NFC South: Heath Evans

Southern exposure for Week 15

December, 14, 2012
Let’s take a look at the maps on to get a gauge on which NFC South games will air in which markets around the country.

A lot of times, a game between Tampa Bay and New Orleans would get dominant play in the Southeast. But that’s not the case Sunday. The Fox game, which will feature Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick, basically will be a regional game. It will air only in parts of Florida, all of Louisiana, a good chunk of Mississippi and part of Alabama.

The Bucs and the Saints are getting overshadowed by the game between the Falcons and New York Giants. That game will air throughout Georgia, a large part of Alabama and Tennessee and even spill over into parts of Arkansas and Florida. More importantly, the Fox broadcast, featuring Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa, will be available through most of Texas all of New Mexico and in the Las Vegas market. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

The Falcons and Giants will be available in the nation’s two largest markets. The game will be broadcast in New York and throughout almost all of the Northeast. It also will be available in Los Angeles and almost all of Southern California.

The late afternoon game between San Diego and Carolina is going to get very limited play. The Chargers weren’t able to sell out, so the game won’t even air in San Diego. The Fox broadcast, featuring Sam Rosen and Heath Evans, will air only in all of North Carolina and most of South Carolina.

NFC South evening update

May, 15, 2012
Let’s take a run through the evening headlines from around the NFC South.

— According to this unique formula, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the least home-field advantage in the NFL from 2009 through 2011. On the flip side, the New Orleans Saints ranked behind only the New England Patriots when playing at home during that same span. The Falcons were No. 5 in the Georgia Dome and the Panthers No. 20 at Bank of America Stadium.

— Former Atlanta quarterback Steve Bartkowski was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday. He’s not the only player in the Class of 2012 with NFC South ties. Linebacker Mark Simoneau, who started his NFL career with the Falcons and had a later stint with the Saints, also was elected.

— It’s been a turbulent offseason for the Saints, but Wednesday night should provide a respite. The third annual Heath Evans Softball Classic will be held at Zephyr Field, which is adjacent to the Saints’ practice facility. More than 30 members of the Saints are expected to take part in the charity event.

— Mike Triplett writes that the Saints seem convinced their offense is in good hands with coordinator Pete Carmichael running the show while coach Sean Payton is suspended for the 2012 season. There’s good reason for that. Carmichael took over the play-calling duties last season when Payton suffered knee and leg injuries in a sideline collision and the offense didn’t miss a beat.

— Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano said he was pleased with his team’s effort, but not its execution, in Tuesday’s organized team activity. Take this as another sign that Schiano is a stickler for detail. I was out there for the practice and the Bucs didn’t look all that bad, considering they have a new coaching staff and are just getting started with their on-field work.

— Tampa Bay running back LeGarrette Blount is saying all the right things after the Bucs used a first-round pick on running back Doug Martin. Blount said he views the starting job as his “until they take it away." Martin’s got the edge because he’s the kind of all-purpose back Schiano wanted. But Blount is talented and the competition could inspire him to become a more well-rounded running back.

Hitting the NFC South links

August, 9, 2011
METAIRIE, La. -- As we wait for the New Orleans Saints to hold a late-afternoon practice, let’s take a run through the NFC South headlines.

D. Orlando Ledbetter reports that Garrett Reynolds has a commanding lead in the battle for the starting job at right guard. That’s the position that came open when Harvey Dahl left for St. Louis via free agency. This report echoes everything I heard when I was in Flowery Branch last week. The Falcons are very happy with what they’ve seen of Reynolds so far. With second-year pro Mike Johnson missing time with a concussion, Reynolds appears to have the job pretty much wrapped up.

There were high hopes for defensive tackle Ron Edwards when he signed with the Carolina Panthers as a free agent. He was supposed to be an immediate starter and an instant upgrade over anything else the Panthers have had at defensive tackle the past few seasons. But a torn right triceps muscle has put a damper on all that. Edwards had surgery on the arm and it’s unclear if he’ll be able to play at all this season.

Mike Triplett reports that the Saints have made it clear that free-agent fullback Heath Evans won’t be returning. They’re planning to replace him with Korey Hall.

