NFC South: Will Allen

Around the NFC South

March, 8, 2010
The Saints, who have been very quiet so far in free agency, have scheduled a visit for defensive end Leonard Little. This one’s a little curious because Little is 35 and, at best, might be a situational pass-rusher. If the Saints sign him, it’s likely to be a small contract and they’ll still be looking for more help at defensive end.

Last week, I told you about a very special gathering with legendary former Tampa Tribune sports editor Tom McEwen. Tom writes about the function here. Tom ends the column by thanking all of those who worked for him back in the day. I think I speak for all of us when saying, Tom, the pleasure was ours.

Former Tampa Bay safety Will Allen has signed with Pittsburgh. The Bucs didn’t have any real interest in keeping Allen, although they do have needs at safety. But they’ll likely address that in the draft or with a younger free agent.

Nothing official on the potential trade of Atlanta cornerback Chris Houston to Detroit yet, but the two sides reportedly are still talking.

Former New Orleans defensive end Charles Grant and current tight end Jeremy Shockey are suing former Saints long-snapper Kevin Houser over an investment deal gone bad.

Daniel Cox points out that general manager Thomas Dimitroff has a history of making one or two big moves in free agency a year. In 2008, it was Michael Turner. Last year, it was Mike Peterson (and a trade for Tony Gonzalez). I think Cox is spot on when he says Dunta Robinson is this year’s big move and the Falcons now will focus on mid-level free agents and the draft.

NFC South: Free-agency primer

March, 4, 2010
Atlanta Falcons

Potential unrestricted free agents: CB Brian Williams, WR Marty Booker, QB Chris Redman.

Potential restricted free agents: RB Jason Snelling, RB Jerious Norwood, P Michael Koenen, CB Brent Grimes, OL Quinn Ojinnaka, T Tyson Clabo, G Harvey Dahl.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: General manager Thomas Dimitroff repeatedly has used the phrase “fiscally responsible’’ when talking about the approach to free agency. In other words, the Falcons aren’t going to go on some wild spending spree. This organization prefers to build through the draft. But history has shown the Falcons aren’t afraid to make a strategic strike or two in free agency. They have a huge need at defensive end and that’s a tough spot to get guaranteed production from when you’ve got the No. 19 overall pick in the draft. The Falcons aren’t likely to target elite free-agent DE Julius Peppers, but you could see them make a move for another pass-rusher.

Carolina Panthers

Potential unrestricted free agents: DE Julius Peppers, WR Muhsin Muhammad, QB Josh McCown, QB A.J. Feeley.

Potential restricted free agents: LB Thomas Davis, QB Matt Moore, TE Jeff King, CB Richard Marshall, DT Louis Leonard, LB James Anderson, DT Tank Tyler, CB C.J. Wilson.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: Owner Jerry Richardson is very concerned about the uncertain labor situation and that may keep him from spending big money in free agency. The Panthers avoided a $20 million hit by not placing the franchise tag on Peppers, but that doesn’t mean all of that money is going to be used in free agency. The Panthers traditionally are a team that builds through the draft and they didn’t sign a single UFA last year. But look for at least a few smaller moves because coach John Fox has to win this year and needs to improve this roster, especially on the defensive line, at wide receiver and perhaps at quarterback.

New Orleans Saints

Potential unrestricted free agents: QB Mark Brunell, S Darren Sharper, TE Dan Campbell, TE Darnell Dinkins, DT Kendrick Clancy, LB Scott Fujita, S Pierson Prioleau, LS Jason Kyle.

Potential restricted free agents: G Jahri Evans, RB Mike Bell, RB Pierre Thomas, WR Lance Moore, TE David Thomas, T Jermon Bushrod, S Roman Harper, S Usama Young, DT Remi Ayodele, DT Anthony Hargrove, T Zach Strief, S Chris Reis, WR Courtney Roby, LB Marvin Mitchell.

