NFC South: Trent Richardson

Around the NFC South

July, 9, 2012
7/09/12
9:51
AM ET
Let's take a look at some of the top headlines from around the NFC South.
  • After getting released by Seattle and sitting out all of last season, Lofa Tatupu said he’s excited about competing for the starting middle linebacker job in Atlanta. Tatupu could end up in that role. But he also could be just an insurance policy. The Falcons would like to see second-year pro Akeem Dent emerge as the starter after the departure of Curtis Lofton. They didn’t invest a lot up front in Tatupu, giving him a $600,000 signing bonus and a $750,000 base salary. But Tatupu can make the contract worth a lot more if he can get back to being anything like the player he was in Seattle. He’ll earn a $40,625 bonus for every game he’s on the active roster this season. He also has a playing-time incentive that could take his 2013 base salary from $1 million to $2.25 million.
  • Speaking of Atlanta linebackers, Matt Hansen reportedly suffered a knee injury that could keep him out for the season. Hansen came close to making the team as an undrafted free agent last year before he was released. He was brought back this year and was expected to compete for a spot as a backup outside linebacker and special-teams player.
  • At least one fantasy football guru has Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin as the top-rated rookie running back. Although Trent Richardson may have something to say about this, it makes sense. At the very least, Martin will share carries with LeGarrette Blount in an offense that’s likely to run a lot. At best, Martin will get the bulk of the carries behind what should be a good offensive line and he’s also expected to catch a fair amount of passes out of the backfield.
  • Although he was fired as general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bruce Allen, now with the Redskins, had some high praise for the Glazer family. Allen described the Glazers as an “extremely honest and loyal family’’ and also said they have a burning desire to win.
  • The Bucs obviously are trying to increase their ticket sales, but vice president of business administration Brian Ford said he’s been encouraged by season-ticket renewals. The Bucs have sold out only two home games that last two seasons, but there's some optimism that the coaching change and addition of some new players could help attendance climb.
  • The New Orleans Times-Picayune has punter Thomas Morstead at No. 18 on its list of the team’s top 25 players. Morstead did not make my list of the top 25 players in the NFC South. But we’ll unveil another member of the Saints at No. 10 a bit later Monday.

Live from One Buccaneer Place

April, 26, 2012
4/26/12
6:27
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- I just arrived at One Buccaneer Place, where I’ll be stationed for Thursday night’s draft.

I’m not sure about this, but it looked like LeGarrette Blount giving Trent Richardson a tour of the facility from a distance and a source just called from Charlotte and said Luke Kuechly and Jerry Richardson were having dinner together. Just kidding. Kuechly and (Trent) Richardson are in New York and we'll find out where they end up soon enough.

Anyway, we’ll start our Countdown Live chat at 7 p.m. ET.

Some other notes that will help you follow the draft. Check out Draft Tracker, which is our Insider pick-by-pick coverage. You can talk about your favorite team’s pick by going to the Team Talk page. And you can listen to ESPN Radio coverage by clicking here.
Mel Kiper Jr. has his latest mock draft out and it has some big shifts when it comes to the NFC South. Check out this Insider post Insider.

Although the trend recently had been indicating that LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne and Alabama running back Trent Richardson would be gone before No. 5, they’re not in Kiper’s latest scenario.

They both are on the board because Kiper has USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil going to Minnesota at No. 3, and Cleveland taking Justin Blackmon at No. 4.

A lot of people around the NFL will tell you that the value of running backs has declined because the league has turned more to passing. Conventional wisdom is that you can get running backs later in the draft and you should not take them in the top 10, unless they are a special talent.

Apparently, Kiper believes (or thinks the Bucs believe) Richardson truly is special. Kiper has Richardson going to the Bucs, and he passes on Claiborne. If they’re both there, I could see the Bucs going either way. They do have need at cornerback, and Claiborne is the best in the draft. But coach Greg Schiano has talked repeatedly about how he wants to have a strong running game, and Richardson could be the centerpiece of that.

