NFC South: Tyron Smith

When it comes to left tackles, the NFC South is taking things lightly.

It’s likely three of the division’s four teams will start some of the lightest left tackles in the league. The New Orleans Saints are still determining who will start at left tackle, but the winner of that competition will join Carolina’s Jordan Gross (305 pounds) and Atlanta’s Sam Baker (301 pounds) among the league’s lightest left tackles.

The Saints list Charles Brown at 297 pounds, rookie Terron Armstead at 306 and Jason Smith at 310. Outside of Gross and Baker, the league's only other projected starters at left tackle that are listed at less than 310 pounds are Indianapolis’ Anthony Castonzo (305), Dallas’ Tyron Smith (308) and Minnesota’s Matt Kalil (308).

It’s not a bad thing the NFC South is going light at left tackle. The Saints, Panthers and Falcons all throw the ball a lot and they want left tackles that are quick enough to match up with speed rushers.

The one NFC South exception to this trend is Tampa Bay, where Donald Penn is listed at 340 pounds. Penn’s weight sometimes has escalated in the past, but a team official recently told me that Penn showed up for the offseason program in the best shape of his career.

What first-round picks can expect

April, 27, 2012
One of the best things about the NFL’s collective-bargaining agreement that went into place last year is that rookie salaries are pretty much slotted.

There’s some room for negotiation, but not much. You can pretty much look at the contracts last year’s first-round picks got and project what this year’s first-round picks will get. Just add a few dollars here and there because the salary-cap increased only slightly and that trend is expected to continue the next few years.

First-round picks are slightly different than players in other rounds. They can sign five-year deals, while players taken later can’t sign anything longer than a four-year deal.

So let’s take a look at what Tampa Bay’s Mark Barron and Doug Martin and Carolina’s Luke Kuechly can expect to earn.

Barron, a safety from Alabama, was taken with the seventh pick by Tampa Bay. Defensive end Aldon Smith went No. 7 to San Francisco last year. Smith got a four-year deal that averages $3.596 million per season. He also got an $8.97 million signing bonus.

Kuechly, a linebacker from Boston College, went at No. 9 to Carolina. Offensive tackle Tyron Smith went in that same spot to Dallas last year. Smith’s four-year contract averages $3.124 million a season and he got a $7.588 signing bonus.

The Bucs traded back into the first round to take Martin, a running back from Boise State, at No. 31. Defensive end Cameron Heyward went in that same spot to Pittsburgh last year. Heyward’s contract averages $1.677 million a season and he got a $3.376 million signing bonus.

Look who is coming to the draft

April, 25, 2011
Although there had been some rumblings early on about players not attending the draft due to the labor situation, the NFL announced Monday that 25 expected draft picks are planning to be at Radio City Music Hall. The league said that’s an all-time record.

Although players won’t be able to work out with their teams or sign contracts until the lockout is over, the league has said it’s all right for top picks to go to their new cities to meet with the media the day or two after the draft. The Panthers have the first overall pick. The Buccaneers are at No. 20, the Saints at No. 24 and the Falcons at No. 27, so it’s at least possible all four of the first-round picks for the NFC South could be in New York on Thursday night.

Here’s the list (in alphabetical order) of the players the league said will be at the draft:

Around the NFC South

April, 15, 2011
Time for a quick stroll through the NFC South headlines.

Georgia linebacker Akeem Dent worked out for the Falcons on Thursday. He previously made a visit to the Buccaneers.

Southern California offensive tackle Tyron Smith visited with the Buccaneers on Thursday.

Tampa Tribune columnist Joe Henderson is critical of the Bucs traveling to London again this season. He writes that he hopes this isn’t a response to last year’s sea of empty seats at Raymond James Stadium. That’s exactly what it is. The Bucs have said season-ticket sales have been going strong this offseason. But when your season ticket base was probably somewhere in the low 30,000s last season, that leaves a lot of tickets to be sold. And they’d end up being sold to Chicago fans, who would take over the stadium and cause an embarrassing scene like the Pittsburgh game last year.

Pro Football Weekly has a look at the top 21 Wonderlic test scores among draft prospects. Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy tops the list.

D. Orlando Ledbetter has his latest mock draft and he has the Falcons taking Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph at No. 27. Makes some sense. Although most experts see the Falcons taking a defensive end or wide receiver, I’m not seeing one there I really like as Ledbetter’s draft shakes out. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Falcons take Rudolph as the heir apparent to Tony Gonzalez.

Draft experts say it’s unlikely the Carolina Panthers will trade the No. 1 pick in the draft. That’s largely because no other team seems willing to trade up.