NFC South: Mailbag

NFC South weekend mailbag

September, 17, 2011
9/17/11
3:19
PM ET
Before I hit the road for Atlanta, let’s take a look through the NFC South mailbag.

Josh in Houston asks if Adrian Arrington will get increased playing time for the Saints with Marques Colston out for a few weeks with a broken collarbone.

Pat Yasinskas: I think that’s a safe assumption. Even if Lance Moore, who is questionable for Sunday, is able to play, you might see a fair amount of Arrington. Moore, Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson each fit the profile of speed receivers. Arrington is a bigger receiver, like Colston, and could be used over the middle. The Saints have kept Arrington around and didn’t go shopping for a receiver after Colston’s injury, so they must think he can help them.


Bryan in Athens, Ga., asks how long Matt Ryan will remain the Falcons “guy’’ if he doesn’t win a playoff game in the next two years.

Pat Yasinskas: The Falcons like Ryan tremendously and I don’t see him going anywhere anytime soon. Yes, he has lost two playoff games, but they weren’t entirely his fault. I know the Falcons had a tough time in their opener, but I think they’ll bounce back. They went out and got receiver Julio Jones and defensive end Ray Edwards to upgrade some weak areas. Give them a little time and we’ll see if they make a difference.


George in San Francisco says we should slow down on the Cam Newton hype because all he’s done so far is have one nice game.

Pat Yasinskas: Agree that a career isn’t made by one game and Newton has to prove it over the long haul. But let’s give Carolina fans a little something to get excited about. They’ve had a rough couple years and Newton’s debut was pretty impressive.


Matt in Camden, N.J., said he likes the fact the Bucs are building through the draft. But he wonders if they’ve taken it a little too far and need to mix in a little bit of help from free agents.

Pat Yasinskas: I hear you. I also believe in the building-through-the-draft philosophy. I watched it work when I covered the Bucs in the Tony Dungy and Rich McKay days and the Panthers through most of the time John Fox and Marty Hurney were together. Going wild in free agency doesn’t always work -- just ask the Redskins. But I think the Bucs were a little extreme in sticking with their philosophy this year. They really didn’t change much from last year’s team, other than the players they picked up in the draft. Yes, last season’s 10-6 record was encouraging, but I think there was room to upgrade the overall talent level of the roster. I’m not talking about anything huge, but a couple of free agents who still are relatively young might have been a good way to help the youth movement along.

NFC South mailbag

August, 21, 2011
8/21/11
11:39
AM ET
Time for a Sunday plunge into the NFC South mailbag.

Jim in Myrtle Beach, S.C. says Cam Newton should sit for a year or else the Panthers run the risk of destroying him forever.

Pat Yasinskas: You could be right and that’s happened to other quarterbacks who were thrown in too quickly on bad teams. But, despite their 2-14 record last season, the Panthers feel they have good personnel on the offense. They do have a good offensive line, two good running backs, a top-notch receiver in Steve Smith and two good tight ends with Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey. We’ll see what coach Ron Rivera decides in the coming days. But the Panthers believe they wouldn’t be throwing Newton into a situation where he would have to carry the team. If he can avoid major mistakes and make a few big plays a game, the belief is that he can grow while he’s getting playing time.


Sharell in Raleigh wrote to ask about how the depth of Atlanta’s defensive line might shape up.

Pat Yasinskas: Atlanta suddenly is very deep on the defensive line and that could make it interesting when it’s time to make cuts. Defensive ends Ray Edwards and John Abraham and tackles Peria Jerry, Corey Peters and Jonathan Babineaux are all going to get a lot of playing time. The Falcons like to rotate defensive lineman and they have a big cluster of backups that includes Trey Lewis as the fourth tackle. Cliff Matthews has had a nice preseason and put himself in the mix with Kroy Biermann, Chauncey Davis and Lawrence Sidbury for the backup spots at defensive end. Davis has a salary-cap figure over $3 million and that could be a factor. If he’s going to be no better than the fourth defensive end, the Falcons might want to keep someone else who will be less expensive.


Nate in Alaska asks why Tampa Bay keeps drawing games in London.

Pat Yasinskas: I think there are two reasons. First, the Glazer family has ties to the United Kingdom. The Glazers own soccer’s Manchester United and, although they might not be beloved by fans, bringing the Bucs to London might help their public profile. Second, the Bucs have been having trouble selling out Raymond James Stadium. If the game against Chicago was held in Tampa, the stadium might be loaded with Bears’ fans and that can be embarrassing. The game in London is pretty much a guaranteed sellout and the crowd won’t be rooting against the Bucs. I don't think the NFL is forcing these games on the Bucs. I think there is a willingness by the team to go overseas.


Mike in Matthews, N.C. wonders if the Panthers still might be making some roster moves.

Pat Yasinskas: Yes, I think the signing of Ryan Kalil to a long-term contract cleared up a good bit of salary-cap space and could lead to more moves. Kalil was counting for the franchise tender of $10.16 million. I haven’t seen specifics of his new deal, but you can be sure it knocked down his cap figure for this season. That should give the Panthers room to make some more moves. I expect them to make a move to go get a cornerback with some experience. I also think it’s possible they could make a move for a wide receiver.


Kevin in Brooklyn, N.Y. asks what I think about the Saints’ chances of winning the Super Bowl this season.

Pat Yasinskas: I’ll do my best to ignore what I saw in Saturday night’s preseason game with Houston because preseason games really don’t mean a lot. I think the Saints have a chance to get back to being a Super Bowl contender. They improved their situation at running back by adding Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles. They should be better in the middle of the defensive line with the addition of Aubrayo Franklin and Shaun Rogers. Any team with Drew Brees at quarterback has a chance to do great things.

Hitting the NFC South hot spots

July, 18, 2011
7/18/11
1:53
PM ET
Let’s take a plunge into the NFC South mailbag.

Joshua in Canton, N.C., asks if the Panthers will pursue a wide receiver in free agency and wonders if they’ll go that route only if Steve Smith leaves.

Pat Yasinskas: With or without Smith, the Panthers are pretty high on young receivers David Gettis and Brandon LaFell. If Smith is gone, they’ll be the starters. If he stays, they’ve got a pretty good trio of receivers. While I could see Carolina adding a receiver if Smith leaves, I don’t think it will be a big name. The Panthers want Gettis and LaFell on the field as much as possible. They also have second-year pro Armanti Edwards. As a former college quarterback, Edwards is a project, but the team wants to give him a chance to contribute as a receiver this year.


Richard in Arbor Mich., says that the possibility of a four-game suspension for Will Smith could force the Saints to keep Alex Brown.

Pat Yasinskas: True, Smith could be suspended and that increases the chances of the Saints keeping Brown. They added rookie Cameron Jordan in the draft, but they don’t know for sure what he’ll bring. Brown isn’t spectacular, but he’s a solid player. And while his $3 million cap figure is a bit high, the Saints will probably keep him.