At No. 9, Kiper has Carolina taking Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly. I’m on board with that. Carolina general manager Marty Hurney has gotten a little more daring in recent drafts and taken some chances. But I think Hurney will get back to his roots this year. In Kiper’s scenario, Kuechly probably is the best player on the board. He’s also a guy who had great production in college, can make an instant impact, and really comes with no questions.

Around the NFC South

April, 26, 2012
4/26/12
9:27
AM ET
Let's take a look at the top draft-day headlines from around the NFC South.

Tom Sorensen writes that the Panthers must take North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples, unless Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon still is available at No. 9. I agree Blackmon would be a great pickup if he somehow slides. But I can see the Panthers going with Coples. I also can see them going with Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, a defensive tackle or a cornerback.

Draft analyst Mike Mayock says the Panthers should stay clear of Coples. Mayock says that Coples is a boom-or-bust player that comes with risk.

The Panthers put Mississippi State offensive tackle Lamar Holmes through an individual workout Wednesday. Holmes is viewed as a late-round pick. He’s from just outside Charlotte, and the workout was held at his former high school.

Speaking of the Panthers and potential late-round picks, keep an eye on Mississippi State wide receiver Darius Reynolds. The Panthers called him this week to make sure they have his correct phone number.

There has been some speculation the Buccaneers could move up to No. 3 to assure they will get either Alabama running back Trent Richardson or LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne. But that’s easier said than done, because the Bucs don’t have a fourth-round pick at the moment. If they want to move up two spots to get Minnesota’s pick, they likely would have to give up their first- and third-round choices, and that might be too steep a price.

Martin Fennelly writes that the Bucs should stay at No. 5, or trade down and add an extra pick or two.

The Saints won’t be active players in Thursday’s portion of the draft. In fact, they won’t be active until late Friday night. The Saints don’t have a pick until the third round (No. 89 overall). They traded away their first-round pick last year in the deal to get Mark Ingram, and had to forfeit their second-round pick as part of their punishment for the bounty program.

Sounds like Atlanta second-year running back Jacquizz Rodgers could be earning an unexpected bonus. Rodgers wore No. 22 as a rookie. But cornerback Asante Samuel, acquired Tuesday in a trade, sounded pretty confident he can get Rodgers to give up the number.

Mocking with Mel Kiper Jr.

April, 25, 2012
4/25/12
5:17
PM ET
We ran through the NFC South portion of Todd McShay’s latest mock draft earlier. Now, let’s turn to ESPN’s other draft guru.

Check out this Insider post in which Mel Kiper Jr. unveils his latest mock draft Insider. Kiper differs significantly from McShay when it comes to the only two NFC South teams with first-round picks.

In Kiper’s draft, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne and Alabama running back Trent Richardson are gone before the Bucs pick at No. 5. As recently as a week ago, the consensus was at least one of those two players would be available for the Bucs. But the consensus seems to be changing and I’m sure the Bucs have been preparing themselves for all scenarios.

Kiper gave the USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil to the Bucs and I don’t think that’s at all out of the realm of possibility. Yeah, Tampa Bay could take Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly and fill a big need. Or the Bucs could take Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon to give quarterback Josh Freeman another play-maker to go with Vincent Jackson.

But Kalil makes some sense. He’s viewed as pretty much a can’t-miss prospect. The Bucs already have Donald Penn at left tackle, but right tackle Jeremy Trueblood is a bit of a question mark and he’s heading into the final year of his contract. Kalil could step in and play the left side immediately and Penn could switch to the right side. Or Penn could stay on the left side for now and let Kalil begin his career on the right side.

At No. 9, Kiper, who had been giving the Panthers a steady diet of defensive tackles in the past, made a significant change. He has the Panthers taking Kuechly. Makes total sense. Kuechly might be the best player on the board at that point and the Panthers have linebackers Thomas Davis and Jon Beason returning from major injuries.

