NFC South: Michael Johnson
TAMPA, Fla. -- There could be even another element to the quarterback situation for the Buccaneers.
The team could be looking to trade one of its quarterbacks for a draft pick. Coach Raheem Morris wouldn't confirm an NFL.com report that the Bucs are shopping three of their quarterbacks for a trade, but he didn't deny it either.
"Oh, man, they're Nostradamus," Morris said when asked about the report. "Everybody in this league, all 32 teams around this time start calling front offices. I can't control who calls us. Everybody's interested in everybody's roster and everybody's looking to nit-pick off everybody's roster. Everybody has talent and you're trying to accumulate the best talent on your football team. That's just all that talk is what that is."
But it makes total sense for the Bucs to at least try to find out what the market value might be for Byron Leftwich, Luke McCown or Josh Johnson. They're not about to let go of rookie Josh Freeman, who they call their franchise quarterback.
But that's likely in the future. For now, it appears the Bucs will open the season with either Leftwich or McCown as their starter. They're about even at this point and a potential trade could play into Morris' decision, although the Bucs likely would be able to get only a late-round pick (at best) for any of their quarterbacks.
Leftwich, a former starter in Jacksonville, probably has more trade value because of his experience. McCown has only seven starts. Johnson, a second-year pro, has yet to play in an NFL game and probably wouldn't bring much in a trade.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Let's hope Atlanta coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff have an easier time deciding what to do with the No. 24 pick than our readers did. As I went through the votes for the Falcons in our readers' mock draft, I actually had to go back and do a recount because the margin between the winner and the second-place finisher was only two votes.
We'll let a few readers announce the pick.
Steve Salvo in North Haven writes: The Falcons should take LB Clay Matthews. This was hard because there's a lot of players we could take, Cushing, Delmas, English etc. Matthews will help finish out our starting LB core for next year which'll leave us with Peterson, Lofton, and Matthews. Clay Matthews fits the Tom Dimitroff type player("tough hombre") as I've heard him say, which, is smart, consistent, and hard-nosed.Joe in Atlanta writes: The Falcons should take Clay Matthews. They definitely need to select a defensive player here. The front office is character driven, and after Michael Vick will shy away from anyone with character issues, which would eliminate Vontae Davis. Matthews versatility would enable him to step in and fill multiple holes in the Falcons defense.
Jason in Lexington, Ky., writes: The Falcons should take USC OLB Clay Matthews. Why? Because they need another strong, young OLB and while I would probably draft Cushing before Matthews (assuming Curry is long gone) I believe CM will be a great addition to the defense.
Pat Yasinskas: Yes, Matthews edged out Western Michigan safety Louis Delmas by two votes. Matthews' USC teammate and fellow linebacker Brian Cushing also was within a dozen votes of the top two, although some of you think Cushing will be off the board before the Falcons pick.
There also was fairly strong support for defensive tackle Ziggy Hood and defensive end Michael Johnson. There also were about 15 votes for tight end Brandon Pettigrew, but those came before Thursday afternoon's trade for Tony Gonzalez.
It's time for Tampa Bay's selection in the readers' mock draft.
This was one of the closest races in the entire NFC South as 14 different players received votes to be taken as the No. 19 pick. Let's put it in your hands to announce the pick.
John in Orlando writes: With pick #19 of the 2009 NFL draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select, Defensive Tackle Peria Jerry out of The University of Mississippi. In addition, the Bucs also take Smokin Joe Burnett somewhere in the 5-7th rounds. Perfect replacement to Ronde Barber, just saying
Kevin in Tampa writes: Buccaneers should take Peria Jerry. No question this is the Bucs biggest need. If they can't stop the run up the middle this could be a long season.
Eric in Paris writes: The Bucs should take The DT Peria Jerry from Ole Miss. Even if he's not the really big kind of tackle that Bates wants in his system, we really need help in the D-Line. Not sure Michael Johnson is worth this spot.
As I said, the voting was close. Peria won this election by eight votes. Illinois cornerback Vontae Davis finished second and Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman was third. There also was pretty strong support for Florida State defensive end Everette Brown, but many of you pointed out you think he might be gone before Tampa Bay's pick and I think that's entirely possible.
