NFC South: Jeff Charleston

NFC South evening update

October, 2, 2012
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers just announced they have signed tight end Nate Byham and released defensive end Jeff Charleston. Byham is known as a strong blocker and that’s something the Bucs didn’t have at tight end through the first four games. He also played at the University of Pittsburgh with current Tampa Bay tight ends coach Brian Angelichio.

Now, let’s move on to some other Tuesday afternoon headlines from around the division:
  • In his weekly film study, Mike Triplett writes about the Saints' non-existent pass rush. It was especially ineffective against Green Bay. There’s no doubt this is a disappointment, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise. From the day they hired coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, they knew he liked to generate most of his pass rush from the front four. The Saints didn’t have a lot of pass-rushers up front. Faced with limited salary-cap room and a shortage of draft picks, the Saints didn’t give Spagnuolo any new help with the pass rush.
  • Although former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams recently got permission to attend an NFL game during his suspension, New Orleans coach Sean Payton told Larry Holder he won’t ask the league to let him attend Sunday night’s game in which Drew Brees has a chance to set a new NFL record by completing a touchdown pass in his 48th straight game.
  • Speaking of Payton, he sounds intent on returning to the Saints when his suspension is over. Asked recently if he’d ever like to coach the Dallas Cowboys Payton said, “I’d rather answer a bounty question."
  • You can read Roddy White’s detailed description (and see photos) of his 59-yard catch that helped give Atlanta a last-minute win over Carolina. Perhaps the most significant detail in all of this is that Carolina blitzed cornerback Chris Gamble on the play. Gamble is the best cover guy on the defense and the front four had been doing a great job of generating its own pressure all day.
  • The ESPN documentary “Broke," which features the financial downfall of former Atlanta receiver Andre Rison, airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET.
  • Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano said he’d like to see more big plays from rookie running back Doug Martin. But Schiano’s not faulting Martin and thinks more explosive plays will come once an offensive line that lost Davin Joseph in the preseason builds more continuity.

Bucs capitalize on veteran benefit

September, 27, 2012
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a team that prides itself on building through the draft. But the Bucs stepped out of character a bit this week by signing veterans Roscoe Parrish and Jeff Charleston.

But these moves were exceptions and came due to necessity. The Bucs needed to add defensive end depth after losing Adrian Clayborn to a season-ending injury, so they went out and signed Charleston. Sammie Stroughter, who was supposed to be the punt returner, got hurt. The Bucs then signed Jordan Shipley, but he had trouble fielding punts and the Bucs released him and went out and signed Parrish.

What’s important to note here is that the Bucs didn’t panic and pay big money for short-term fill-ins. In fact, they invested as little as possible on Parrish and Charleston.

The Bucs took advantage of the veteran minimum salary benefit when signing both players to identical contracts. Officially, Parrish and Charleston signed one-year contracts worth $700,000 and no signing bonus. But subtract the first three game checks and Parrish and Charleston each will earn $576,470 over the rest of the season.

But the Bucs won’t be charged the full amount toward the salary cap. The veteran minimum benefit is designed to help keep veteran players in the league, by making the affordable under the salary cap and it allows their cap figure to be less than their actual salary.

Charleston and Parrish each will count only $444,705 toward this year’s cap.

That leaves the Bucs with $12.8 million (sixth most in the NFL) for this year. They still may have to make more moves this year. But by signing veterans like Charleston and Parrish, they’ve kept a lot of cap room available. That’s significant because the Bucs can carry some of that space over to next year and they already have a lot of money committed toward the 2013 cap.

Carolina is the only other NFC South team with a chance to carry over much money to next year’s cap. The Panthers currently are $5.25 million under this year’s cap. New Orleans is $3.2 million under and Atlanta is $1.15 million under.

Buccaneers shore up depth at DE

September, 26, 2012
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, seeking to overcome the loss of defensive end Adrian Clayborn to a season-ending injury, announced Wednesday they have signed defensive end Jeff Charleston.

He spent the past four seasons with the New Orleans Saints and broke into the league with the Indianapolis Colts in 2007. I wouldn’t expect any miracles out of Charleston, but at least the Bucs have a pretty good idea of what they’re getting.

Charleston has been a steady backup throughout his career and was part of a Super Bowl champion in New Orleans. Charleston has played in 65 games with four starts. He has eight career sacks and 114 tackles while forcing three fumbles. He also was a regular on special teams for the Saints.