But I also could see Carolina going with South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore or North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples if Kiper’s first eight picks come true.
Todd McShay has his latest mock draft out and it includes some major changes from what he’s had in the past for the NFC South.

This draft goes seven rounds deep and McShay has help from Steve Meunch and Kevin Weidl. But we’ll just focus on the first round here and that means we’re talking about the Bucs and Panthers, the only two division teams with first-round picks.

It long has been thought that Tampa Bay’s choice at No. 5 would come down to LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne and Alabama running back Trent Richardson. But McShay is buying into growing speculation that Minnesota is going to throw off the direction many saw this draft going. McShay now has the Vikings taking Claiborne at No. 3. He follows that up by giving Richardson to Cleveland at No. 4.

Then he goes in a direction that many suddenly seem to be headed. He has Tampa Bay taking Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly at No. 5. I don’t have a big problem with that scenario, assuming new coach Greg Schiano’s defense is ready to put increased emphasis on the middle linebacker position. Back in the Cover 2 days, middle linebacker wasn’t all that important and the Bucs relied on outside linebacker Derrick Brooks to make the big plays.

If the Bucs want a strong presence and are willing to make a significant investment on middle linebacker, then go with Kuechly. He’s viewed as a can’t-miss prospect with no real questions on or off the field. (That in itself would be a departure from the approach Tampa Bay took with some picks in the past.)

But, I also see some other scenarios for the Bucs if Claiborne and Richardson are gone. They probably could trade down a few picks and still get Kuechly and they also would add a pick or two.

Even if the Bucs stay put, I’m not certain Kuechly really is the guy they would take. They at least would have to consider Southern California offensive tackle Matt Kalil or Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon. Neither plays a position where the Bucs have a huge need, but they might be hard to pass up. Kalil is viewed as the kind of guy who can be an elite left tackle for a decade.

The Bucs are pretty well set on the offensive line. The interior is very strong and left tackle Donald Penn is above average. Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood is a bit of a question mark. The Bucs could take Kalil and start him off on the right side and eventually have him switch spots with Penn. Or the Bucs could take Kalil and switch Penn, who has a history of getting off to fast starts and then not playing as well down the stretch, to the right side. That could give them one of the league’s best offensive lines and it’s become clear one of Schiano’s priorities is to structure this team to help quarterback Josh Freeman.

Speaking of helping Freeman, Blackmon also could do that. I know the Bucs just signed Vincent Jackson and they have a bunch of young guys with potential. But Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn haven’t really shown they are big-time players. The Bucs already have given Freeman one big playmaker in Jackson. They could give him two if they take Blackmon.

McShay also departs from previous conventional wisdom by selecting South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore for Carolina at No. 9. There are rumblings that Gilmore is a player on the rise. He’s also a local kid. He grew up just over the South Carolina border in what qualifies as a suburb of Charlotte. Cornerback is certainly a need and owner Jerry Richardson likes to bring in players from the Carolinas. I can see this one happening. But there’s another local guy who could be in the mix. That’s North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples. General manager Marty Hurney and coach Ron Rivera drove up to Chapel Hill for a meeting with Coples on Monday and I don’t think they would have made that trip if they weren’t seriously considering him.

Around the NFC South

April, 25, 2012
4/25/12
9:45
AM ET
Let's take a look at the top Wednesday morning headlines from around the NFC South.

— The Atlanta Falcons reportedly are on the verge of making a trade with Philadelphia for cornerback Asante Samuel. Unless there’s a snag, it will be completed before the start of the draft Thursday. This would give the Falcons three starting-caliber cornerbacks, with Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes already in place, but new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has said he plans to play three cornerbacks much of the time. It’s pretty much a given that Samuel will have to restructure his contract if he does join the Falcons.