Florida receiver Percy Harvin and Boston College defensive tackle Ron Brace also were very much in the mix and a lot of you suggested the Bucs could trade down and still draft Brace. I like that scenario, but we'll deal with trades when they happen.
I'll be back in a little while with your pick for Atlanta at No. 24.
Time for a quick trip into the mailbag.
Matt in Boone,NC writes: Hey Pat, I was wondering if their was any interest in Atlanta in acquiring TE Tony Scheffler from Denver. They've already shown interst in Gonzalez and I believe they offered a second round pick for him. Bill Williamson believes the Broncos would let Scheffler go for a second rounder and hes beginning to emerge as a good pass catching TE comparable to Gonzalez as they both stand in at 6 ft 5, 250 pounds. One of the benefits of Scheffler over Gonzalez is his age at 26, while Gonzalez could leave the nfl within the next three years.
Pat Yasinskas: I have not heard anything specifically about the Falcons having any talks with Denver about Scheffler. But your scenario makes lots of sense. Scheffler is younger than Tony Gonzalez, who has been linked to the Falcons in some trade reports, although I'm getting indications Atlanta's interest in Gonzalez is minimal, if it exists at all. Clearly the Falcons are looking at options at tight end and Brandon Pettigrew is an option in the first round. I don't think the Falcons would make a deal for a tight end until after they've used their first-round pick. If they draft Pettigrew, all the trade talk goes out the window. Also, I have a tough time seeing the Falcons, who keep saying they want to build through the draft, parting with a second-round pick.
Joseph in Fayetteville AR writes: I have been keeping up with the mock drafts consistently and one thing that i have wondered about is why haven't the Saints targeted someone like Brian Cushing. If there is one constant theme for the Saints defense the past few years is that the unit has underachieved. From a locker room perspective and athletic perspective (he could be an upgrade over the weak side or strong side LB the Saints have already), wouldn't be prudent to draft an overachiever like Cushing to help with the D? This same logic could apply against drafting a guy like Vontae Davis who has been pegged as a guy who has tremendous ability but lapses in play.
Pat Yasinskas: Good point about the Saints having their share of underachievers on defense. I wouldn't rule out Cushing at all with this pick. But I've seen some mocks where he's gone before No. 14. If he's available, I think the Saints at least have to consider him. They've got some linebackers who are getting up there in age and it wouldn't hurt to bring in some fresh legs.
Kevin in Charlotte writes: I am torn between DE or CB for Tampa at #19. There is a lot of quality DE's that should be there in mid first round, but the CB pool is very small. What do you think?
Pat Yasinskas: More and more, I'm hearing Florida State defensive end Everette Brown could be available at No. 19. If he is, I think the pick comes down to Brown and cornerback Vontae Davis, who would come with some questions. Brown doesn't have a lot of questions. He's also a pass-rusher and I think that's a more valuable commodity.
Jason C. in parts unknown writes: Pat, love your blog. With the draft coming up this weekend, are Gm's going to pass up a quarterback this year seeingthat next years crop of quarterbacks is going to be much better with Colt McCoy, Time Tebow, and Sam Bradford? Also, are there any indications that the Saints will trade away anything to move into the second or third rounds?
Pat Yasinskas: Aside from Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez, this draft isn't very deep for quarterbacks. Some view Josh Freeman highly as well. But if you're looking for a potential franchise quarterback, there's nobody beyond those three. I think that once they're gone, you might not see another quarterback taken until the fourth or fifth round because teams know next year's class of quarterbacks should be a lot stronger. As far as the Saints adding a second- or third-round pick, I think it's very possible, but it won't happen until they're on the clock. If they could trade down a few spots in the first round and get another pick, I think that's something they'll see as very intriguing.
Dakota in Charlotte, NC writes: Hey Pat, Love the blog. Loved it when you used to work for the observer. You guys run these NFL blogs wonderfully. Anyway, I'm a Carolina fan, and I'm curious about the upcoming draft. There's no doubting that Carolina needs help at DE, WR, QB, possibly a young CB or a good recieving TE. But is there any player that if he were to fall enough in the draft Carolina would want to trade up for them? Last year, it was clear that the powers that be were keen on two guys: Stewart and Otah. Once they picked Stewart, they watched and Otah fell below where they thought he would go. They called Philly, and picked him up. Now, instead of a first round pick, they have Peppers to offer for a deal. Is there anyone who is a guaranteed first rounder who Carolina would even think about trading up to get?