Wade in Chicago takes exception to Jerry Kramer’s comments that Drew Brees hasn’t faced any of life’s hardships.

Pat Yasinskas: I agree. Brees has endured plenty. He had a major shoulder injury and was forced out of San Diego. He also has had some family issues, including the death of his mother. Brees has endured all that as well as possible.


Ryan in Durham, N.C., wonders about the possibility of Randy Moss landing with the Saints.

Pat Yasinskas: The Saints have been known to take chances on guys with baggage. Moss reportedly is in great shape and highly motivated. I wouldn’t rule this one out.


Ned in parts unknown asks how good Atlanta linebacker Sean Weatherspoon can be.

Pat Yasinskas: Weatherspoon was starting to show some real promise before injuries slowed him down as a rookie. He should be starting off healthy this year, and the Falcons believe he can be the type of linebacker who makes big plays. I think you’ll see him have a much bigger impact this year.

Hitting the NFC South hot spots

July, 17, 2011
7/17/11
8:23
AM ET
The NFC South mailbag got pretty full while I took my last bit of time off before training camps open, so let’s go ahead and get to some of your questions.

Jordan in New Orleans wrote to ask if Reggie Bush could be primed for a big season if he stays in New Orleans.

Pat Yasinskas: We’ll go on the assumption that Bush and the Saints work out a way to handle his contract and answer your question. Part of the reason that Bush has never put up the kind of numbers so many people expected is because he has dealt with a variety of injuries during his career. I think he’s a guy who possibly could benefit from the lockout. He’s had an entire offseason to let his body recover and get fully healthy. Let’s say he stays that way. Bush has only played a full 16-game season once in his career. That was 2006, his rookie season. Combine his rushing and receiving numbers from that season and you come up with more than 1,300 yards and eight touchdowns. I expect Mark Ingram to sort of fill the old Deuce McAllister role. In 2006, McAllister and Bush made a nice tandem. Plus, I think Sean Payton has had an entire offseason to come up with different ways to utilize Bush’s talents. I think it’s possible he could put up numbers similar to what he did as a rookie, if he can stay healthy all year.


Dustin in San Diego asks about the possibility of Tampa Bay pursuing Atlanta free-agent tackle Tyson Clabo.

Pat Yasinskas: Not out of the realm of possibility. Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood is a free agent and he lost his job to James Lee last season. I don’t think the Bucs are going to make a huge effort to re-sign Trueblood. Atlanta may try to keep Clabo, but the Bucs might be wise to make a run at him. Clabo would be an upgrade over Trueblood or Lee.


Jason in Winston-Salem, N.C., asks if there’s any chance of the Panthers keeping quarterback Matt Moore.

Pat Yasinskas: I just don’t see it. Cam Newton and Jimmy Clausen are guaranteed roster spots, unless they get injured. The Panthers also have Tony Pike and have talked about signing a veteran to mentor the young quarterbacks. Moore has a little experience, but not enough to really be the true mentor type. I still think Moore can be a decent NFL backup. I just think it’s in his best interest to go somewhere else and get a fresh start.


Jill in Atlanta wanted to know my thoughts on Ricky Bell as a potential member of Tampa Bay’s Ring of Honor.

Pat Yasinskas: I think Bell is someone who should get in to the Ring of Honor in the next couple of years, if the Bucs continue to go in some sort of chronological order. Bell was a little before my time and I was in junior high school in Pennsylvania most of the time he played for the Bucs. But, even from a distance, I remember Bell in the same category as Lee Roy Selmon and Doug Williams, especially in that wondrous 1979 season. That might have been Bell’s finest season and he had several good years. Sadly, his career was cut short by illness and he died in 1984. I’ve talked to several former teammates about Bell and they all say he was a marvelous talent and wonder what he could have done if he had a longer career. I think he did enough to earn a spot in the Ring of Honor.


Brian in Athens, Ga., inquired about the status of Atlanta defensive tackle Peria Jerry.

Pat Yasinskas: I’ve asked that question of coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff several times this offseason. Every time, each of them has given the same answer: they’re expecting big things from Jerry, their first-round pick in 2009. He had a major knee injury early in his rookie season. Jerry came back last season, but was only a situational player with rookie Corey Peters playing ahead of him. Smith and Dimitroff have admitted the plan was to go slowly with Jerry last season. They firmly believe this is the season his knee will be totally healthy and they think he can finally be the player they thought they were getting when they drafted him.


Mike in Chapel Hill, N.C., said he’s read a lot about players working out on their own or in groups during the offseason, but wonders what coaches have been doing during the lockout.

Pat Yasinskas: Excellent question and not much has been written about this. Around the league, coaches were more involved in the draft than in past years. They’ve also spent a lot of time working with personnel staffs to prepare for free agency. I think that’s one bright side of the lockout because coaching staffs and personnel staffs have had more time to get on the same page about who they want in free agency. Beyond that, I’ve heard that coaches have spent a lot of time reviewing the players they already have and thinking about ways to make them better. I’ve also heard coaches have done a lot more advance film work on their opponents for this season.

NFC South weekend mailbag

July, 2, 2011
7/02/11
8:42
AM ET
Let’s take a plunge into the NFC South mailbag.

Kyle in Blacksburg, Va., wrote to ask if the Panthers might pursue quarterback Carson Palmer, if he is available.

Pat Yasinskas: There’s been a lot of speculation about Palmer’s future in Cincinnati and it’s possible he could become available. He’s an experienced quarterback and coach Ron Rivera has said he’d like to add a veteran to go with Cam Newton and Jimmy Clausen. But that veteran clearly is going to be asked to take on a mentor role. Palmer’s been a starter throughout his career and I’m not sure he’s ready to accept a backup role or even willing to come into a situation where he might be a short-term starter. But, if Palmer does hit the market, I think the Panthers would be wise to at least talk to him and see what kind of role he’s looking for.


Joel in Cary, N.C., saw our post on Brett Favre and Steve Young, a pair of guys who had brief stints with NFC South teams before going on to greatness elsewhere and said he can imagine Clausen following the same path in the future.

Pat Yasinskas: It’s at least possible. If Newton works out well in Carolina, then Clausen’s not going to stick around for the long term. It’s not really fair to judge Clausen on last season, because he was in a horrible offense and a terrible situation. But there are plenty of people around the league who think Clausen can be an NFL quarterback. Time will tell.


JP in Inverness, Fla., asks if Aqib Talib and Tanard Jackson might have helped their chances of staying with the Bucs by showing up for the recent players-only minicamp.