Franchise player: None

What to expect: As a final-four team the Saints aren’t allowed to sign any unrestricted free agents unless they lose one of their own at a similar price tag. That’s likely to keep the Saints from being big players in free agency. But the good news is they don’t have a lot of dramatic needs. They will have to keep a protective eye on some of their restricted free agents, who may draw interest from other teams.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Potential unrestricted free agents: WR Antonio Bryant, DE Jimmy Wilkerson, S Will Allen, LB Angelo Crowell, S Jermaine Phillips.

Potential restricted free agents: RB Cadillac Williams, LB Barrett Ruud, T Donald Penn, WR Maurice Stovall, T Jeremy Trueblood.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: The Bucs haven’t spent a lot of money in free agency in recent years and they’ve been sending out signals this year won’t be much different. They’re focused on the 10 draft picks they hold. But the Bucs could pull a small surprise or two. They’ve got a restless fan base and more needs than those draft picks can handle. A couple of signings in free agency could energize the fan base and help the rebuilding process. The Bucs really need a No. 1 wide receiver and they’re not truly positioned to get that in the draft.

Smith wins award, Bucs make roster moves

November, 11, 2009
Posted by’s Pat Yasinskas

Several small notes on the Buccaneers on Wednesday morning.

First off, return man Clifton Smith has been named the NFC’s special teams player of the week. Smith had an 83-yard touchdown to spark Tampa Bay’s comeback against Green Bay. He finished with a 53.5-yard average on two kickoff returns and a 13.5-yard average on four punt returns. Smith also made three tackles on special teams.

In other news, the Bucs placed safety Will Allen and linebacker Rod Wilson on injured reserve. To fill their roster spots, the Bucs signed linebacker Matt McCoy and promoted cornerback Derrick Roberson from the practice squad. The Bucs also signed safety Emanuel Cook to the practice squad.

Bucs officially activate Jackson

October, 10, 2009

Posted by’s Pat Yasinskas

The Bucs announced this afternoon that they’ve activated safety Tanard Jackson to the 53-man roster. To make room for him, they released defensive end Maurice Evans.

Jackson was suspended for the first four games for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. The Bucs had an exemption for him and could have waited another week to activate Jackson.

But Tampa Bay’s struggling secondary needs its best defensive back right away. Jackson will join Sabby Piscitelli as the starting safeties and veteran Will Allen will return to a backup role when the Bucs play Philadelphia on Sunday.

Posted by’s Pat Yasinskas

Finally, a bit of good news for the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers and easily the first positive to happen to their secondary this season. Safety Tanard Jackson is expected to play Sunday against Philadelphia.

Jackson returned to practice Wednesday after being suspended for the first four games for a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. The secondary had struggled mightily in his absence with Sabby Piscitelli giving up big plays early on and Jermaine Phillips suffering a season-ending injury.

Jackson isn’t officially back on the 53-man roster yet and the Bucs have an exemption for a week. But they’re expected to activate Jackson some time before Sunday.

Jackson’s return means the Bucs will have their best defensive back on the field for the first time this year. He’ll jump into a starting role opposite Piscitelli and veteran Will Allen will return to a backup role.

Analyzing Tuesday's transactions

September, 22, 2009
Posted by’s Pat Yasinskas

We had a flurry of transactions in the NFC South on Tuesday, but I don’t think any of them are reasons to go buying tickets to Miami for the Super Bowl.

Every team except the Saints made some minor roster moves. Here’s a quick analysis of what happened:

Buccaneers. They placed safety Jermaine Phillips on the injured-reserve list and released safety Steve Cargile. Hmm, anybody think the Bucs will be adding two safeties in the next 12-16 hours? Might be a good landing spot for any safety on the streets because a starting job is within reach pretty quickly. The starters right now are Will Allen and Sabby Piscitelli and the Giants are coming to town with a group of emerging wide receivers. On the bright side, Tanard Jackson only has two games left on his suspension.