Pat Yasinskas: It's very complicated because of Julius Peppers. He hasn't signed his franchise tender, so that means the Panthers can't approach other teams about trades. However, Peppers' agent can solicit trade offers and bring them back to the Panthers. I suspect there will be some interest and I think the Panthers will consider any offer that gives them a first-round pick. I don't think the Panthers can afford to lock in on any one guy because there's no telling where they might end up in the first round if they do get a pick. But I think it's safe to say guys like defensive ends Everette Brown and Michael Johnson and defensive tackle Peria Jerry would be possibilities in this scenario.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Earlier Tuesday morning, I asked for your mock draft suggestions for each of the four NFC South teams. I just took a look at my mailbag for the first time since posting that item and the response is overwhelming. Keep it going.
In just about six hours, there already are several hundred responses. As I said earlier, I'll plow through all your answers and post a consensus pick for each team Friday afternoon or evening.
But I thought the early response was a pretty strong sign that you might want to know how the early voting is going. Again, I just skimmed the notes quickly, but here's a brief glance at the early results from the polls for each NFC South team.
New Orleans: Ohio State defensive back Malcolm Jenkins appears to have a comfortable early lead. But his college teammate, running back Beanie Wells, also is getting a lot of votes.
Tampa Bay: This one's all over the board. Just on a quick glance, Illinois cornerback Vontae Davis appears to have a slight lead. But there also are a good amount of votes for defensive tackle Peria Jerry and linebackers Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews.
Atlanta: Somewhat surprisingly, I'm not seeing a lot of support for tight end Brandon Pettigrew. A lot of media members have been tying his name to the Falcons. But the early results are showing readers are looking for defense for the Falcons. Davis, the two Southern California linebackers and Western Michigan safety Louis Delmas seem to be the favorites so far. There also are a fair amount of votes for Georgia Tech defensive end Michael Johnson.
Carolina: Speaking of Johnson, he seems to be an early favorite for the Panthers along with Utah defensive end Paul Kruger. Utah defensive back Sean Smith and West Virginia quarterback Pat White seem to be in the running as well.
Again, we're asking for your first pick for your favorite NFC South team or all four teams as the draft order currently stands (we'll deal with trades if they happen). You can send it to my mailbag and please start each vote with "The Saints (or appropriate team) should draft (fill in the blank)'' and feel free to add a reason or two for your choice.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Todd McShay's got a new mock draft up -- this one goes the full seven rounds -- and I like most of his NFC South picks.
Here's the link to McShay's mock, but I'll share his first-round pick for each team with you and provide my take.
McShay's pick -- No. 14: Malcolm Jenkins, defensive back, Ohio State
My take: Todd had running back Beanie Wells going here in his last draft, but has switched over to Jenkins. I'm with him all the way. I've been saying all along Jenkins is the guy the Saints should pick. They need defense and can get their power runner somewhere else.
McShay's pick -- No. 19: Brian Cushing, linebacker, Southern California
My take: I definitely can see this happening, if Cushing's available. A lot of mocks have him gone before No. 19, but you never know. I can also see Florida State defensive end Everette Brown, Mississippi defensive tackle Peria Jerry or Illinois cornerback Vontae Davis going to the Bucs. And, no -- I'll say it again -- I don't see Tampa Bay taking quarterback Josh Freeman.
McShay's pick -- No. 24: Brandon Pettigrew, tight end, Oklahoma State
My take: It could happen and Pettigrew certainly is a great prospect. But I still think Atlanta goes with defense. I think Davis and Western Michigan safety Louis Delmas are possibilities. I also could see the Falcons going with Jerry to help the middle of the run defense or any one of about four linebackers.
McShay's pick -- No. 59: Michael Johnson, defensive end, Georgia Tech
My take: Although some have Johnson going in the first round, a lot of people in the know think he'll fall to the second round. If he's available, I think this would be a solid pick for the Panthers. No matter if Julius Peppers stays or goes this season, the Panthers eventually will need someone to replace him. Johnson has a similar skill set.
It's time for a Monday edition of the mailbag.
JM in Charlotte writes: Hey Pat, I heard Mel Kiper Jr say on the radio over the weekend that he expects DE Michael Johnson to drop into the 2nd round. If this happens, do the Panthers draft him?