Pat Yasinskas: Well, they certainly didn’t hurt their chances of staying with the Bucs by showing up. Obviously, the coaching staff wasn’t involved in the workout because of the lockout. But the Bucs monitor everything and you can bet they’re well aware Talib and Jackson showed up. Showing that they’re focused on football at least sends a positive message to the Bucs.


Christian in Denver saw Kevin Seifert’s item on Julius Peppers’ Hall of Fame chances and asks if Peppers makes the Hall of Fame will he be pictured in a Carolina or Chicago jersey.

Pat Yasinskas: The Pro Football Hall of Fame doesn’t work that way. The Baseball Hall of Fame requires a player to decide which hat he wants on his plaque. But there are no uniforms or logos on Pro Football Hall of Fame busts and players who played for different teams don’t have to declare one as their primary team. They represent every team they played for.


Mike from Marrero, La., asks if the Saints and Falcons will ever reach a point where they have a nationally recognized rivalry like the Colts and Patriots.

Pat Yasinskas: If both teams continue playing the way they have the past couple of seasons, absolutely. These teams really don’t like each other and it shows up on the field. A few more great games between these two teams could make Atlanta-New Orleans one of the league’s top current rivalries.


Dan in Tampa thinks Reggie Bush could be a perfect fit in Tampa Bay’s backfield.

Pat Yasinskas: If Bush comes available from New Orleans, I could see him in Tampa Bay. The Bucs have LeGarrette Blount as their starting running back, but Cadillac Williams is a potential free agent. If Williams leaves, the Bucs have a big void at third-down back. Bush certainly has the receiving skills to be successful in that role.

Hitting the NFC South hot spots

June, 25, 2011
6/25/11
10:49
AM ET
Time for a plunge into the NFC South mailbag.

Rick in San Diego asks what the cap hit would be if the Saints release Reggie Bush and wonders if it would be better to trade him.

Pat Yasinskas: Trading Bush really isn’t an option because the new team would have to pick up the final year of his contract, which includes an $11.8 million base salary. He currently is scheduled to cost the Saints $16 million against this year’s cap. If they release him, they still would take a $3.5 million cap hit for pro-rated bonus money, but it would be a savings of $12.5 million in cap space compared to where things currently stand.


Zac in Pfafftown, N.C., asks about the possibility of trading Jimmy Clausen and what his value might be.

PY: Nice idea and a lot of Panthers fans are wondering about trading Clausen. But really it makes no sense at this point and it’s not in their plans. Yes, the Panthers just drafted quarterback Cam Newton essentially to replace Clausen. But they still need a backup for Newton and it’s possible Clausen could be the opening-day starter if Newton is slow to pick up the playbook in training camp. There also are people within the organization who believe Clausen still has a chance to be a good NFL quarterback and was simply put in a bad spot last season. Besides, after last season, Clausen really wouldn’t have much trade value right now.

Let things play out. Clausen could play some this season and maybe he plays well and that jacks up his trade value. The Panthers could end up with a situation like the Falcons had a few years ago when they were able to get quality draft picks by trading Matt Schaub. But Clausen doesn’t have that kind of value right now and the Panthers still need him in case Newton’s not ready right away.


Matt in West Palm Beach says my column on Drew Brees never mentioned my thoughts on if he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer while my column on Tony Gonzalez was very clear that the Atlanta tight end should go in on the first ballot.

PY: I'm doing periodic looks at potential Hall of Famers from the NFC South and I started with Brees and Gonzalez. There's no set formula for this project. In fact, the approach I'll take in some upcoming installments will be far different from what you already have seen. I'm thinking about doing a combo piece where I explore the chances for veteran defensive backs Darren Sharper and Ronde Barber. I may do something similar with receivers Roddy White and Steve Smith.

The columns were written with different premises. In Brees’ case, I was only writing about his chances of making the Pro Football Hall of Fame and speculating ahead because he likely will be playing for at least a few more years. In Gonzalez’s case, I was arguing he should go in on the first ballot. That’s a pretty big issue in Gonzalez’s situation because voters have traditionally been reluctant to let tight ends go in on the first ballot. Shannon Sharpe had to wait until his third year of eligibility and will be inducted this summer.

But, if you’re asking for my thoughts on if Brees will go in on the first ballot, I think he’s got a real shot. But it will depend on if he can put up big numbers for at least a few more seasons and it wouldn’t hurt if the Saints win another championship or two.


Karim in Chicago asks if defensive end Ray Edwards really is worth the money many are expecting the Falcons to throw at him in free agency.

PY: If you look at Edwards’ sack totals, they’re not overwhelming. He had eight last season and 8.5 the year before that. He never got above five sacks in the first three seasons of his career. But the past two seasons showed an upward trend and Edwards is only 26. In these situations teams have to look at their system and personnel and project a guy into that and ask if they think he can thrive.

Lots of scouts around the league think Edwards can produce double-digit sacks in a season, but it’s not like he’s got the resume of a Julius Peppers. Conventional wisdom is that Edwards is the guy the Falcons will target, but we don’t know that for sure. Carolina’s Charles Johnson could be a target if the Panthers don’t re-sign him and there could be another guy or two the Falcons like.


Alex in Rochester, N.Y., wrote to say all the quarterback talk in Carolina is about Newton and Clausen. He wonders if Tony Pike is so bad that he doesn’t deserve mention.

PY: Pike was a sixth-round pick for a reason last season and it’s rare for a sixth-round pick to become anything more than a backup quarterback. I’m the first to admit Carolina had a unique situation last year because former coach John Fox was so opposed to the youth movement. He grudgingly played Clausen when he had no choice. When Clausen and Matt Moore were both out with injuries, the Panthers signed veteran Brian St. Pierre off the street and started him ahead of Pike.

The word out of Carolina was that Pike had shown no signs of progress in practice and that’s why Fox went with St. Pierre. I’m sure Pike will get a look from the new staff in training camp, but he better show something. Clausen and Newton are practically guaranteed roster spots and there’s talk the Panthers might bring in a veteran to mentor them. Unless he has a very strong camp, Pike might not have a roster spot.


Matt in Houston says he repeatedly has heard about the Saints’ offseason workouts, led by Brees, and wonders if other teams have been less active.

PY: Any workouts that have been done around the league have been positive because they help players stay somewhat sharp so they’ll be ready when the lockout ends. But none of these workouts are even close to what usually happens in the offseason when coaches are working with players. I’m sure Brees has done a great job with the Saints’ workouts and all indications are attendance has been great.Not to sell their efforts short in any way and I think the Saints are in the best shape of any division team coming out of the lockout, but I should point out their workouts have been open to the media and drawn far more attention than in most places.