At least for the time being, the Bucs are expected to go with either Daniel Te’o-Nesheim or George Johnson starting in Clayborn’s place. Charleston likely will start off as a backup, but could work his way into the starting lineup once he learns the defensive system.
Carolina’s Greg Hardy and Tampa Bay rookie Adrian Clayborn weren’t among the NFL’s sack leaders in 2011, but you can make the argument they’re among the best all-around defensive ends in the game.

Hardy and Clayborn showed some pass-rush skills, but they also played the run very well. That combination of skills was why they were on the field more than the rest of the NFC South defensive ends last season.

Hardy led division ends by participating in 891 of Carolina’s 1,023 defensive plays. That 87.1 percentage ranked Hardy No. 6 among defensive ends. Minnesota’s Jared Allen led the league at 94.3 percent.

Clayborn wasn’t far behind Hardy. Clayborn came in at 80.9 percent, which put him No. 15 in the NFL. Carolina’s Charles Johnson and New Orleans’ Will Smith also ranked in the top 20.

Johnson was on the field for 77.5 percent (No. 16 in the NFL) of Carolina’s defensive plays and Smith took part in 75.8 of New Orleans’ defensive plays (19th in the league).

Ray Edwards led Atlanta’s defensive ends by taking part in 69 percent of the plays. Although he was on a play count and used mostly in pass-rushing situations, veteran John Abraham took part in 61.8 percent of Atlanta’s defensive plays.

Here’s a look at playing-time percentages for most of the rest of the NFC South defensive ends:

Saints: First look at free agency

January, 31, 2012
No NFC South team faces a more challenging period between now and the start of free agency than the New Orleans Saints.

They have to find a way to re-sign quarterback Drew Brees, and there are at least a couple other players that it’s essential the Saints retain. They’ve also got some important role players and will need to find ways to keep several of them despite a difficult salary-cap situation.

Let’s take a look at New Orleans’ potential free agents. They’re all unrestricted, unless noted otherwise:

Brees, defensive end Jeff Charleston, receiver Marques Colston, linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin, tight end John Gilmore, tight end Tory Humphrey, kicker John Kasay, defensive end Turk McBride, offensive lineman Pat McQuistan, receiver Robert Meachem, guard Carl Nicks, cornerback Tracy Porter, receiver/return man Courtney Roby, defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, cornerback Leigh Torrence, safety Jonathon Amaya (exclusive rights), receiver Adrian Arrington (exclusive rights), center Brian de la Puente (exclusive rights), offensive lineman Justin Drescher (exclusive rights), linebacker Jonathan Casillas (restricted), quarterback Chase Daniel (restricted) and linebacker Ramon Humber (restricted).

Whatever deal Brees signs, it’s likely he’ll take up somewhere around $15 million of the 2012 salary cap. But the Saints will have to continue to spend big money. It’s imperative they keep Nicks. He might be the best guard in the league and he’s Brees’ top protector. Keeping Colston also would seem to be a top priority because he’s one of Brees’ favorite targets.

Once the accounting is done on Brees, Nicks and Colston, the Saints will have to make some tough financial decisions. Porter and Meachem are important role players. But they could have market value elsewhere. The Saints might not be able to afford to keep them. That would hurt, but it might not be disastrous because the Saints have good depth at receiver and cornerback.

NFC South players not signed for 2012

December, 22, 2011
A lot can change between now and the start of free agency and I sure don’t see any way the New Orleans Saints let quarterback/King Drew Brees walk away. I also think there’s a pretty good chance tight end Tony Gonzalez can return to the Atlanta Falcons if he chooses. Same for cornerback Ronde Barber with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and maybe even Jeremy Shockey with the Carolina Panthers.

But all we know about those guys at the moment is they’re not under contract for 2012. We’ll do much more on free agency as it gets closer but I’ve got the complete list of every NFC South player presently not under contract for 2012.

I’ll list them by team here and we’ll only go with the guys who have at least four years of service and can become unrestricted free agents. We’ll deal with restricted and exclusive-rights free agents at another time.