Pat Yasinskas: If Georgia Tech defensive end Michael Johnson falls all the way to No. 59, I think the Panthers would have to consider taking him, if they're still at that pick. Johnson is similar to Julius Peppers in a lot of ways, including a reputation for taking plays off. Whether Peppers is with the Panthers this year or not, Johnson could be a nice pick because he could either take over for Peppers this year or next. That said, I don't know that Johnson will fall all the way to No. 59.
Josh in Winston Salem writes: Hey Pat, great job on the blog! My question is about Jermaine Phillips moving from safety to linebacker, which I just heard about after reading one fo your mailbags. Why? I have some problems with this move. First, it creates a void at safety and if the move doesn't work out, then there's still a hole at linebacker. Second, he is a 30 year old safety, and these are the years when you begin to lose speed and quickness (especially with the physicality Phillips plays with), and you want him to put on weight to play a whole new position? My list can go on and on, and in my opinion this move doesn't make any sense at all. What do you think?
Pat Yasinskas: I actually kind of like the move of Jermaine Phillips to weak-side linebacker. He really doesn't have to put on weight. He's pretty close to the same size Derrick Brooks was. I don't think the transition will be all that difficult. His job as a strong safety primarily was to make tackles and it will be the same at linebacker. The Bucs are high on Sabby Piscitelli and want him to take over at strong safety. That's part of the reason the move with Phillips is taking place.
Zach in Gretna writes: Pat, you've said Rashad Jennings is a perfect fit for N.O. I agree 100%. Do you think he has potential to become a number one back should they get a second or third to get him? Deuce became the number one guy, why not Rashad, right?
Pat Yasinskas: Yes, I really like Liberty running back Rashad Jennings and think he would be a great fit with the Saints. But landing him will be a challenge. He's viewed as a second- or third-round pick and the Saints don't have a pick in either of those rounds right now. But I say trade down a bit from No. 14, still draft a defensive player later in the first round and use the extra pick to get Jennings. That's all easier said than done, but I'd like to see the Saints do it if it's at all possible.
Brad in parts unknown: Hi,Pat -- What is up with Robert Meachem? Is his effort lacking or does he have trouble picking up the offense? He was very highly touted coming out of Tennessee, but it seems everyone leaps over him on the depth chart. Thanks.
Pat Yasinskas: I'm going to give Robert Meachem the benefit of the doubt for the moment. He was injured much of his rookie year, so last year essentially was his rookie season. I thought he came on a bit at the end of last year and the Saints are hoping he can show some more progress in training camp. It's not uncommon in the NFL for highly-touted receivers to struggle at the start of their careers. In fact, it's a trend in the NFC South. Carolina's Dwayne Jarrett and Tampa Bay's Dexter Jackson have had starts similar to Meachem's, yet they all have tremendous upside. There's still hope for these guys. As evidence, I point to Atlanta's Roddy White and Michael Jenkins. Both of those guys struggled early on, but they've become very good receivers.
Jay in atl writes: hey pat, now that Atl has a set offense with the exception of a TE, why are the falcons even thinking about trading for Tony Gonzalez who'll play for 2 more years at the max? Shouldn't they address that defense which finished 24th last year? They could use a player at every defensive position so why give up a 2nd rounder for a 33 y.o. player?
Pat Yasinskas: I am totally with you on that. I'm not sure the rumors of a possible trade for Tony Gonzalez were anything more than just rumors. The Falcons are committed to building through the draft and a move like that doesn't fit their profile. Something else doesn't fit about that scenario either. Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey never is going to throw a bunch to the tight end. Yes, the Falcons could use a bit more receiving production from the position, but I don't see them making a big move to get it. They can find a tight end in the middle of the draft, who can come in and give them 25 or 30 catches a season.
Blake in Greensboro writes: Did you listen to Hurney the other day with the press? It kind of sounds like Peppers will stay. He even said he was confident he will stay. What do you think?
Pat Yasinskas: Carolina general manager Marty Hurney said what he had to say in his pre-draft press conference. It's the same thing he's been saying all along. But let's face reality. If someone steps up in the next few days and offers a first-round pick and a little more for Peppers, I think there's a very real chance the Panthers take the deal and get rid of a headache.