— Here’s a column that suggests the Buccaneers could take Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly at No. 5, if Alabama running back Trent Richardson and LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne are gone. Kuechly is easily the best linebacker in the draft, has no flaws on or off the field and the Bucs certainly need help at linebacker. But I’m not sure we would see this scenario play out unless new coach Greg Schiano places a higher premium on the middle-linebacker position than the previous coaching staff did. General manager Mark Dominik refused to pay Barrett Ruud big money and replaced him with third-round draft pick Mason Foster last year. If Schiano is intent on getting a top-notch middle linebacker, then Kuechly makes lots of sense. If the Bucs still don’t view middle linebacker as being all that crucial a position, then I think they’d consider USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil and Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon at No. 5. One other thing to keep in mind about Kuechly -- he spent most of his offseason working out at IMG Academies in nearby Bradenton. Several of the Bucs were down there working out and Kuechly made some new friends. They might be in Schiano’s ear about Kuechly.

— Carolina receiver Steve Smith said he was told by one of the Saints last season that he would have been fined if he hadn’t gone after Smith’s ankles out of bounds. That doesn’t quite fit the parameters of the bounty program, but it doesn’t look good. And who thinks it’s a good idea to give Smith anything, real or perceived, that might motivate him? Smith thrives on that kind of stuff.

— Without a pick until the third round, the Saints will need to pull of some magic in the middle and late rounds of the draft. They’ve done it before. They previously have found gems like receiver Marques Colston and guard Jahri Evans later in the draft.

— Addressing the bounty program, interim New Orleans coach Joe Vitt said the Saints crossed the line with words in meetings, but not with their on-field deeds.

Mock: Claiborne to Bucs at No. 5

April, 23, 2012
4/23/12
1:14
PM ET
With the No. 5 pick in the Blogger Mock Draft Live, I just selected LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Lots of people are assuming this will come down to a choice between Claiborne and Alabama running back Trent Richardson. In this draft, it didn’t shake out that way. AFC North colleague Jamison Hensley helped make the decision for me by taking Richardson for Cleveland at No. 4.

I immediately pounced on Claiborne because this pick makes sense on many levels. He’s the best cornerback in this draft. Tampa Bay currently has Aqib Talib, Eric Wright, Ronde Barber and a few other role players at cornerback. But Barber could be moving to safety this season. Even if he doesn’t, this might be his last season before retirement. Talib has an uncertain future with an assault trial in Texas coming up in June. He could face prison time or a suspension by the NFL. Even if Talib plays this season, he’s heading into the last season of his contract. It’s time for the Bucs to find a long-term, top-notch starter and Claiborne fits the profile.

We’ll see if the Bucs agree Thursday night, assuming Richardson isn’t available when they really are on the clock. I also think it’s at least possible we could all be wrong in thinking the Bucs are focused only on Claiborne and Richardson. If available, I think USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil, Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon and Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly also could be in the mix.

Ready for Monday's mock draft

April, 22, 2012
4/22/12
12:33
PM ET
Just wanted to give you another reminder that the Blogger Mock Draft Live will be held Monday.

We’ll start at 1 p.m. ET. All eight division teams will be making picks for the teams that they cover. Since the Saints and Falcons don’t have first-round picks and our mock covers only the first round, I’ll be making picks only for the Buccaneers and Panthers.

I have scenarios in place for both teams, but some things obviously will depend on what happens in front of those picks. There’s a wide-spread assumption that the Bucs’ choice will be as simple as deciding between LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne and Alabama running back Trent Richardson. But what if one or both of them are gone by the time Tampa Bay picks? What if USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil suddenly is available at No. 5? That’s a scenario I’m prepared for. I would give serious consideration to Kalil because adding a top-notch tackle could give Tampa Bay one of the league’s best offensive lines.

Also, it’s entirely possible that all the assumptions about this being simply a choice between Claiborne and Richardson could be wrong. Yeah, that’s the way most draft gurus, media members and fans are seeing it. But we don’t know exactly what the Bucs are thinking. I suspect there’s at least a possibility Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon and Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly are considerations at No. 5.

