NFC South: Kevin Jones

Best Match: NFC South

March, 2, 2009
3/02/09
3:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Atlanta Falcons

 Crowell

Best match: LB Angelo Crowell

While letting linebackers Keith Brooking and Michael Boley and cornerback Domonique Foxworth walk, the Falcons have been the NFC South's quietest team in free agency. General manager Thomas Dimitroff cautioned that the Falcons won't be big players.

But Atlanta can't sit still forever. The big moves likely will come through the draft, but there are some guys out there who the Falcons could move on to start patching some holes. There are some fans calling out for Derrick Brooks. But that doesn't make a lot of sense in the plan of Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith. They just let a veteran linebacker (Brooking) go. It would make more sense to add a younger linebacker like Crowell.

Carolina Panthers

  Hilliard

Best match: WR Ike Hilliard

The saga of disgruntled franchise player Julius Peppers is the big story for Carolina, but it's likely to drag on. Peppers' $17 million franchise tender has the Panthers strapped for cap room. If Peppers gets traded, the Panthers probably will seek his replacement with the first-round pick they'd like to get in return.

But there is some other business the Panthers can take care of in free agency. They could use a little depth at wide receiver. They've got one of the best in Steve Smith, but Muhsin Muhammad is aging and Dwayne Jarrett remains an uncertainty. Again, the Panthers don't have a lot to spend, but a veteran receiver like Hilliard won't cost a lot. The Panthers had a great deal of success when they brought in Ricky Proehl a few years back. Hilliard is very similar to Proehl and could solidify the receiving corps nicely.

New Orleans Saints

  Sharper

Best match: S Darren Sharper

Re-signing linebacker Jonathan Vilma was the first key move of free agency. But even though the Saints don't have a lot of cap room to work with, they're not sitting still. They know they still have big needs in the secondary and they're working hard in that area.

They've got an offer in to cornerback Ron Bartell and are courting Sharper and Gerald Sensabaugh, a pair of safeties. Something should play out with those players in the very near future and that could be a huge boost to a defense that's rebuilding with new coordinator Gregg Williams. Add Bartell and either of those safeties to the current roster and -- at least on paper -- the defense suddenly looks a lot better.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  Ward

Best match: RB Derrick Ward

The free-agent frenzy so many expected hasn't materialized -- yet. The Bucs made a strong run at Albert Haynesworth before he landed with the Redskins and made an attempt to trade for quarterback Jay Cutler. They still may be in the market for Cutler or another quarterback.

But there are other big needs to be filled in the meantime. After trading for tight end Kellen Winslow and placing the franchise tag on receiver Antonio Bryant, the Bucs still are looking to load up at the skill positions and it appears running back is the next target. The Bucs don't have much besides Earnest Graham and they know it. They've got Ward scheduled for a visit Tuesday and also are considering Kevin Jones. Look for the Bucs to make a big play for Ward. They've been cautious with the purse strings so far, but they have lots of cap room to work with. They can't afford to keep finishing second for prized free agents.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

As things remain quiet in Atlanta and Carolina, (and to a lesser degree, New Orleans) Tampa Bay continues to be the only real player in free agency in the NFC South.

Things could speed up for the Saints today. They've got an offer in to cornerback Ron Bartell and they're looking hard at safeties Darren Sharper and Gerald Sensabaugh. Yeah, the Saints may not have a lot of salary-cap room, but they can manipulate enough to overhaul their secondary. If they can pull that off after re-signing linebacker Jonathan Vilma, this defense suddenly will look a lot better.

As I've been saying since the story of Tampa Bay's interest in quarterback Jay Cutler first broke, this story's not over. Peter King reports Cutler previously had asked for a trade out of Denver. That helps explain that Tampa Bay's inquiry wasn't just a random shot. The Bucs knew something was up with Cutler when they made the phone call.

Now that word's out about this, Cutler may be on the market more than he ever was. Even though the Bucs weren't able to work out a three-way trade that would have involved Matt Cassel, there's a chance they still may be able to get Cutler in a straight-up deal and the price tag may become better now that the world knows Cutler and the Broncos aren't on the same page.

But the Bucs, who still have tons of cap room, aren't focused entirely on getting a quarterback. Roy Cummings reports there now is interest in running back Kevin Jones. The Bucs also are expected to have running back Derrick Ward in for a visit later this week.

And what about Carolina and Atlanta? Continue to sit tightly because that's what the Panthers and Falcons are doing. They've sat out the first wave of free agency. But they'll jump in, at least on a small level, once price tags start to drop.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas.

Jones

Just heard former Detroit running back Kevin Jones interviewed on Sirius NFL Radio and it doesn't sound like he's ready to sign anywhere just yet.

Although there have been some recent reports about Tampa Bay having an interest in Jones, he said he's waiting for the right situation. Jones also said he has several options that could put him on a roster before the start of training camp. Tampa Bay likely remains a possibility, but Jones might be wise to wait.

He's coming off knee surgery and a little more time to heal wouldn't hurt. By waiting a few weeks into camps, Jones also could raise his bargaining power. The offers he has right now likely do not include guaranteed money and aren't for much more than minimum salary. But that could change dramatically because some team is bound to get a little desperate once it gets a running back injured in camp or the preseason.

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