Pro from College Park, GA writes: Have you heard anything about a draft day trade involvong the Falcons and chiefs including draft picks Gonzales and or Dorsey?
Pat Yasinskas: Only the rumors that are flying among fans and I think that might be wishful thinking. Thomas Dimitroff has said all offseason the Falcons are going to build through the draft. I think he's serious about that.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Team needs: Defensive line, cornerback, wide receiver
|AP Photo/Darron Cummings|
|The Panthers are going to be looking for help at defensive end and might tab Paul Kruger with their first pick.|
Dream scenario: At the moment, the Panthers don't have a pick until the second round (No. 59 overall). They traded away their first-round pick to get tackle Jeff Otah in last year's draft. There's no doubting that move because it worked out well. The Panthers could still possibly end up back in the first round depending on how the Julius Peppers situation plays out. In a perfect world, the Panthers would trade Peppers for two first-round picks. But they probably would take a first-round choice combined with another pick. That would allow them to have a shot at a replacement for Peppers or a quality defensive tackle. Much would depend on where they landed in the first round, but defensive end Michael Johnson and defensive tackle Peria Jerry could be possibilities if the Panthers can move somewhere into the top 32.
Plan B: Even if they stay at No. 59, the needs don't change, but the talent pool does. The Panthers need to find a replacement for Peppers, even if he stays because he won't stay for long. Utah defensive end Paul Kruger could be the pick. He's athletic and could become an every-down player if he adds some bulk. The Panthers have had very good luck with Utah players, hitting big when they drafted Steve Smith and Jordan Gross. Another possibility could be Ohio State wide receiver Brian Robiskie. Although he might not have great measurable skills, he's a very polished receiver and could contribute right away behind Smith and Muhsin Muhammad and be an eventual replacement for Muhammad.
Who has the final say: General manager Marty Hurney and coach John Fox pride themselves on saying neither truly has final say because they're able to reach an agreement on every decision. That's true and Hurney and Fox are very good and methodical at working through the tough choices and reaching a consensus that includes input from their scouts and coaches.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
While the rest of the world was debating the real "Smash and Dash" last season, the Carolina backfield went in a different direction and dubbed itself "Double Trouble."
That's what the NFC South should do in the draft -- let flash go the same route as "Smash and Dash." What the NFC South -- and we're talking all four teams -- needs to do is forget all the hype fans and other teams are caught up in about offensive skill positions. Heck, just forget offense altogether (at least until later in the draft).
With its first draft pick, each NFC South team should go with a defensive player.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Todd McShay has his latest first-round mock draft up and he's got some interesting choices for the three NFC South teams (Carolina doesn't have a first-round pick).
Let's break down his choices a bit.
No. 14: New Orleans
McShay's pick: Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB, Ohio State
My thoughts: I'm thinking all this talk about getting a power back is a smoke screen. Yeah, the Saints can use a short-yardage runner, but why use a first-round pick on a role player? I say draft Wells' college teammate, defensive back Malcolm Jenkins and give defensive coordinator Gregg Williams another toy.
No. 19: Tampa Bay
McShay's pick: Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi
My thoughts: It's possible, but I don't think Jerry is the big defensive tackle the Bucs are looking for. I could see them going after Georgia Tech defensive end Michael Johnson. But I'm thinking Raheem Morris is a former defensive backs coach. Right now, my guess is cornerback Vontae Davis.
No. 24: Atlanta
McShay's pick: Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State
My thoughts: This would make sense for value. But I just don't see the Falcons using their tight end enough in the passing game to justify a first-round pick. I think a linebacker or a defensive tackle are possibilities, but I'm going with Western Michigan safety Louis Delmas -- at least for now.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Thanks for the overwhelming amount of letters to the mailbag. There were over 300 that came in just in the last 24 hours. Obviously, I can't answer them all, but I'll try to touch on the questions that represent a lot of you.
We'll talk Atlanta Falcons here and come back in a bit with the Carolina Panthers. Also, my time slot on ESPNews to talk about Atlanta's draft possibilities has been pushed back to 3:20 p.m. ET, if you want to catch it.
BigB in Covington, GA writes: Hey Pat, Just wondering you know H ear alot of names being thrown around for the falcons on their number 24 pick in the upcoming draft. With names like Michael Johnson, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews and Louis Delmas, but what are the chances of the falcons trading out of the 24th pick to gain extra picks?