I’ve got a plan in place for Carolina, too. I’ve got Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and Kuechly as my top two targets. But I have backup plans in place that could lead me to pick another defensive tackle, North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples, a cornerback, offensive tackle or a receiver. Again, what I do will depend largely on what happens with the picks in front of me.

Join us Monday and you’ll be able to see how everything unfolds. This is an interactive event and you’ll be able to chat with the bloggers and with other readers throughout the draft. You can also track this live via Twitter (#ESPNbloggermock).
The ESPN.com Blog Network will be doing something a bit different this year. We’re going to hold our Blogger Mock Draft Live on Monday, starting at 1 p.m.

Each of the eight bloggers will make the picks for the teams in their division. We’re only doing the first round, so I’ll be in a unique situation because the Buccaneers and Panthers are the only division teams with first-round picks.

At No. 5, I’ve got a couple of guys I’m considering for the Bucs. Heck, I’ll share them with you right now because I think everyone is looking at these two guys for the Bucs -- LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne and Alabama running back Trent Richardson. But I’ve got a hunch that decision could be made by the guys in front of me, mainly by Kevin Seifert who will be picking for the Vikings at No. 3 and Jamison Hensley who will make Cleveland’s pick at No. 4. I’ve also got a backup plan in case somehow Richardson and Claiborne are off the board at No. 5, but I’ll save that for Monday -- if needed.

I’m trying to keep all my options open for Carolina’s pick at No. 9. That’s mainly because what I end up doing will depend on what happens with the eight picks in front of me. But I will tell you I see scenarios where I could go with a defensive tackle, defensive end, linebacker, receiver or offensive tackle.

The best thing about this draft is that it will be interactive. You’ll be able to chat with all of us before and after we make our picks. You also will be able to follow the Twitter feed (#ESPNbloggermock).

Around the NFC South

April, 19, 2012
4/19/12
9:42
AM ET
Time for a morning look at the headlines from around the division.
  • Tampa Bay running back LeGarrette Blount previously was quoted as saying he didn’t want the Bucs to draft Trent Richardson. But Blount said Wednesday he would welcome the Alabama running back if the Buccaneers draft him.
  • You might want to check out this video of Atlanta running back Michael Turner, who thought he was doing some modeling for a men’s fashion magazine. Instead, the photo shoot was all a joke, set up by Turner’s friend, Pittsburgh linebacker Lamar Woodley.
  • Troy offensive lineman James Brown could be a target for the Saints in the middle rounds. The Saints have a good history when taking offensive linemen from smaller schools in the middle rounds. They got guard Jahri Evans and tackle Jermon Bushrod in the fourth round.
  • Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who appears to be a candidate to go to Carolina with the No. 9 overall pick, could be the earliest Mississippi State player drafted since safety Walt Harris went No. 13 to Chicago in 1996.
  • The Bucs are experimenting by using veteran cornerback Ronde Barber at safety in their minicamp that ends Thursday. Coach Greg Schiano said he’s been impressed with what he’s seen so far. Schiano said he’s not sure if Barber will stay at the position. Although Barber doesn’t have traditional safety size, Schiano said he thinks the veteran is big enough to make an impact as a safety.
  • Former New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has been in touch with league officials to make sure he does everything possible to have a chance to be reinstated after this season. Williams, who left after last season to join the Rams, was suspended indefinitely for his role in the Saints’ bounty program.

Around the NFC South

April, 17, 2012
4/17/12
11:14
AM ET
Let's take a look at some of the top headlines from around the division.

The Falcons are without a first-round draft pick. That means you can expect plenty of criticism of last year’s trade to move up and get receiver Julio Jones between now and the draft. It’s understandable, as the Falcons are sitting there with needs on the offensive and defensive lines, and needs for depth in other areas. But I can’t say the trade to get Jones was a mistake. He showed plenty of promise in his rookie season, and could end up being one of the league’s top receivers. No doubt the cost was high, but it’s too early in Jones’ career to say the Falcons gave up too much to get him.