Anwar S. Richardson writes that Tampa Bay backup quarterback Josh Johnson will use the preseason as an audition. Johnson can become an unrestricted free agent next season. As long as Josh Freeman is around, Johnson doesn’t really have a shot at playing time in Tampa Bay, but he’s talented enough to attract attention from other teams in the future. He just needs to put together some strong game film while he has the chance in the preseason.

Carolina owner Jerry Richardson, who is getting very chatty after years of staying pretty quiet, has a nickname for quarterback Jimmy Clausen. It’s “Doughboy’’ and that’s a shot at the quarterback’s physique. Richardson also said Steve Smith is getting near the end of his career and hopes the receiver ends on the best possible route.

NFC South free-agency breakdown

July, 25, 2011
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

A look at the free-agent priorities for each NFC South team:

Atlanta Falcons

1. Sign a pass-rushing defensive end: This move has been telegraphed since the draft, when the Falcons jumped up to add an explosive offensive player in wide receiver Julio Jones rather than a pass-rusher. It’s no secret the Falcons want to add an edge rusher who can complement John Abraham in the short term and replace him in the long term. The Falcons showed last year when they signed cornerback Dunta Robinson that they’re not afraid to spend big money in free agency. They’re poised to do it again, and Minnesota’s Ray Edwards and Carolina’s Charles Johnson are two pass-rushers just entering their prime who will be on the market. The Falcons can offer big money and the chance to be the last piece of a Super Bowl puzzle. That should be attractive.

2. Figure out what the offensive line will look like: The Falcons have three starters on the offensive line who are likely to be free agents, and they’ll allow one or two of them to walk. That’s not as scary as it may sound, because none of those free agents is dominant, and the Falcons have stockpiled some promising linemen in the last few drafts. But center Todd McClure is near the end of his career, and left tackle Sam Baker is still a question mark. That means the Falcons can’t afford to let all their free-agent linemen walk. They need to maintain some continuity on the line to make sure quarterback Matt Ryan stays upright. Keeping right tackle Tyson Clabo is the major priority.

3. Re-sign kicker Matt Bryant: The veteran has revitalized his career since coming to Atlanta. He’s come through consistently in the clutch. The Falcons are a team on the verge of great things, and they don’t need to suddenly go young or cheap at kicker. They need a veteran who can help them win some big games.

Top five free agents: Bryant, LB Mike Peterson, T Tyson Clabo, G Harvey Dahl and G Justin Blalock.

Carolina Panthers

1. Re-sign DeAngelo Williams: The running back is sure to be a hot commodity on the open market, but the Panthers can’t afford to let him get away. Yes, Jonathan Stewart looked very good at times last season, and Mike Goodson made the most of his playing time after Williams was injured. But the Panthers don't want to put too much pressure on a young starting quarterback, whether it's Cam Newton or Jimmy Clausen. They need to have two or three strong running backs, and Williams is the most versatile member of the backfield.

2. Make a decision on Steve Smith: Other than the drafting of Newton, speculation about Smith’s future has been the dominant story out of Carolina this offseason. There have been conflicting reports about whether the veteran wide receiver wants to be traded from the only team he’s ever played for. The speculation was a moot point because no trades could be made during the lockout. Now, Smith and the Panthers will have to show their hand. If he truly wants out, the Panthers will try to trade Smith. But they’re not simply going to give him away. Even if he’s unhappy, Smith still might be the best player on the roster. The Panthers aren’t letting him go without getting a good draft pick or a decent player in return.

3. Sign a veteran quarterback: New coach Ron Rivera has said several times that he wants to add a veteran quarterback to serve as a mentor to Newton and Clausen. Heck, he might even need that veteran to start the first few games of the season so Newton and Clausen can catch up on all the missed offseason work. The Panthers want someone who can help the development of the two young quarterbacks. Someone like Marc Bulger or Jake Delhomme could fit, if either is willing to accept a backup role.

Top five free agents: Williams, DE Charles Johnson, LB James Anderson, LB Thomas Davis and CB Richard Marshall.

New Orleans Saints

1. Decide what to do with Reggie Bush. The running back/return man is scheduled to make almost $12 million and count $16 million against the cap. That’s not going to happen, but the Saints have indicated they’d like to keep Bush if they can work out a contract extension that would spread money around. The Saints drafted running back Mark Ingram in the first round, but Bush still could play plenty of roles with this team. Sean Payton has been creative with the ways he’s used Bush, who has been productive when healthy. Last year’s injury problems at running back showed the Saints can’t have enough depth at the position.