Pat Yasinskas: That's a scenario that's definitely possible. General manager Thomas Dimitroff comes from the New England school of stockpiling draft picks and I think trading down to add a pick or two is something he'll definitely consider. In fact, I'm thinking the Falcons are in an excellent spot to trade down because I anticipate a run on offensive linemen at the end of the first round. The Falcons don't need a lineman and I think they still can get very good value for a defensive player at the very end of the first round or the top of the second, as well as add an extra pick or two.
Zack in Atlanta writes: If your paying a guy 1st rd. money he will start for you,so what pos. does Atl. need a starter the most?
Pat Yasinskas: The needs are defensive line, outside linebacker and safety. The biggest need is probably safety. In your scenario, the Falcons could get someone like Western Michigan's Louis Delmas in the first round. Wouldn't be surprised if it happens.
Caleb in parts unknown writes: I've been wondering if the Michael Vick situation might have anything to do with the lack of free agent activity by the Falcons. I understand Dimitroff and Smith want to work through the draft but we don't even seem to going for many mid-levels at the moment. The Vick connection would arrise form the fact that when Vick is reinstated he goes back on the cap so I can understand the Falcon'snot wanting to sign contracts that they will have to renegociate when Vick comes back. I know Vick is never going to play for the Falcons again (nor would I want him to) but do you think that Blank and the Falcons will try to get Vick reinstated quickly to get rid of this looming cap room as soon as possible?
Pat Yasinskas: There's no doubt the Michael Vick situation has played into Atlanta's quiet offseason. They still have about $15 million in pro-rated bonus money that's just kind of hanging in limbo. Obviously, the Falcons have made it clear they don't want Vick back and they've made it public that they would gladly trade his rights, even before he's reinstated. Nobody seems to be jumping forward to trade for Vick because there's no guarantee the NFL will reinstate him. The Falcons may just have to keep waiting. If Vick is reinstated, they may just have to release him and take the salary-cap hit. Owner Arthur Blank has said he believes in second chances and would talk to commissioner Roger Goodell on Vick's behalf if he believes the quarterback truly is ready to move on from his legal troubles.
Alden in Roswell writes: I know this question seems a little out of place with the draft coming up, but I was just wondering whether or not you think it was that our recievers were really that bad before last year, or if it was Vick. I mean the year vick is not playing suddenly Roddy White doesnt stink, then the following year he's in the pro-bowl. Not to mention michael jenkins emergence. Seems like a little to much blame was thrown on the recievers when actually it was where the ball was coming from.
Pat Yasinskas: I think some of the blame can fall on Vick. But there are several other factors to be considered that may have come into play in the emergence of Roddy White and Michael Jenkins last season. First, it sometimes takes several years for receivers to really develop (see Dexter Jackson, Dwayne Jarrett and Robert Meachem elsewhere in the division). Second, and don't undersell this theory, I think the coaching last year was hugely important for White and Jenkins. Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and receivers coach Terry Robiskie deserve tons of credit for putting these receivers in positions to succeed. Finally, I think Matt Ryan made a big difference. He came in and was accurate right from the start and he developed a chemistry with White and Jenkins that should continue to get better.
Greg in Cleveland writes: I have to question your insistence that TD is looking at Johnson of GT. TD is HUGE into the tape, and the tape on Johnson isn't that pretty when one factors in a) plays taken off, b) lack of variety of pass rush moves, and c) his inability to hold POA on rushes to his side. Do you know something we don't?
Pat Yasinskas: Not really. I'm not saying the Falcons are definitely going to draft Georgia Tech defensive end Michael Johnson. I'm just saying there's a need at defensive end and he could be available at No. 24. I've also said repeatedly that linebacker or safety also could be possibilities in the first round. I'm familiar with the knocks on Johnson and they may scare Dimitroff and the Falcons away. But Johnson also has tremendous potential. His scouting report sounds a lot like Julius Peppers' did back when he was coming out in 2002 and Peppers has made it to four Pro Bowls. Again, the knocks on Johnson could be a concern. But, with pass rushers, you sometimes have to take a shot on potential.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Just a quick heads up that I'm scheduled to appear on ESPNews at 2:40 p.m. ET on Sunday to talk about the Atlanta Falcons and what they might do in the upcoming draft.