Carolina quarterback Cam Newton has said he expects major improvement over a debut season in which he won Offensive Rookie of the Year. Head over to SportsNation to vote on how much you think Newton will improve.

Jordan Gross’ high school in Idaho will get some new weight-room equipment, courtesy of the Carolina offensive tackle.

Here’s a list of five first-round draft prospects for the Panthers. I’d add Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and Boston college linebacker Luke Kuechly to that list. I’d also scratch Stanford guard David DeCastro from that list. He’s a great prospect, but I can’t see the Panthers using a top-10 pick on a guard.

There’s been wide-spread speculation that middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma will face a suspension when the NFL hands out player punishments for the Saints’ bounty program. Although the league has said anywhere from 22 to 27 players were involved in a three-season span, there hasn’t been much speculation about which other players could face suspensions. Until now. Safety Roman Harper and defensive end Will Smith are mentioned as possible candidates in this report.

Jeff Schultz takes New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees to task for not acknowledging the existence of a bounty program.

After going through the first day of the offseason program, New Orleans cornerback Jabari Greer talked about the strength of the Saints’ locker room, and how that should help the team with the adversity it faces in the aftermath of the bounty program. He's got a point. Although it was clear there was some friction between coach Sean Payton and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, the chemistry among the New Orleans players has always been a big positive in recent years.

The Saints have re-signed special-teams player/receiver Courtney Roby. They also released linebacker Jeremiha Hunter.

Gary Shelton runs through the argument that is consuming Tampa Bay fans -- should the Bucs take LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne or Alabama running back Trent Richardson with the No. 5 overall pick? It’s a tough call, and I don’t think the Bucs would be making a huge mistake by going either way. I lean slightly toward Claiborne, because the trending wisdom in the NFL is that you don’t draft a running back early in the first round. Then again, the way coach Greg Schiano has been talking, his offensive system might make running back a more important position than it is for most other teams.

Around the NFC South

April, 13, 2012
4/13/12
10:15
AM ET
Let’s take a look at some notes and headlines from around the NFC South.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have kept alive their streak of not giving a single signing bonus in this free-agency period. According to contract details obtained by ESPN.com, defensive tackle Amobi Okoye signed a one-year deal and is scheduled to earn $1.8 million ($700,000 of it guaranteed) in base salary. Okoye also can pick up an extra $200,000 for taking part in the majority of the team’s offseason workouts. Okoye didn’t receive a signing bonus. Neither did free agents Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks and Eric Wright. Neither did cornerback Ronde Barber when he re-signed with the team. This is a pretty unique approach by the Bucs, and it doesn’t seem to have prevented them from landing free agents. While other teams are offering big signing bonuses to spread out pro-rated salary cap hits over the life of the contract, the Bucs are stepping up and putting big base salaries in the first year or two of their deals.

In this radio interview, New Orleans safety Malcolm Jenkins says he has confidence the rest of the coaching staff can handle the team in the absence of coach Sean Payton. But Jenkins also said it’s up to the players to step up and take on more of a leadership role. Get ready to hear a lot more along these same lines. It’s already becoming clear the Saints are planning to use their adversity as motivation.

Bradley Handwerger writes that the Saints sent a very clear message that this is still Payton’s team by announcing assistant head coach Joe Vitt will take over as interim head coach. Vitt has been Payton’s top assistant since they arrived together in New Orleans. Vitt isn’t likely to change much of anything, and Payton’s system will remain intact while he serves a season-long suspension.

The Buccaneers had USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil in for a visit this month. Don’t get too excited, because the Bucs simply are doing their homework. Most speculation has had Kalil going before the Bucs pick at No. 5. But there’s been some growing speculation Kalil could slip a bit. If LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne and Alabama running back Trent Richardson go before Tampa Bay picks, it’s at least possible the Bucs could take Kalil. They appear to be set with Donald Penn at left tackle. But right tackle Jeremy Trueblood is heading into the last year of his contract, and is the biggest question mark on the offensive line. The Bucs have been investing a lot in their offensive line. I wouldn’t totally rule out the possibility of them taking Kalil if he falls to them.