2. Make some key secondary decisions. Safeties Darren Sharper and Roman Harper are both potential unrestricted free agents, so the Saints have to make some choices. Sharper’s past his prime and is a free safety. That position now belongs to Malcolm Jenkins. Harper has been the starting strong safety and has been solid. Harper shouldn’t command huge money on the open market, and the Saints would be wise to re-sign him. If they do, they should have one of the league’s better secondaries.

3. Shore up the outside linebacker spots. Scott Shanle is an unrestricted free agent and may or may not return. The other position is up for grabs. Martez Wilson was drafted in the third round, and the Saints have a few other promising prospects at outside linebacker. But this is a veteran team with a realistic chance to contend for the Super Bowl, so it might be wise to go out and get a proven veteran and let the young linebackers develop behind him.

Top five free agents: Sharper, Harper, WR Lance Moore, FB Heath Evans and TE David Thomas.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1. Re-sign Davin Joseph. The guard is very much in his prime and is strong as a run blocker and pass blocker. Along with Donald Penn, he’s the anchor of an offensive line that may be working in some young players. Quarterback Josh Freeman is the franchise in Tampa Bay, and the Bucs need to do whatever it takes to keep him protected.

2. Decide on a defensive leader. Middle linebacker Barrett Ruud is an unrestricted free agent and may bolt if a decent offer comes from elsewhere. Ruud’s been asking for a new contract for about two years, and the Bucs haven’t given it to him. They drafted Mason Foster in the third round and are high on his potential. But this is a very young defense, and putting a rookie at middle linebacker could be a risky move. Buffalo’s Paul Posluszny is a free agent, and there are reports that Green Bay could be looking to trade or release Nick Barnett. Either of those guys could come in and be an immediate leader on this defense.

3. Spend some money. The Bucs have had one of the league’s lowest payrolls in recent years. Still, they’ve made progress in a youth movement that won’t be abandoned. It might be time to start locking up some young players to longer deals. It might also be time to go out and get just a few free agents to keep the youth movement headed in the right direction.

Top five free agents: G Davin Joseph, LB Barrett Ruud, RB Cadillac Williams, DE Stylez G. White and Maurice Stovall.

Saints back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: The Saints got a lot of media attention during the players-only workouts. This team did as good a job of handling the lockout as any team in the league. The workouts were well attended, and quarterback Drew Brees and linebacker Jonathan Vilma were running the offense and defense, respectively. The coaches weren’t around, but Brees and Vilma have basically been coaches on the field for the past few years, so the Saints probably weren’t getting away with too many mistakes while working on their own. It also helps that the Saints are largely a veteran team. They also have a coaching staff that’s remained mostly in place. The lockout wasn’t ideal for any team, but the Saints are probably in better shape than most as they come out of it.

Biggest challenge: That’s going to come more off the field than on it. General manager Mickey Loomis and the personnel department are going to have some busy days ahead of them. The Saints have a bunch of free agents, and they want to keep some of them. You can bet Loomis, coach Sean Payton and the rest of the staff already have a good idea of whom they want to retain and whom they might want to target in free agency. The Saints aren’t afraid to bring in guys from the outside, and even after filling some holes in the draft, the Saints still may be looking for help at outside linebacker. If they lose some free agents they want to keep, they might have some other holes to quickly address.

The Reggie Bush factor: It’s clear something has to give when it comes to the running back’s future. He’s scheduled to make nearly $12 million in base salary and count $16 million against this year’s salary cap. The Saints can’t afford to let those numbers stay the same. They either have to release Bush or try to sign him to a contract extension that would make this year’s cap figure more manageable. The presence of Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory and Lynell Hamilton gives the Saints plenty of alternatives at running back.

Key players without contracts for 2011: Safety Darren Sharper, linebacker Scott Shanle, fullback Heath Evans, safety Roman Harper and tight end David Thomas.

