than they do to tackles and Bushrod could get big money on the open market.

Ellis never has lived up to his draft status and, with the Saints switching to a 3-4 defense, I’m not sure he’s a good fit for the scheme.

Henderson and Shanle used to be key players. But age started to catch up to them last season and I don’t see the Saints making a big push to keep them.

Inactives for the Saints

January, 14, 2012
1/14/12
3:12
PM ET
There’s a bit of good news on the injury front for the New Orleans Saints. Linebacker Jonathan Casillas, who had been listed as questionable with a knee injury, is active for Saturday’s playoff game against the 49ers.

As expected, injured receiver Lance Moore (hamstring) and back up tight end John Gilmore (toe) are out.

The other inactives for the Saints are cornerback Leigh Torrence, linebacker Nate Bussey, tight end Tory Humphrey and offensive lineman Eric Olsen.

Around the NFC South

January, 4, 2012
1/04/12
10:05
AM ET
Time for a look at the top Wednesday morning headlines from around the NFC South.

Drew Brees’ uniform from the day he broke Dan Marino’s record for passing yards in a season is now on display in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

With Stephen Nicholas still banged up, it looks as if Spencer Adkins could make his second straight start at outside linebacker for Atlanta.

No big surprise here, but the Saints went ahead and officially placed running back Mark Ingram and linebacker Will Herring on injured reserve. Offensive lineman Eric Olsen and linebacker Nate Bussey are filling the roster spots.

As he reflected on the season, Carolina general manager Marty Hurney said it became apparent early on that the Panthers got “who we thought we drafted’’ in rookie quarterback Cam Newton. The Panthers did a ton of homework on Newton and believed they were getting a player who was potentially special. But I don’t think even the Panthers knew how quickly Newton would explode and put up huge numbers.

Martin Fennelly writes that Raheem Morris’ downfall ultimately was due to his inability to separate himself from the players. That’s very true. Morris had many positive qualities, but he never established himself as an authority figure with the Tampa Bay players. The Bucs were a young team with virtually no leadership and that’s why they fell apart.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider

NFC SOUTH SCOREBOARD