Atlanta Falcons: Tony Gonzalez, tight end; Reggie Kelly, tight end; Todd McClure, center; Mike Peterson, linebacker; John Abraham, defensive end; Joe Zelenka, long-snapper; Chris Redman, quarterback; Kirk Chambers, offensive line; Kelvin Hayden, cornerback; Brett Romberg, offensive line; James Sanders, safety; Jason Snelling, running back; Kroy Biermann, defensive end; Thomas DeCoud, safety; Harry Douglas, receiver; Brent Grimes, cornerback; Curtis Lofton, linebacker; Eric Weems, receiver.

Carolina Panthers: Jeremy Shockey, tight end; Reggie Wells, offensive line; Derek Anderson, quarterback; Geoff Hangartner, center/guard; Omar Gaither, linebacker; Cletis Gordon, cornerback; Legedu Naanee, receiver; Antwan Applewhite, linebacker; Mackenzy Beranadeau, offensive line; Dan Connor, linebacker; J.J. Jansen, long-snapper; Jerome Felton, fullback; Jordan Senn, linebacker.

New Orleans Saints: John Kasay, kicker; Drew Brees, quarterback; Shaun Rogers, defensive tackle; John Gilmore, tight end; Aubrayo Franklin, defensive tackle; Marques Colston, receiver; Pat McQuistan, offensive line; Courtney Roby, receiver; Leigh Torrence, cornerback; Jeff Charleston, defensive end; Turk McBride, defensive end; Robert Meachem, receiver; Jo-Lonn Dunbar, linebacker; Carl Nicks, guard; Tracy Porter, cornerback.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ronde Barber, cornerback; Earnest Graham, running back; Sean Jones, safety; Connor Barth, kicker; Geno Hayes, linebacker; Josh Johnson, quarterback; James Lee, offensive line; Corey Lynch, safety; Elbert Mack, cornerback; Frank Okam, defensive tackle; Micheal Spurlock, receiver; Jeremy Zuttah, offensive line.

Inactives for the Saints

November, 6, 2011
NEW ORLEANS -- We already told you middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee) has been declared inactive for the game with Tampa Bay.

The other inactives for the Saints are running back Mark Ingram, cornerback Johnny Patrick, fullback Korey Hall, tackle Ray Willis, receiver Adrian Arrington and defensive end Jeff Charleston.

I'll be back with Tampa Bay's inactives in just a few minutes.

Inactives for the Saints

October, 16, 2011
TAMPA, Fla. -- The New Orleans Saints just announced their inactives for Sunday’s game with Tampa Bay and there aren’t any surprises.

Three injured players, who already were declared out, highlight the list. Right tackle Zach Strief, tight end David Thomas and linebacker Will Herring were declared inactive.

The other inactives are cornerback Johnny Patrick, offensive lineman Matt Tennant, receiver Adrian Arrington and defensive end Jeff Charleston.

Rapid Reaction: Packers 42, Saints 34

September, 8, 2011
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A few thoughts on the New Orleans Saints' season-opening 42-34 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

What it means: It’s only one game, but this one was particularly painful for the Saints and could have implications that linger through the season. The defense was nothing short of horrible most of the night, and that’s a huge cause for concern. Yes, the Saints were playing the defending Super Bowl champions on the road, but they have to be better than this on defense if they hope to be more than an average team.

Missing Will Smith: With the defensive end suspended for the first two games of the season, the Saints generated virtually no pass rush. Rookie Cameron Jordan, Jeff Charleston, Junior Galette and Turk McBride weren’t expected to do it on their own. The Saints did try plenty of blitzes but didn’t have a lot of luck. Don't give the Saints too much sympathy on this one. They knew for months there was the chance Smith would serve a suspension but didn't do much to counter that.

Secondary issues: Second-year pro Patrick Robinson had a tough game as he took over the nickelback role. Strong safety Roman Harper had a rough night, and cornerback Tracy Porter didn’t tackle well. If you’re not getting any pressure and your secondary is struggling, you’ve got problems.

The bright spot: Running back/return man Darren Sproles was explosive as he made his New Orleans debut. He returned a punt for a touchdown, and looked good on kickoff returns and as a receiver out of the backfield. Sproles looks like an upgrade from Reggie Bush.

Whatever happened to Jimmy Graham? The second-year tight end was expected to be a focal point of the offense. He was barely a factor. But give Green Bay’s defense much of the credit for that. The Saints seemed like they were looking for Graham, but he rarely was open, except for a fourth-quarter touchdown that came too late.

What’s next: The Saints get another strong NFC North opponent Sept. 18. They’ll play the Chicago Bears, but that game will be in the Superdome.