Matt Ryan's been doing similar workouts with the Falcons, but Atlanta is a one-newspaper town and the television stations don't come out for every workout, so it’s not like there’s been wall-to-wall coverage. The Panthers didn’t do anything formal until a few weeks ago and only opened the last workout to the media. Josh Freeman has been leading workouts for offensive skill-position players for the Bucs since March, but he tried to keep them pretty private and didn’t allow much media access. The Bucs will be doing a minicamp -- that will include defensive players but won't be too heavy on linemen on either side of the ball -- next week that will be open to the media and it should get plenty of coverage.

But the bottom line is that while workouts may help a little bit, they’re no substitute for working with the coaches. Every team around the league is going to have to do some serious catching up in training camp.

Hitting the NFC South hot spots

June, 18, 2011
6/18/11
1:10
PM ET
Time for a plunge into the NFC South mailbag

Bobby in Burlington, N.C., wrote to say he loved Cam Newton’s comments at Steve Smith’s football camp and wonders if those two would make a good tandem and if Smith would be a good mentor for Newton.

Pat Yasinskas: Definitely a smart move by Newton to make it clear he wants Smith back. If that happens, Newton has an elite receiver to throw to and that’s a positive. But let’s not go projecting Smith into the role of mentor, a role he’s never embraced. He didn’t exactly help Jimmy Clausen along, and he was never known as a mentor when Carolina had young receivers like Keary Colbert, Drew Carter and Dwayne Jarrett. Smith is very good at going out and catching passes, and he’s always prepared himself well to do that. If Smith decides he wants to stay in Carolina, then Newton will have an excellent target to throw to.

Daniel in Jamestown, N.Y., wrote to ask if it’s na´ve to think Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman can throw so few interceptions every season.

Pat Yasinskas: Freeman threw just six interceptions last season, which is a very low figure. Obviously, Tampa Bay had a very young offense, and as the wide receivers mature there might be temptation to take more chances and go deep more often. That could lead to more interceptions. But Freeman is a perfectionist, and I doubt he’s ever going to be a guy to throw a lot of interceptions. Look back at this story where I talked to Anton Clarkson, Freeman’s private quarterback coach. Clarkson said one of Freeman’s goals is to go through a season without throwing an interception. That’s probably impossible. But if you use that as your goal and come somewhere close, you should be in good shape.

Chris in Augusta, Ga., asks if being exciting to watch helps Drew Brees’ case for the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

Pat Yasinskas: Sure. Let’s be honest. Fans love to watch teams that throw the ball a lot and score a lot of points. So does the media. Brees and the Saints have been entertaining to watch since he got there. He’s brought them national attention and raised the franchise’s profile, and those kinds of things will help him when it’s time to vote on his Hall of Fame candidacy.

Adam in West Virginia asks if Matt Ryan doesn’t stretch the field enough because he’s not an elite quarterback or because he’s the victim of conservative play calling.

Pat Yasinskas: I think Ryan already is an elite quarterback or, at the very least, will become one soon. I believe the Falcons haven’t really let him maximize his talents. I think that’s about to change. I think the coaching staff realizes it’s time to put more on Ryan’s shoulders. That’s part of the reason they went out and got Julio Jones. Last year, Roddy White was Atlanta’s only real downfield threat. Defenses knew that and gave White lots of attention. The other receivers couldn’t make big plays, and Ryan frequently was left to throw short passes to tight end Tony Gonzalez. I think the arrival of Jones and a conscious effort by the coaching staff will lead to more big plays from Ryan.
Time for a plunge into the NFC South mailbag.

Nate in Palmer, Alaska asks if there’s any update on Cadillac Williams.

Pat Yasinskas: Not really. He wasn’t at the two recent workouts, led by Josh Freeman, that I’ve attended. But I do know Williams worked out with Freeman and some others at IMG Academy in Bradenton not too long ago and has joined his teammates at other times this offseason. Williams is scheduled to be a free agent whenever the lockout ends. He has said he wants to test free agency. The Bucs have said they’d like to keep him in the third-down-back role he filled so nicely the second half of last season and Williams is a great locker-room guy. We’ll see how it plays out. But, sometimes, the role and salary a player wants for himself and the role and salary a team projects for him don’t mesh.


James in Charlotte asks what’s the status of quarterback Matt Moore with Carolina.

Pat Yasinskas: He’s not under contract for 2011. With the Panthers using a first-round pick on Cam Newton this year and a second-round pick on Jimmy Clausen last year, I don’t see any real future for Moore with the Panthers. I do think he can be a decent backup somewhere else.


Kayin in Iraq wrote to say there’s been a lot of reports about possible trades and potential free-agent signings and asks at what point teams would violate tampering rules.

Pat Yasinskas: We’re in a unique year due to the lockout and fans and media have been speculating about moves that could come when the lockout is lifted. That’s mainly because we don’t have much else to do. Teams can’t talk to their own players and they certainly can’t talk to potential free agents from other teams. If they do, that would violate the tampering rule. As far as teams discussing possible trades, I don’t think there are any rules against that, but no trades can be made while the lockout is in place.


Derrek in Slidell, La. says we should do Power Rankings on best game environments and best fans.

Pat Yasinskas: Careful what you wish for. I can’t give away all our plans. But I can tell you that if the lockout continues to linger, you just might see some of what you suggested – and more along those same lines -- this summer.


John in Houston asks what New Orleans defensive tackle Shaun Rogers has been up to in the offseason, if he’s been working out with the other Saints and keeping himself in shape.

Pat Yasinskas: I recently heard from someone close to Rogers that he’s been rehabilitating an injury on his own and is in very good shape. He hasn’t joined the Saints yet for any of their workouts, but don’t be surprised if it happens once the rehabilitation is completely done.


Denzel is Houston asks what kind of rookie seasons Cam Newton, Mark Ingram and Julio Jones will have if training camps are shortened.

Pat Yasinskas: That scenario could cause problems for those three players and just about any rookie. Let’s say there is labor peace sometime after training camps should have started and the start of the regular season stays on schedule. It could take some time for draft picks to get signed, and every missed practice session hurts rookies. As a quarterback, Newton stands to lose the most. The Panthers won’t be able to put him out there right away if he hasn’t had enough practice time. It could also be an issue for Jones because wide receivers, historically, start slowly. Again, in general terms, rookie running backs usually make an impact pretty quickly. I’d guess that Ingram would have the fastest impact of the guys you mentioned in that scenario.


Brad in Lancaster, Pa. asks if Cam Newton can mirror Josh Freeman.

Pat Yasinskas: Newton has frequently been compared to Freeman and Ben Roethlisberger. He’s a big, strong quarterback who can scramble out of the pocket. Guys like Freeman and Roethlisberger can get downfield because they’re big enough and strong enough that they usually can endure hits from linebackers and defensive backs without much risk of injury. Funny you should ask about the comparison now. A few days ago, I was talking to Freeman and said I thought Newton is a lot like him. Freeman nodded and said, “Yeah, but Cam’s got way better speed than I do.’’