Panthers. Carolina signed defensive tackle Antwon Burton, mainly because he weighs 325 pounds. At the rate the Panthers are going, they’ll probably be signing Shane Burton before too long. I’m just kidding on that one (I think). Shane Burton was a backup on some very good Carolina defensive lines, back when Carolina had very good defensive lines. He’s got to be pushing 40 now, but he’s probably better than any defensive tackle the Panthers have right now. Back to Antwon Burton: He’s appeared in eight games since coming into the league as an undrafted free agent. The Panthers also placed Louis Leonard on the injured-reserve list, where he’ll join Maake Kemoeatu, who was supposed to be the starter heading into camp. Nick Hayden, the Week One starter by default, miss Week Two because of a toe injury. Not sure if he’ll be back this week, but the Panthers now have three healthy defensive tackles in Antwon Burton, Ra’Shon Harris and Damione Lewis. Does that trio scare anybody – besides Carolina fans? In other news, the Panthers waived safety Nate Salley from the injured-reserve list and released defensive tackle George Hypolite from the practice squad. We won’t analyze those moves because …well, basically, because they mean nothing.

Falcons. A day after elevating defensive tackle Vance Walker from the practice squad to take the roster spot of the injured Peria Jerry, the Falcons signed defensive tackle Jeremy Clark to the practice squad. This move might be a little more significant than it looks. Clark has spent some time on the practice squads of the Giants and Eagles, two teams with pretty good defenses. With sudden uncertainty at defensive tackle, Clark could move up to the regular roster if he shows some promise.

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Buccaneers signed a veteran safety Wednesday, but it's not the type of move that's going to solve all of their problems.

They brought in Steve Cargile, who's been bouncing around the league since 2004. Cargile has appeared in 15 career games with Denver and spent the 2006 preseason with the Bucs.

His signing comes a day after the Bucs revealed that starting safety Tanard Jackson will be suspended for the first four games. Cargile isn't an immediate favorite to take over Jackson's job, but he gives the Bucs someone with a bit of experience.

Jackson still ran with the first team through most of Wednesday afternoon's practice. The most obvious solution is to plug veteran Will Allen into the starting spot, but Allen is banged up right now. Allen should be ready for the regular season.

The Bucs still aren't ruling out the possibility of using linebacker Jermaine Phillips at safety, where he spent his career before moving this offseason. But that doesn't seem to be the main priority right now. The Bucs went through practice with Phillips getting most of the work with the first team at weakside linebacker, but did get a bit of work at safety.

Phillips' background is at strong safety, which is the same spot Sabby Piscitelli is in. But Phillips said he wouldn't have any trouble playing free safety if the Bucs asked.

"Safety is safety,'' Phillips said.

The Bucs also made a few other roster moves Wednesday. They released safety C.J. Byrd and waived receiver Joel Filani with an injury settlement. They also released cornerback Mike Hawkins, who hadn't even joined the team yet. Hawkins had been claimed off waivers from Dallas earlier Wednesday.

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

TAMPA, Fla. -- I'm heading out to One Buccaneer Place in just a bit to catch what is scheduled to be the last official practice of training camp for the Bucs.

Obviously, I'll be keeping a close eye on the safety situation now that Tanard Jackson has been suspended for the first four games of the regular season. Veteran Will Allen is one option to slide into Jackson's spot.

But I also think there's a decent chance the Bucs consider moving Jermaine Phillips back to safety. He's spent the whole offseason working on a move to weakside linebacker. But Phillips was a pretty solid safety before the move.

The Bucs don't have much other depth at safety, but they do have some at linebacker with Quincy Black, Adam Hayward and Angelo Crowell. From what I've seen and heard, the Bucs are happy with how Phillips has handled the move to linebacker.

But, with Jackson out for the first four games, Phillips still might be the best safety on the roster and pairing him with Sabby Piscitelli at safety and starting one of those other guys at weakside linebacker might be the best combination the Bucs can come up with.

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

Tuesday afternoon's news that Tampa Bay safety Tanard Jackson will be suspended for the first four games of the season leaves the Bucs in a quandary at safety.

They've got veteran Will Allen as their top backup option right now. But Allen's not any sort of long-term solution and he might not even be their best alternative to get through the first four games. The Bucs had moved former safety Jermaine Phillips to weak-side linebacker at the start of the offseason.

Moving Phillips back to safety and pairing him with Sabby Piscitelli could be a more attractive option for the Bucs. They have more depth at linebacker with Quincy Black, Adam Hayward and Angelo Crowell each capable of taking on a starting role.