Will Smith suspension official

September, 2, 2011
The NFL just made the official announcement that New Orleans defensive end Will Smith has been suspended for the first two games of this season.

He’s getting the same deal as Minnesota defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who also tested positive for the banned substance StarCaps in 2008. The NFL originally planned to suspend all players involved for four games. But the case was tied up in the legal system for more than two years and the suspension was reduced to two games.

Williams and Smith each will miss an additional two game checks. In Smith’s case, he is scheduled to make $352,941 per game, so the total for four games will come to $1,411,764.

Although the Saints have known for a long time that a Smith suspension was possible, the timing isn’t great. The Saints cut Alex Brown, last year’s other starting defensive end, earlier this week and they have to play their season opener Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

Brown’s departure and Smith’s suspension mean it’s almost certain first-round pick Cameron Jordan will start at one defensive end spot. But there’s not another clear-cut favorite for the other job. Unless the Saints bring in a veteran from somewhere else, the choices are Jeff Charleston, Turk McBride and Junior Galette.

Will Smith suspension coming?

September, 2, 2011
The Minnesota Vikings just put out a statement on their website from the NFL saying that defensive tackle Kevin Williams will be suspended for the first two games of the season.

We have not heard any word out of the New Orleans Saints yet, but I think it’s safe to assume there is similar news coming on defensive end Will Smith. He and Williams were among the players who tested positive for the banned-substance StarCaps in 2008. The NFL initially wanted to suspend all the players involved for four games.

But there were legal cases involved and the league had to wait for resolution. Assuming Smith gets the same punishment as Williams, the Saints will be without him for Thursday night’s opener against Green Bay at Lambeau Field and the Sept. 18 home game with Chicago.

The Saints cut veteran defensive end Alex Brown earlier this week. With Smith out, they’ll likely start first-round pick Cameron Jordan at one defensive end spot. The other likely will be filled by Jeff Charleston, Turk McBride or Junior Galette.

Final preseason tests for NFC South

September, 1, 2011
The final preseason games for all NFC South teams are Thursday night.

Baltimore plays at Atlanta at 7:30 p.m. ET and Tampa Bay at Washington kicks off at the same time. Pittsburgh at Carolina and Tennessee at Houston start half an hour later. Since final preseason games generally don’t feature a lot of playing time for the starters, we’ll make our preview a little more comprehensive.

Instead of doing three things to watch on each team, we’ll do one.

Cam Newton’s last test. The Panthers appear to be set to go with the rookie quarterback as their starter for the regular season. He has not had a great preseason as a passer and probably won’t get a lot of playing time tonight. But it would be nice to see him complete a few passes against the Steelers. That would help his confidence and also bring some optimism to the fans.

Cameron Jordan’s role. The Saints pulled a surprise Tuesday when they cut starting defensive end Alex Brown. Conventional wisdom says that probably means they’re ready to use Jordan, a first-round draft pick, as a starter. Coach Sean Payton hasn’t committed that far and said the Saints will use a rotation at defensive end. But Jeff Charleston, Junior Galette and Turk McBride aren’t the kind of guys you expect to see in the starting lineup on a weekly basis.

Mike Johnson vs. Garrett Reynolds. This competition for Atlanta’s starting right guard job is coming down to the wire. Johnson missed some time early on with a concussion and that gave Reynolds the early edge. But coach Mike Smith has said Johnson still is a contender to start and a strong showing could be the deciding factor. No matter if it’s Johnson or Reynolds opening the regular season at Chicago on Sept. 11, the Falcons will have two new starters on the line that day. Center Todd McClure will miss the opener with a knee injury, and second-year pro Joe Hawley likely will get the start.

Rudy Carpenter in a starting role. He was Tampa Bay’s No. 3 quarterback last season. But Carpenter will get the start against the Redskins and there’s a lot riding on this one. Carpenter is in a competition with Jonathan Crompton for the No. 3 spot. But coach Raheem Morris admitted that it’s possible the Bucs may go into the regular season carrying only Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson on the active roster, which would free up a spot at another position. Carpenter needs a strong outing to prevent that from happening.
Surprising news out of New Orleans. Defensive end Alex Brown, who has worked with the first team throughout the preseason, sent out a tweet saying he’s been released.