Podcast: New Orleans' Heath Evans

July, 22, 2011
The Saints' fullback comments on the players' reaction to the owners' ratification of a new CBA proposal and explains why he feels badly for fans.
Veteran fullback Heath Evans said the New Orleans Saints might be the league’s best prepared team once the NFL lockout ends.

Although he can become an unrestricted free agent, Evans has said previously he would like to re-sign with the Saints. He’s been taking part in the players-only workouts the Saints have been having much of the offseason. In this radio interview, Evans said those workouts could help set the Saints apart from the rest of the league.

“Really the only difference is Drew Brees and Jonathan Vilma,’’ Evans said. “I’m not saying that other teams don’t have great leadership because I know that exists on most teams in this league. I think there’s very few teams that have it on both sides of the ball. … Everything [Drew] does is methodically mapped out and planned out. The guy’s been playing in this league 10 years, going on 11. He’s been through plenty of minicamps. … Those guys are doing a great thing and I definitely think it’s going to give the Saints a leg up, an advantage, especially early on in the season if this lockout pushes on into late July, early August.”

Evans also provided some insight into what he thinks makes a great coach and he sang the praises of Sean Payton and another guy he played for previously, New England’s Bill Belichick.

“Humility,’’ Evans said. “That’s the one thing that attracted me to Sean Payton. And as arrogant as Bill [Belichick] comes across, there was two or three times in my four-year stay there where that coach just came in, even after our Super Bowl loss in Super Bowl XLII (and said), ‘Guys, I’m sorry. I should’ve done a better job for you guys today.’ And it wasn’t lip service. … Those are the type of head coaches you’ll run through a brick wall for.”
We still don’t know the exact structure of any potential labor agreement. But with talks continuing and cautious optimism from both sides, it’s time to at least begin looking ahead to the start of free agency.

We can safely assume that players with at least six accrued seasons will be unrestricted free agents in any scenario. Players with four or five seasons could be unrestricted or restricted free agents, depending on the terms of a potential new deal and if they received qualifying tenders prior to the start of the lockout.

Players with three seasons will be restricted free agents unless they did not receive a qualifying offer. With some help from ESPN Stats & Information, let’s take a look at the notable potential free agents from NFC South team. We’ll list the players, followed by their number of accrued seasons.

Buccaneers: RB Cadillac Williams 6; LB Barrett Ruud 6; G Davin Joseph 5; DE Stylez G. White 4.

Falcons: LB Mike Peterson 12; T Tyson Clabo 5; G Harvey Dahl 5; G Justin Blalock 4; CB Brent Grimes 3.

Panthers: LB Thomas Davis 6; RB DeAngelo Williams 5; LB James Anderson 5; CB Richard Marshall 5; QB Matt Moore 4; TE Dante Rosario 4; DE Charles Johnson 4.

Saints: S Darren Sharper 14; FB Heath Evans 10; RB LaDell Betts 9; RB Julius Jones 7; TE David Thomas 5; S Roman Harper 5; T Jermon Bushrod 4; G Carl Nicks 3.

NFC South links: Blackout rule to change?

June, 9, 2011
Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan chatted with reporters about the player-led workouts in Buford, Ga.

Charles Chandler, one of the co-authors of Michael Vick's upcoming memoir, says the former Atlanta quarterback is a changed man.

Carolina Panthers

Tackle Jordan Gross called the player-led workouts organized by he and Travelle Wharton "incredibly successful" and said at least 45 players showed up at every practice.

Receiver Steve Smith said a health issue involving his wife, Angie, has prevented him from taking part in the informal workouts.

New Orleans Saints

Fullback Heath Evans, who will be a free agent when the lockout ends, has two destinations in mind. "Of course, money always plays a part in it, but New Orleans is likely the place where I’d like to go back to, with New England second, after that," Evans said.

SMG, the company that manages the Superdome and the New Orleans Arena on behalf of Louisiana, was lauded by government officials for its management and renovation of the Superdome.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

In a conference call with Bucs season-ticket holders that lasted about 30 minutes, Roger Goodell said he was on the side of those hoping to see the blackout rule amended in a way that will make it easier for teams to sell out games and lift local TV blackouts.

Raymond James Stadium is slated to get $18.7 million in upgrades over the next few seasons, with tourists expected to foot most of the bill.
Atlanta’s Roddy White and New Orleans’ Reggie Bush made some headlines with their work on Twitter earlier this offseason.