Hitting the NFC South hot spots

May, 21, 2011
5/21/11
12:01
PM ET
Before I get ready to watch the Tampa Bay Lightning game (yes, the lockout has started turning me into a hockey fan), let's take a run through the NFC South mailbag.

Ellis in Houston wrote to say Drew Brees was No. 3 in our Power Rankings for quarterbacks and Sean Payton No. 5 for coaches, but points out the rest of the Saints haven’t gotten much recognition even though they’ve been a top team the past couple of years. He asks if there’s a lack of recognition or if the Saints are a team that’s sum is greater than its individual parts.

Pat Yasinskas: Excellent question. I think it’s largely a sign of how well the Saints are constructed, coached and play together. I think of a guy like Marques Colston. If he played on another team, he might be on a list of top 10 receivers because his numbers might be a lot better. Colston is as talented as just about any receiver and he’s productive. But his individual numbers are held back a bit because the Saints spread the ball around so much. At running back, the Saints have used a committee approach. On defense, they’ve got steady middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma and rising safety Malcolm Jenkins. This is a team without a bunch of individual stars, but the results have been very positive. I’ll take that over individual recognition any day. By the way, if the lockout continues and we get to Power Rankings on guards, I think you can count on Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks making the top 10. They're two of the best in the league at what they do.


Charlie in Chattanooga, Tenn., asks if the Panthers are getting together for organized workouts like the Saints and Falcons have.

Pat Yasinskas: I know a lot of Panthers have been working out on their own or in small groups. But I recently heard that offensive tackle Jordan Gross is organizing something on a bigger scale. I don’t know all the details, but I take this as a good sign. The Panthers obviously are very young at quarterback, so they don’t have a Brees, Matt Ryan or Josh Freeman to lead the way. Gross is a respected veteran, and he should be able to get most of his teammates to show up. The real disadvantage the Panthers face is they don’t really know their playbook yet because it’s new. Brees, Ryan and Freeman have the luxury of working off playbooks that have been in place for several years.


Russell in Asheville, N.C., wrote to say he hopes my career tanks just as quickly as Cam Newton’s career because of the “cheerleading job’’ I did before the draft and says I helped ruin Carolina’s franchise.

Pat Yasinskas: Thanks for that cheery note. You really think Marty Hurney, Jerry Richardson and Ron Rivera sat around and read my stuff and said, “Gee, if he thinks we should draft Cam Newton, we darn sure better draft Cam Newton"? I think you missed reality by half a mile here. I was writing that the Panthers were going to draft Newton because my sources kept telling me that. I simply was doing my job and preparing fans for what was coming. You can disagree with the drafting of Newton all you want. I don’t know if it was the right move and we won’t know for several years. But shooting the messenger isn’t going to do any good. Hurney, Richardson and Rivera are the ones who drafted Newton.


Michael in Orlando asks if the Bucs have enough firepower at wide receiver or if they should pursue a free agent.

Pat Yasinskas: I think the Bucs are in good shape there. Mike Williams immediately emerged as a No. 1 receiver last season. Arrelious Benn started slowly and was just starting to come on before getting injured. Benn’s been progressing in his recovery and has been running and working out with backup quarterback Rudy Carpenter in California. He should be ready for the season and he’s the No. 2 guy. After that, the Bucs have Sammie Stroughter and Dezmon Briscoe and are high on both. Micheal Spurlock also factors into the mix as a receiver and special-teams player. The Bucs might bring an undrafted free agent or two to compete for a roster spot, but I don’t think there’s any need to make any major moves.


Chris in Marietta, Ga., wrote to say it makes some sense for the Falcons to go after Nnamdi Asomugha in free agency. They have Dunta Robinson, but could add another quality cornerback to really solidify the defensive backfield.

Pat Yasinskas: I won’t totally rule that one out because the Falcons have made it clear they’re “all-in’’ for this season. I’d still like to see them get a pass-rusher and think they have decent talent at cornerback. But if they could add a pass-rusher and Asomugha, they could have a truly dominant defense. It would be costly, of course, but Arthur Blank doesn’t seem to be afraid to spend money.

Hitting the NFC South hot spots

May, 14, 2011
5/14/11
11:47
AM ET
Time for a trip into the mailbag to see what's on the minds of readers across the NFC South.

Evan in Charlotte wrote to say he’s bothered by the fact what he thinks was the defining moment in the history of the Carolina Panthers was not on the list of choices on our Flash Point poll. He said it is was the 2003 regular-season opener when Jake Delhomme was inserted after Rodney Peete started slowly. Delhomme rallied the Panthers to victory against Jacksonville, and they rode that momentum all the way to the Super Bowl.

Pat Yasinskas: Excellent point. I was limited to four choices for that poll, and you make a strong case this one should have been included. Go ahead and vote “other’’ in that category if you agree with Evan and send me a mailbag note similar to what Evan did. I’ll be making the decision on the key moment in each franchise’s history, and it won’t necessarily be the one that wins the popular vote (that project is scheduled to run May 25). Evan’s note has opened my eyes and has me thinking that 2003 Jacksonville game has a chance to be my choice.


Martin in Aberdeen wrote to ask if the Bucs really should be interested in cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha because they play a Cover 2 scheme and he excels in man coverage.

Pat Yasinskas: The Bucs don’t play the true Tampa 2 scheme as often as they used to. Raheem Morris has brought twists and turns to it to try to stay ahead of offenses. He’s an adaptable coach, and if you gave him one of the league’s best cornerbacks, I think he’d find ways to adjust to Asomugha’s strengths. By the way, John Clayton and I will be having a Hot Button debate Monday on the best landing spot for Asomugha. My side of the debate might be of particular interest to NFC South readers.


Gabe in Port Orange, Fla., wrote to say I made a nice (and accurate) call by not including Carolina’s Jerry Richardson on my ballot in our Power Rankings on the owners. Gabe said Richardson was one of the best owners in the sports world a few years ago but thinks his moves in recent years have been very questionable.

Pat Yasinskas: Agreed. There was a part of me that was very conflicted on this one. Richardson is the NFC South owner I know and respect the most. He’s a brilliant and fascinating man, and I can assure you he cares deeply about his fans and all the people who work for him. He even cares about the media members who cover the team. When my father died, Richardson was one of the first people to call me, and when I got this job he gathered all the local beat writers for a luncheon to celebrate. When another writer was going through a tough personal time, Richardson called me to ask what “we’’ could do to help him. This man is a very good human being. But the Panthers have struggled in recent years, and there’s no doubt some of Richardson’s moves have been questionable. He’s heavily involved in the NFL’s labor situation, and his hard-line stance is a reason why there hasn’t been anything close to a deal. We’ll have to see how some of that plays out, and we’ll have to see if some of Richardson’s moves somehow have a positive flip side. But, right now, I think it’s very fair to say Richardson is at a career crossroads. Time will tell if he can get back to a point where he's viewed as one of the league's best owners.