Consider that a sign that the Saints are pleased with the progress of first-round draft pick Cameron Jordan. Brown had been starting opposite Will Smith, who could serve a suspension for testing positive for a banned substance in 2008. Even though there is uncertainty about Smith’s situation, the Saints must feel good about Jordan and some of their other defensive ends.

Veteran Jeff Charleston has been a steady backup, and the team likes what Turk McBride has shown in the preseason. The release of Brown could also help Junior Galette’s chances of staying on the roster.

The release of Brown comes with no salary-cap implications. He was scheduled to make $3 million in base salary and had no outstanding roster bonus pro-rations. His release clears up $3 million in cap space.

Teams have to have rosters down to 80 players by the end of the day and there have been some smaller moves around the division.

The Carolina Panthers released second-year quarterback Tony Pike and offensive lineman Duke Robinson. The Panthers also placed guard Geoff Schwartz and tight end Gary Barnidge on the injured reserve list.

The Saints haven’t announced any official moves yet, but receivers John Chiles and Jarred Fayson reportedly have been released.

Earlier in the day, New Orleans safety DeAndre McDaniel tweeted that he had been released.

Stay tuned. We’ll update you with any official announcements from teams as they come. But Saturday is the main day for roster cuts. That’s when teams have to go from 80 players to 53.

Hitting the NFC South links

August, 7, 2011
Let's take a stroll through the Sunday morning headlines from around the NFC South.

Defensive end Jeff Charleston has re-signed with the Saints. No big surprise here. Charleston’s a solid backup and the Saints wanted to keep him all along. Even though they drafted Cameron Jordan and have veterans Will Smith and Alex Brown, there still is a role for Charleston. Plus, coach Sean Payton has said that expects Smith will have to serve a four-game suspension this season, so that only made it more important to keep Charleston.

Bradley Handwerger writes that New Orleans receiver Adrian Arrington might have trouble making the roster. Arrington’s been missing time with an ankle injury. The Saints are set with their top four receivers and several young players have been having good camps. One of them could edge Arrington for the fifth-receiver spot.

Some fine work by my friend Steve Reed. He’s got a five-part series that looks back at the history of the Carolina Panthers. It’s a must-read for any Carolina fan.

With Tracy Porter missing time with an injury, second-year cornerback Patrick Robinson has been getting a lot of first-team work with the Saints. Robinson didn’t do much as a rookie last season. But neither did Malcolm Jenkins the year before that. Jenkins emerged as an impact player last season. I’m expecting Robinson to follow a similar path this season. At worst, he’ll be the nickel back. But Porter and fellow starter Jabari Greer each have a history that includes some injuries, and Robinson could end up starting.

Carolina receiver Steve Smith said the new offense of coordinator Rob Chudzinski is refreshing. It’s important to keep Smith happy. If he’s content, he could be a very valuable weapon for Cam Newton.

Tampa Bay co-chairman Bryan Glazer was asked Saturday night if he’s expecting sellouts this season. The Bucs didn’t sell out a single-home game last season, and those games couldn’t be carried on local television. Glazer made it sound like some games could sell out, but not all of them.

With the addition of Keith Millard and Grade Stretz as defensive line coaches, the Tampa Bay defensive linemen will be using new stances.

It’s not official or straight from the coaching staff. But D. Orlando Ledbetter has a projected depth chart for the Falcons that’s based on his own observations after watching all the camp practices.

Saints announce tenders

March, 1, 2011
Reaching deals with defensive tackle Shaun Rogers and kicker Garrett Hartley weren’t the only moves the New Orleans Saints were making Tuesday night.

The Saints just sent out a news release saying they have submitted tender offers to nine players -- defensive tackle Remi Ayodele, offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod, defensive end Jeff Charleston, safeties Usama Young and Roman Harper, receiver Lance Moore, guard Carl Nicks, tight end David Thomas and running back Pierre Thomas. The Saints also announced a tender was submitted on Hartley, but that will be a moot point because ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports Hartley will sign a five-year contract Wednesday.

The terms of the individual tenders weren’t announced and it’s likely they’re at several different levels. Nicks and Harper are the biggest names on the list. With the league’s uncertain labor situation, it remains to be seen what the tenders really mean.

Without a labor agreement, the league is saying tender offers can be made and rules from past years are being followed. The NFL Players Association is saying tenders aren’t valid this year. Assuming a labor agreement is reached at some point, it remains to be seen if the new deal will include changes to the tender rules on the required length of service for restricted free agency and unrestricted free agency.