But they’ve kind of gone quiet as of late. AFC South colleague Paul Kuharsky has a new feature he’s calling the “Twindex," which is short for Twitter Index and Paul’s monitoring the Twitter accounts of several hundred NFL players. His top-10 list is going to appear periodically through the rest of the offseason and weekly when the season arrives.

It’s a subjective list, based not so much on how often a guy tweets, but more on the quality (or interest value) of his recent tweets.

Take a look at Paul’s debut list. It has one NFC South representative. That’s New Orleans cornerback Tracy Porter talking about people wondering if he’ll give up his jersey number (22) to rookie running back Mark Ingram. New Orleans fullback Heath Evans got an honorable mention.

Video: Saints FB Heath Evans

May, 20, 2011

Saints fullback Heath Evans talks about his charity softball game and Reggie Bush's recent tweets.

Around the NFC South

May, 19, 2011
Let's take a quick run through the NFC South headlines.

Chris Weinke has been working out with Cam Newton in Florida. Weinke was the last true rookie quarterback to start a season opener for the Panthers. He said there’s no reason Newton can’t be ready to open this season as the starter.

Atlanta linebacker Mike Peterson is not under contract for next season, but he’s taken a leadership role in offseason workouts. Sounds like a man who plans to return to the Falcons. All indications are the Falcons likely will bring the veteran back for at least one more season to start with Curtis Lofton and Sean Weatherspoon. Outside linebacker Stephen Nicholas also could be a free agent, and the Falcons may let him walk.

Jeff Duncan has a lengthy column on New Orleans fullback Heath Evans and his wife who have a foundation that raises money to help children who have been sexually abused.

The hearing by a grand jury for Tampa Bay cornerback Aqib Talib has been pushed back until next week. Talib faces assault charges for a March incident in Texas.

Podcast: Saints safety Roman Harper

May, 18, 2011
Saints safety Roman Harper dishes on Heath Evans' charity softball game, Reggie Bush, the NFL's labor situation and more.

Saints fullback Heath Evans gives an insider's perspective on the Saints players working out at Tulane.

Around the NFC South

May, 3, 2011
Let's take a run through some headlines around the NFC South.

Tampa Bay defensive end Kyle Moore makes it sound like it’s going to cost rookie Adrian Clayborn some money to get his jersey (No. 94). Moore better get as much as he can because the arrival of Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers means he’s not even guaranteed a roster spot. Of course, if Moore had produced more than zero sacks in his two-year career, he might have a guaranteed roster spot and his jersey number might be safe because the Bucs might not have felt the urgency to go out and draft two defensive ends.

Joe Person has projected the depth chart for the Carolina Panthers. I’ve only got one small disagreement with him. I’d go ahead and slide Cam Newton straight up to No. 1 at quarterback. If there is a veteran on the way, it’s not going to be anyone who is a serious candidate to start over Newton and Jimmy Clausen. The only way the Panthers open the season with a veteran is if the lockout wipes out all or most of training camp and Newton and Clausen have had virtually no time to work in the new offensive scheme. If there is a normal training camp, I'm not sure the Panthers even carry a veteran on the roster. They also have second-year pro Tony Pike, who they invested a draft pick in last year.

Nice gesture by the Buccaneers on Saturday night as they honored Derrick Brooks with a formal retirement party. This was a big step in mending a relationship that was fractured when the Bucs released Brooks in 2009. There has been some thawing, but there still needs to be more. The Bucs need a friendly relationship with the best player in franchise history and Brooks needs to start embracing the team again. No sense in going through life with bitterness in your heart (see Doug Williams). Matter of fact, if things keep going the way they currently are, I think Brooks gets into the team's Ring of Honor before Williams.

Chris Harris has a list of his top-10 rookies for fantasy purposes. Mark Ingram, Julio Jones and Cam Newton all are on the list.

Heath Evans wrote an op-ed piece for The Huffington Post. If this seems like an unusual place for the fullback of the New Orleans Saints to surface, give his article a read. It’s not the usual football story, not even close.

The Saints are getting together for some workouts at Tulane University. As you might have guessed, quarterback Drew Brees is running the show. Josh Freeman's been leading a similar effort for the Bucs.