Also, mailbags on the Panthers and Falcons will be coming later this afternoon. If you still want to get a question in, click here.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Time for another edition of the mailbag. In this one, we once again tackle the much-discussed potential trades for Julius Peppers, Jay Cutler and, in this case, Jake Delhomme. We also look at why the Bucs and Patriots in London might not be as much of a given for prime-time television as you might think.
Richard in Baton Rouge writes: The Bucs are playing the Patriots in London. Given how much the NFL loves broadcasting the Patriots at the moment, right up there with the Cowboys, that game screams Primetime.
Pat Yasinskas: A lot of readers seem to be thinking the Bucs and Patriots is an automatic for prime time. Makes total sense if the game were being played in the United States. But there's one big problem here. Say you wanted to start this game at 8 p.m. ET. That's a 1 a.m. start (on Monday) in London. As much as the NFL loves to gear things toward the television audience, this game is especially geared toward the European audience. This game is treated like the Super Bowl over in London with day-long parties and such. Getting 80,000 people into Wembley Stadium at 1 a.m. isn't practical and doesn't make a whole lot of sense for the NFL and the European audience.
Mark in Houston writes: Hey Pat, In your "On the Clock" series, you have the Falcons taking Michael Johnson in the 1st round if he's available. I don't know. Johnson has the potential to be something special, but all he's done thus far to warrant the pick is rush the QB. He hasn't had great success stopping the run; he tends to "disappear"; and there are questions about his commitment to football. He doesn't seem to be a "gym rat" and unless I've heard wrong, isn't fully committed to the game. Also, with his great frame for the position, he would able to bulk up quite a bit without losing speed. But would he do that? Seems to me like he's a high risk-high reward kind of player, and I'm just not sure if we should take him with our 1st round pick. What do you think? Should we take a chance on this guy or try to get a "safer" pick?
Pat Yasinskas: There are no guarantees with any player and there are some questions about Michael Johnson. But I think the Falcons will take a look at him. They need a pass rusher to complement John Abraham and Johnson certainly has raw potential. I'm not making any definitive predictions on who the Falcons will draft at this point. At No. 24, there are too many things that can happen ahead of them and we're a month away from the draft. But I think Johnson is at least a consideration. I also think there's a chance the Falcons would be open to trading down a few picks to add a pick or two.
Rick in tampa writes: Hello Pat: Am sure you have had this question come your way many times already,Do the bucs really have a shot at cutler? Lions, and Jets seem to be front runners in his services but I have to assume thats the case but men it would be nice to upgrade so whats your take and is it possible ?
Pat Yasinskas: Yes, this question keeps coming. As I said last week, I think it's a long shot. I don't think the Bucs have enough ammunition to make a trade for Jay Cutler. Also, the Broncos are publicly doing their best to make it sound like they won't trade their quarterback.
Bluto in Blacksburg writes: Hey Pat. What are the chances of a Peppers for Cutler trade between Denver and Carolina? This would be similar to the Portis-Bailey trade a few years ago where both teams were unloading unhappy players. If Denver insists on getting a QB, how crazy is Peppers+Delhomme for Cutler and at least 1 good draft pick? I know Carolina loves Jake, but getting Cutler in is prime, w/o the necessary grooming of a rookie, would seem like a better option than Jake at this point in his career.
Pat Yasinskas: I'm also getting a lot of this one from readers. Sounds like a great potential trade for the Panthers. But try to look at it from Denver's point of view. How are you going to sell fans on an aging Jake Delhomme in place of Jay Cutler in his prime? And how are you going to afford to pay Julius Peppers? Again, the Broncos haven't even said Cutler's available for trade. If he is, I think the Broncos will be looking for draft picks, not established players. They've got a salary cap and a future of their franchise to worry about.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
In an attempt to stay ahead of the mailbag traffic, I've decided to do a Thursday afternoon edition. We won't do team-by-team mailbags today -- just a quick trip through the whole NFC South.