James in Shreveport wrote to thank me for not voting for New Orleans’ Tom Benson in the Power Rankings on owners. He said there are a lot of New Orleans fans who will never forgive Benson for trying to move the team in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Pat Yasinskas: I’m well aware of those sentiments, and that’s why I didn’t vote for Benson. Those were some dicey times, and I think former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was a big part of the reason why the team is in New Orleans. As for Benson, let’s at least be fair and acknowledge that once things got settled with the state of Louisiana, he has helped to put the Saints on very firm ground. They’re in better shape than ever, and their fan base is incredibly dedicated. I’m glad it all worked out because I couldn’t imagine New Orleans without the Saints.


David in Cedar Falls, Iowa, wrote to say he thinks the Flash Point for the Buccaneers came when the Glazer family bought the team. He points to the disastrous and comical reign of former owner Hugh Culverhouse and says it all stopped when the Glazers took over.

Pat Yasinskas: I agree totally, and I’m glad there is at least one fan out there who recognizes this. We’ve talked about this here before, and I can’t understand why Tampa Bay fans have so much venom for the Glazers. No, they might not be perfect, but they’re a million times better than Culverhouse and are better than a fair amount of owners currently in the league. They did bring a Super Bowl champion to Tampa, they built a stunning new One Buccaneer Place with their own money and, even though it came with taxpayer money and a lot of bickering, they helped get Raymond James Stadium built. I’ll consider the Glazers buying the franchise as a deciding moment when I roll out my NFC South Flash Points on May 25. But I’m going to have a tough time going with that one simply because -- fair or unfair -- so many fans seem to despise everything the Glazers do. I’m leaning toward going with something the Glazers did – hiring coach Tony Dungy in 1996.

Back from blogger minicamp

May, 14, 2011
5/14/11
10:41
AM ET
After a short and intense edition of ESPN.com blog network minicamp in Bristol, Conn., I’m back at NFC South Blog headquarters in Tampa.

Looked like the division stayed very quiet Friday and the lockout stayed in place. That allowed the blog network to install some new plays and work on some projects that will help carry us if the lockout really drags on deep into the summer.

I can’t give away the playbook on that, but let’s just say there’s a lot of good stuff planned. I’m going to jump into the NFC South mailbag and answer some of your questions. Be back in a bit.
Time for an Easter trip through the NFC South mailbag.

Owen in Chapel Hill, N.C. asks if the Panthers might try to trade for or sign a veteran quarterback as a free agent even if they draft Cam Newton.

Pat Yasinskas: I don’t know for sure, but I think that’s a possibility. When I asked Marty Hurney what kind of support system the Panthers would put in place around Newton, he said he didn’t want to go into any detail until if or when the Panthers draft Newton. But Hurney admitted he’s given a lot of thought to how the team could make Newton’s life easier. One way to do that might be to add a veteran. That guy could even start the season or end up as the starter for the whole season, allowing Newton some time to get comfortable. There are different schools of thought on this. Atlanta threw Matt Ryan into the mix from the start. Tampa Bay made a decision early on that Josh Freeman wouldn’t even get on the field until at least the midway point of his first season. You can’t argue with the results in either of those situations.


Russell in Asheville, N.C. asks me to name one quarterback who has won a Super Bowl that has a playing style similar to Newton’s. He also said Newton’s a run-first quarterback.

Pat Yasinskas: I’ll give you two – Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers. Now, I’m not saying Rodgers and Newton are the same guy. Rodgers isn’t as big and his style of running is based more on elusiveness, but his feet are a big part of the reason for his success. Talk to scouts around the NFL and ask them to compare Newton to a current quarterback and the name you hear most often is Roethlisberger’s, although you’ll also hear Freeman’s from time to time. Those are both big strong guys and it’s not easy for them to get hurt when they’re running in the open field. But they’re not just runners. They’re very good passers who use their feet to open things up even more in the passing game. Besides, I don’t think Newton will be a run-first quarterback in Carolina’s offense. The Panthers are putting in a scheme similar to San Diego’s and there are no plans to install the Auburn offense. They’re not going to ask Newton to come in and be Michael Vick.


Robert in Sterling, Va. asks which receivers the Falcons might be interested in early in the draft.

Pat Yasinskas: A lot of people keep throwing out the names of Jerrel Jernigan and Titus Young. Jernigan is 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds. Young is a little taller, but at least 10 pounds lighter. Both guys can fly, but I just have a hard time seeing the Falcons taking an undersized slot receiver in the first round. Those guys, or guys like them could be considerations in the second round or later. If the Falcons go with a receiver in the first round, I think it will be Maryland’s Torrey Smith or Pittsburgh’s Jonathan Baldwin. Both have good size and eventually could develop into upgrades over current starter Michael Jenkins. If you take a receiver in the first round, he better be a guy you think can be a starter in a year or two. Also, I’ve been hearing the names of Smith and Baldwin connected to the Falcons a lot in the past week or so.


Gur in Edgware, United Kingdom wrote to ponder if Raheem Morris on Twitter might be more entertaining than Roddy White on Twitter.

Pat Yasinskas: Hmm, good question. Morris is a highly entertaining guy and so is White. But the difference is White is a player and Morris is a coach. As much as I’m sure some high-ranking members of the Falcons would like to throw White’s Twitter account in Lake Lanier, he’s a player and he does have certain rights to express himself. Morris is an NFL head coach, which, at least in theory means, he should have a filter and use some discretion. As a member of the media, I really appreciate the fact Morris is entertaining and a good quote because that makes my job more fun. But there are certain times he might be wise to tone things down just a bit.


Matt in Miami wonders if defensive tackle Phil Taylor would be a good move for the Saints and asks if drafting him would allow the team to move Sedrick Ellis to defensive end.

Pat Yasinskas: I’ve seen the Baylor defensive tackle tied to the Saints in some mock drafts and it wouldn’t surprise me if he landed in New Orleans. But I don’t think the Saints would be drafting him with their main intention being a move of Ellis to defensive end. Ellis is becoming a very good defensive tackle. They also signed Shaun Rogers just before the lockout. Even with those two, the Saints could use another solid defensive tackle. Like most teams, they like to rotate their defensive linemen and Taylor would give them the chance to have a high-quality rotation.

Hitting the NFC South hot spots

April, 16, 2011
4/16/11
2:07
PM ET
Time for a plunge into the NFC South mailbag to see what readers around the division are wondering about.

Adam in Morgantown, W. Va., asks whether the Panthers might trade first-round picks with the Eagles in a deal that would include Kevin Kolb.