Check out this inspirational story to find out what former Carolina defensive back Reggie Howard is doing in his post-football life.

The Panthers officially announced the re-signing of linebacker Jordan Senn. He played well last season after the Panthers had a bunch of injuries at linebacker, and coach Ron Rivera said Senn would have a shot at a starting job this season. But the Panthers didn’t pay Senn anything close to starter money. According to contract details obtained by ESPN.com, Senn will make $700,000 in base salary on his one-year deal. The Panthers again took advantage of the veteran minimum salary benefit. That means Senn’s base salary will count only $540,000 against the salary cap. He also got a $65,000 signing bonus, and his total cap figure will be $605,000.

Former Tampa Bay defensive tackle Warren Sapp spoke out for the first time since news of his bankruptcy filing broke. Sapp said a bad investment in the construction business started his financial troubles. He said he didn’t want to file bankruptcy, but his only other option was going to jail. Sapp said he doesn’t know if he’ll remain with NFL Network, but pledged to work his way through his problems.

Who's in New York for the draft?

April, 13, 2012
4/13/12
7:09
AM ET
It’s looking like there’s a good chance the players the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers choose in the first round of this year’s NFL draft will be in New York that night.

The league has announced that an all-time high 26 players will be at Radio City Music Hall for the first round. I’m looking at the list and the three realistic candidates for the Bucs at No. 5 -- LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, Alabama running back Trent Richardson and Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon -- are scheduled to be in New York.

The Panthers have the No. 9 overall pick in the draft. I’m looking at the list and seeing multiple players that have a chance to end up in Carolina, including Blackmon, LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers, North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples, Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, Georgia offensive tackle Cordy Glenn, Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe and Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still. I also think Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly and Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff are also possibilities for the Panthers, but they’re not scheduled to be in New York.

Aside from the players mentioned above, here’s the rest of the list of guys scheduled to be in New York for the draft:
  • Matt Kalil, offensive tackle, Southern California

Mocking with McShay

April, 11, 2012
4/11/12
3:06
PM ET
Check out this Insider piece Insider with Todd McShay’s latest mock draft.

This one is a bit different than usual because McShay provides a few different scenarios for each team in the first round.

At No. 5, McShay has the Tampa Bay Buccaneers taking LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne. But he also says Alabama running back Trent Richardson is a possibility, if he’s available. In the current mock, Richardson isn’t an option for the Bucs because he’s going No. 4 to Cleveland. If Richardson’s available, would the Bucs take him? I don’t know exactly what general manager Mark Dominik and coach Greg Schiano are thinking and they’re not going to reveal their plans in advance.

If Claiborne and Richardson are both available, this is a tough call. The common logic in the NFL these days is that you don’t take a running back in the upper half of the first round, unless he truly is special. McShay, and others, are saying Richardson is the best running back to enter the draft since Adrian Peterson. If the Bucs agree, they may take a shot at Richardson. But I think Claiborne’s the safe choice. He’s the top cornerback in this draft and the Bucs are hoping they aren’t in position to draft top corners in the coming years. They can find a quality running back later in the draft. I’m also wondering if Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon could be a consideration here. I know the Bucs just paid big money to free agent Vincent Jackson, but it seems like they want to surround quarterback Josh Freeman with as much talent as possible.

At No. 9, McShay has the Carolina Panthers taking Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. Makes sense and I can see this happening. But I also can see the Panthers going in an entirely different direction if they see a cornerback, linebacker, wide receiver or offensive tackle that they like better.

This is where we provide our reminder that the Falcons (Julio Jones) and the Saints (Mark Ingram) already have made use of their first-round picks in this draft.

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