Chris in New Orleans writes: Pat, I appreciate the great coverage on the Saints recent transactions. My question is: Charles Grant and Will Smith, are they still facing a four game suspension from the league and do you feel this may effect the Saints draft picks and future free agengy this year? Thanks
Pat Yasinskas: Yes, it still is a possibility that Charles Grant and Will Smith could be suspended. That's up to the NFL and we, like the Saints, have to wait to see what's decided. But I think the Saints already have done some preparation already for this possibility. The recent signing of defensive end Paul Spicer, who also has the ability to play defensive tackle, gives them some solid, veteran depth. They already have Bobby McCray as their third defensive end. Not saying that will totally stop the Saints from getting a defensive end in the draft, but I don't think they're in a situation where they absolutely have to go out and get one. Spicer and McCray are good enough to get you through a few games as starters.
Mike in Eden NC writes: Hey Pat, Is there any possibility of sending Peppers to Denver for Cutler?? This would take care of our QB struggles and take all the Peppers stress out of the situation.
Pat Yasinskas: That's a popular question with Carolina fans. But I'll say, again, I don't see a trade of Julius Peppers for Jay Cutler, although I can see the logic behind the idea. But I don't think Marty Hurney and John Fox -- or the Broncos for that matter -- see the same thing we do. This situation is a lot more complicated than just swapping one disgruntled player for another. There's the matter of compensating Peppers, who probably is looking for a deal that will make him the best-paid defensive player in the league. There's also the possibility Cutler might want a new (in other words, big) contract if he lands with a new team. Not saying it's right or wrong, but Fox and Hurney have a lot of loyalty to Jake Delhomme. I just don't think this move fits their profile.
Ed in Cape Coral, FL writes: Pat - I am real worried about the Bucs defense, I've asked you about LB, CB and safety. Now what about DT? It was never more apparent how important Haye and Hovan were those last 4 games when they were both either out or playing injured. I loved Wilkersons play last year whenever he came in or on special teams, and I thought Sims did a great job when he was called upon. Neither did well on a fulltime basis in place of Haye or Hovan. So what will they do?
Pat Yasinskas: Agreed -- defensive tackle remains a major issue for the Bucs. Jovan Haye left through free agency and Chris Hovan's not getting any younger. Jimmy Wilkerson and Ryan Sims are backups. I'm quite sure the Bucs aren't done at this position. New defensive coordinator Jim Bates likes to have at least one big, run-stuffing tackle. I'm pretty sure you'll see that come in either free agency or the draft, perhaps even early in the draft.
Hesaidwhat in parts unknown writes: Hey Pat. Does the media attention Peppers has got latley help the draft picks panthers get for him?
Pat Yasinskas: Unique and original question. Like it and hadn't thought about it in those terms before. After pondering it a little bit, I think the reports and speculation of the New England Patriots perhaps wanting to trade a second-round pick to Carolina for Peppers could help his value. If other teams see that and have an interest in Peppers, they might think they can get him with a slightly-better deal, like maybe a first-round pick.
Nikolas in London ON writes: Big fan of your blog. Im a buccs fan and I seem to be one of the few that actually loved the house cleaning that Tampa did, i think it was an a good decision what about you?
Pat Yasinskas: I'm liking Tampa Bay's housecleaning more now that I see the rest of the plan unfolding with signings like linebacker Angelo Crowell and running back Derrick Ward and the trade for tight end Kellen Winslow. I still think the Derrick Brooks situation was not handled as well as it could have been. But, as far as letting guys like Joey Galloway and Warrick Dunn go, I think the Bucs were getting rid of some older players and that's understandable. We're still seeing the whole second half of that equation playing out.
H.E. in Chattanooga writes: Pat, I've really enjoyed your coverage of the NFC South. But being a Falcons fan, my only concern is with their defense. In early mock drafts, people have predicted the Falcons going after the Utah Safety Smith. Now they are predicting the Falcons going after the Georgia Tech DE Johnson. What are your predictions and what do you think of the aforementioned options? Thanks!
Pat Yasinskas: With the Falcons sitting at No. 24, it's hard to make an exact prediction right now. But I agree there are needs at safety and in the pass rush. I subscribe to the theory that you don't take a safety in the first round (unless it's somebody really special and you have a top 10 pick). I think the Falcons can wait on this need. I definitely could see them going for a defensive end, like Georgia Tech's Michael Johnson. They don't have much of a pass rush besides John Abraham and Johnson would be a popular pick in Atlanta. Also, don't rule out an outside linebacker, such as Southern California's Brian Cushing or Clay Matthews.