Pat Yasinskas: That was the scenario I would have liked to see a few months ago, but I think it’s an extreme long shot now. Unless the lockout suddenly ends before the draft, there can be no trades involving current players, so there’s no way the Panthers can trade for Kolb. Besides, I think they’re pretty close to making the final decision to go ahead and draft a quarterback.


Santos in Anchorage, Alaska, wrote to ask if it’s possible the Saints draft somebody that’s not even being connected to them by the media or fans.

Pat Yasinskas: Yes, in the case of the Saints, that’s entirely possible. They have a history of not necessarily drafting for immediate need. As a general rule, they believe in taking the best player available. A lot of teams claim to do that but give in to needs in the end. The Saints have a history of actually following through and taking the guy they think is the best player available. Just look at last year, when they took cornerback Patrick Robinson. Cornerback wasn’t their biggest need. But Robinson was the best player on their board, so they took him.


Scott in Tampa asks if Aqib Talib was even considered when we did the Power Rankings on the cornerbacks.

Pat Yasinskas: Our Power Rankings on cornerbacks come out Tuesday. I’ll give you a little hint and tell you Talib wasn’t on my ballot. We’ll see what the other voters have to say, but I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of votes for him. He has great talent but has only been in the league for three seasons. His flashes of brilliance have been overshadowed by off-field incidents. If he didn’t have those incidents and wasn’t suspended or injured, he might have had a shot. But I can’t in good conscience say he’s been on the field enough and been consistent enough when he has played to be considered a top 10 cornerback. He can get there in the future, but he's not there yet.


Corey in Port Richey, Fla., asks what I meant when I said a lot of young Tampa Bay players might have played over the heads last year.

Pat Yasinskas: I wasn’t talking about receiver Mike Williams or running back LeGarrette Blount. I think it’s pretty obvious they had great rookie seasons and should continue to produce at high levels, as long as they don’t run into the same issues they had in college. This was more a reference to guys like safety Cody Grimm and some of the young offensive linemen. They played very well, but can they sustain it? Maybe, but maybe not. There were reasons they were late-round draft picks. If they sustain it, great, but nothing is guaranteed with guys like that. I think the Bucs need to continue upgrading their overall talent level.


Chris in Marietta, Ga., asks if the Falcons might trade up to draft Georgia receiver A.J. Green.

Pat Yasinskas: I’m sure that move would be a fan favorite and I’m sure the Falcons would love to land Green somehow. But I think that would be very difficult. He’s viewed as a top-five pick. The Falcons have the No. 27 overall pick, and it would be very difficult and costly to trade up to the top five. We might be talking several draft picks as the price. General manager Thomas Dimitroff can be very aggressive at times. But this is one where I think the price tag is simply too high.


Chris in North Carolina wrote to say that he noticed in the video interview with Jon Gruden that Cam Newton mentioned Josh Freeman, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan consecutively as guys he would like to compete against. Chris wonders if Newton already knows he’s going No. 1 to the Carolina Panthers.

Pat Yasinskas: I noticed the same thing when I watched the video. Does it mean Newton’s been told he’ll be the No. 1 pick? I doubt it. All indications are the Panthers have yet to make a firm decision on what they’re doing with the pick. Newton’s in the mix and he knows it, and I’m assuming he was just talking optimistically.

Hitting the NFC South hot spots

April, 9, 2011
4/09/11
8:23
AM ET
Let’s take a look into the NFC South mailbag and hit on some of the questions that seem to be on a lot of minds.

Justin in San Francisco wrote to say, with talk of teams cutting staff members due to the lockout, how many people does an NFL team employ beyond players and coaches?

Pat Yasinskas: Very good question, because a lot more people behind-the-scenes are being affected by the lockout. To the best of my knowledge, the NFC South teams seem to be doing a pretty good job of protecting most of their employees so far, and I don’t know of any major cuts within the division. With coaching staffs and players alone, you’re generally talking about 80 people. Then, you have to throw in personnel people and scouts. After that, there are all sorts of people ranging from business executives to groundskeepers and people in the equipment department, and we won’t even go into the part-time people who are brought in for game days. There is no exact number for full-time employees because it varies from team to team. But I would say 300 is probably somewhere close to the average.


Michael in Baltimore asks why no one is talking about the Carolina Panthers bringing back Matt Moore next season.

Pat Yasinskas: Michael also points out Moore played better than Jimmy Clausen last year, and I don’t disagree with that. But Moore’s contract is up, and I don’t think the Panthers will bring him back. They’re probably going to draft a quarterback, and they might even bring in a veteran to mix with Clausen and Tony Pike. Those two were drafted by the Panthers last year and are still under contract. Harsh as this may sound, Moore got his shot last year, however brief, and things didn’t fall into place. I know that wasn’t entirely his fault by any means. But I think he’ll probably move on and try to land a backup job somewhere else.


Dan in Houston wrote to say he read our post about Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl bid and said he agrees with my suggestion on rotating Super Bowls among Miami, Tampa, New Orleans and Arizona, but wonders why I didn’t include Houston on the list.

Pat Yasinskas: Good point. I’ll be totally honest and admit that Houston slipped my mind. I’m glad you reminded me. I was covering the Panthers for The Charlotte Observer when they played in the Super Bowl hosted by Houston after the 2003 season. Can’t say I got to spend a lot of time out on the town because that was a hectic week. But that Super Bowl seemed to go off very well, Reliant Stadium is first-class and Houston’s weather rarely gets too cold that time of year. I’ll add Houston to my list.


Stan in Thomaston, Ga. wrote to ask why Atlanta isn’t bidding for the 2015 Super Bowl and if the city would have a chance if it bid on that or any future Super Bowl.

Pat Yasinskas: As far as I know, Atlanta hasn’t entered the mix for the 2015 Super Bowl, which is expected to be awarded in the fall. We all know the Falcons are seeking a new, outdoor stadium, and Atlanta may be awaiting the outcome of that before pursuing any future Super Bowls. But I’m not sure the idea of an outdoor stadium works in Atlanta’s favor when it comes to getting another Super Bowl. The last Super Bowl in Atlanta didn’t go off that well, even though the game was played indoors in the Georgia Dome. That wasn’t the fault of the people in Atlanta or the people running the logistics for the Super Bowl. It just so happened that week was exceptionally cold, and Atlanta got hit hard by an ice storm that caused many problems. It was very similar to what happened in North Texas this year, and I think the NFL is going to be a little more cautious about going to cities where there’s the potential for bad weather when awarding future Super Bowls. As I’ve said before, it’s not just about game day. The week leading into the Super Bowl is all part of the event, and weather can cause problems with that. If Atlanta gets an outdoor stadium, that could make future Super Bowls a tough sell.


Charles in Metairie, La. says he’s disappointed in the people who are down on Drew Brees because of his involvement in the labor situation. He adds that Brees always has been a leader and is simply following through on that.

Pat Yasinskas: No argument here. Brees accepted his role on behalf of the players four years ago. I would expect him to handle that the same way he handles everything else -- by doing his job to the best of his ability.


Brandon in Houston asks if Lynell Hamilton is still in the plans for the Saints.

Pat Yasinskas: He hasn’t been forgotten. He scored some points with the coaching staff before last year’s injury and there’s still hope for him. That said, Chris Ivory emerged last season, Pierre Thomas got a new contract and the Saints have made it sound like Reggie Bush is staying. There’s plenty of speculation the Saints could draft another running back, and I don’t disagree with that. But, even if someone is added in the draft, Hamilton still has a shot. All the injuries at running back last year showed the Saints the importance of depth at that position.


Michael in Perry, Ga. wrote to say he thinks many in the media are wrong for portraying Carolina as a team with no talent.

Pat Yasinskas: I agree. It's not the typical 2-14 team. Now, there still are some questions to play out as far as free agency, possible trades and possible contract extensions once the lockout is over. But you look at Carolina’s roster right now, and it includes guys like Jordan Gross, Steve Smith, Ryan Kalil, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Charles Johnson and Jon Beason. Heck, if healthy, you might be able to include Thomas Davis and Jeff Otah on that list. Those are guys most people would qualify as “core players,’’ and the Panthers aren’t that far off other teams in terms of core players. What they need, however, is a quarterback and some spark on offense. If they can add that, I see no reason why this team can’t instantly be a lot more competitive than last season.


Tyler in Florida wrote to say he knows players can’t be traded during a lockout, but wonders if draft picks can be exchanged.

Pat Yasinskas: Teams can still trade draft picks in a lockout. But there can’t be any transactions involving current players until the lockout is resolved.

Hitting the NFC South hot spots

April, 3, 2011
4/03/11
12:47
PM ET
Let’s take a look into the NFC South mailbag.

Dan in Omaha, Neb., says the Panthers need to draft a defensive tackle with the first pick in the draft and give quarterback Jimmy Clausen a chance.

Pat Yasinskas: You really want the Panthers to go into a season with Clausen as their starting quarterback without adding a viable alternative? I do think there’s upside with Clausen and he could develop into something with better coaching than he had last year. But Carolina’s got to compete with three NFC South teams that have true franchise quarterbacks. I don’t think they can afford to count on Clausen suddenly turning into one.


Pat in Tampa says I referred to Tampa Bay landing Nnamdi Asomugha as a pie-in-the-sky dream and wonders why. He points out the weather in Florida and California is similar and the Bucs are a team on the rise.

Pat Yasinskas: True, the Bucs are very much a team on the rise and I’ll take the weather in Tampa Bay over the other Bay Area any day. Also, there’s no state income tax in Florida and that’s always appealing to free agents. But there’s going to be a bidding war for one of the game’s best cornerbacks and lots of teams are going to be involved. I’m not sure if the Bucs, who are accused by their own fans of not spending enough money, will go all out on this one. We'll have to wait and see.


Robbie in Murphy, N.C., asks why I wrote that Cam Newton has more potential than Blaine Gabbert.

Pat Yasinskas: Um, mainly because I think Newton has way more potential than Gabbert. Yes, there also could be downside with Newton, and Gabbert has less downside. But I think Gabbert’s best-case scenario is that he ends up being someone like Mark Sanchez. Newton’s best-case scenario is a lot better than that. Yes, Newton may come with risks. But the Panthers are doing their homework and might be willing to take some risks on the guy with more upside.


Zain in Tampa writes: “There's a reason we hate the Glazers so much around here. But let's make something clear, it is the sons we hate, not the father. The father has been a great owner in his time. He got it, period. The sons? They have no business running a sports franchise.’’

Pat Yasinskas: Malcolm Glazer obviously was a very astute businessman and that’s how he assembled a huge fortune. But the fact is, he never was heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of the Bucs. Yes, he was available for consult and ultimately signed off on major decisions. But, since the day the Glazer family bought the team, sons Bryan and Joel have run the day-to-day operations and youngest son, Ed, joined them a bit later. The only thing that’s changed in recent years is that Malcolm Glazer has had some health problems and has even less to do with the day-to-day operations. Truth is, part of the reason Malcolm Glazer bought the team in the first place was because his sons were huge football fans. Malcolm Glazer didn't follow the game all that closely. In fact, there's a legendary story about one of the few news conferences he ever took part in. It was to announce a contract extension for Warren Sapp and the plan called for him to make a joke about how the contract meant Sapp better produce a lot of sacks. Before the news conference started, a Bucs staffer had to take Malcolm Glazer aside and explain what a sack was.


Russell in Asheville, N.C., writes that Drew Brees’ involvement in the labor situation shows the New Orleans quarterback is greedy. Russell says 99 percent of fans now hate Brees and that this should be pointed out to Brees.

Pat Yasinskas: Brees took a stand by taking an active role and putting his name on the lawsuit against the league. But I don’t think Brees is acting purely on his own behalf. I think he’s trying to get what’s best for all players. He is, after all, a player. And I think your estimate on the percentage of fans who “hate’’ Brees is off by a lot, at least in New Orleans. Brees is the most beloved figure in that city. Once the labor situation is resolved, I think any resentment against Brees that might be out there will be forgotten very quickly.


Tom in Cambridge, United Kingdom, writes that it sounds like Aqib Talib was defending his sister in the incident in which he was charged with assault with a deadly weapon. He wonders if Talib doesn’t end up in prison if this whole situation might be handled with a four-game suspension and some anger-management classes.

Pat Yasinskas: I get the whole innocent-until-proven-guilty thing and understand it’s one of the basic rules of the legal system in this country. But we’re not just talking one incident with Talib. We’re talking a lengthy track record that dates back at least to when he was in college. Several incidents have been very public since he joined the Bucs and there have been plenty of other behind-the-scenes issues involving him that have been handled behind the scenes. In fact, I’d be willing to make a guess that the Bucs or the NFL already told Talib to work on the anger-management issues. Fact is, I think the Bucs already would have cut Talib if the league wasn’t in a lockout. I think they will cut him as soon as it’s over. Talib was down to his last chance -- and there are some people who already think he was past it even before the latest incident. The mere fact that a gun was involved in this latest incident gives the Bucs the right to cut Talib before the legal system plays out. Even if he’s not found guilty, the fact that he put himself in a precarious situation when he already was on a short leash with the team and the league doesn’t reflect well on him. The Bucs have taken their share of criticism on the character issue in the last year or so. Talib has made it easy for them to come out and make a strong statement by parting ways with him. The Bucs can make a statement to the community and their fans that they are serious about character issues. They also can show receiver Mike Williams and LeGarrette Blount, who have had some problems in the past, that they better stay on the straight and narrow because even the best players aren’t going to get too many second chances.

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