NFC South: Brodrick Bunkley

Saints Camp Report: Day 15

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
8:25
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A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New Orleans Saints training camp:
  • The defense dominated a set of live goal-line drills Wednesday -- easily one of the most physical and spirited sessions to date throughout all of training camp. The first-string offense scored only twice on six attempts inside the 3-yard line (or maybe only once; see below). And the second-string offense got shut out on all four of its attempts, including a fumbled snap between center Tim Lelito and quarterback Luke McCown. The two running backs who scored were Khiry Robinson and Travaris Cadet -- both times around the left side. It's hard to pinpoint too many individual standouts in that type of drill without the benefit of replay. But among those who came up big at least twice were defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley with the first-string defense, end Glenn Foster and cornerback Corey White with the second-string defense and left tackle Terron Armstead with the first-string offense.
  • The players themselves wish they had a replay challenge at their disposal since no one could agree whether Cadet scored. Players debated on the field, in postgame interviews and even on Twitter after WWLTV.com's Lyons Yellin posted a video of the play from an inconclusive angle. What was conclusive on that video is that Armstead laid a great block on linebacker Kyle Knox -- who then recovered to make an outstanding hit on Cadet just as he approached the goal line. For what it's worth, I was watching from a direct sideline angle and thought the ball crossed the plane.
  • Nobody needed replay to see rookie receiver Brandin Cooks put on another dazzling display later in team drills. Cooks reeled in a touchdown pass of more than 50 yards from McCown by leaping up and outdueling safety Pierre Warren for the ball. He later ran free behind the third-string defense to catch another deep ball from QB Logan Kilgore. As I've said many times, we really aren't overhyping Cooks. He simply keeps makes the biggest highlights on an almost-daily basis. I didn't think he'd be in a position to catch the deep ball against Warren, but sure enough, he rose to the challenge.
  • The secondary had a few highlights of its own in team drills. Safety Rafael Bush intercepted quarterback Ryan Griffin after linebacker Kevin Reddick popped the ball up (Reddick should've caught it himself). Cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and Stanley Jean-Baptiste each had nice pass break-ups in the end zone during a red-zone drill.
  • Kicker Derek Dimke had a rough day, missing two of his three field-goal attempts. Shayne Graham was a little better, going 3-of-4, including one from 50-plus. But Graham did doink one off the right upright. I still say Graham has the edge if he can show stability throughout the rest of the preseason. The Saints just need to have faith that he can be a solid 80-percent kicker. But Graham hasn't locked down the job yet, and he's competing with both Dimke and kickers who will get cut around the league.
  • The Saints are now done with training camp at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. They won't practice Thursday as they fly home to New Orleans before Friday's preseason game against the Tennessee Titans. Then they'll remain home for the rest of camp.

Saints Camp Report: Day 13

August, 11, 2014
Aug 11
5:35
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A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New Orleans Saints training camp:
  • Are people tired of hearing about Brandin Cooks' daily exploits yet? I honestly don't think that we in the media are over-hyping the Saints' rookie receiver. He simply makes one or two of the biggest plays on the practice field every day. As quarterback Luke McCown said Monday, "He's got next level speed ... and quickness. We find him in positions where he's just separating from guys regularly." That was absolutely the case again Monday during an otherwise-sloppy practice in the rain. As Cooks said, he's from Corvallis, Oregon, so he's used to this weather. Cooks had two breakaway plays for big gains on short passes -- once cruising about 75 yards for a touchdown on a screen pass. Cornerback Keenan Lewis valiantly gave chase the whole way but didn't really have a chance. "He's a special player," McCown said. "I think that's easily recognized for any amount of time you spend watching him. He's a smart, heady player that you only have to teach a certain route or step or technique once, and he's got it down, and he begins to operate like a veteran. So the sky's the limit for that kid."
  • Two other rookies who haven't made an overwhelming amount of highlights during camp had arguably their biggest moments to date Monday -- safety Vinnie Sunseri and linebacker Khairi Fortt. Sunseri made a great diving interception during full-team drills (after Fortt probably would have had a sack on the same play if they were live tackling). Sunseri also broke up a deep pass intended for tight end Josh Hill. Fortt also had another would-be sack.
  • While we're on the subject of guys operating in the shadows, I'll give a little love to defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley and linebacker Parys Haralson. Bunkley had a great run stuff early in practice to add to his sack from the other night in the preseason game. Although Bunkley hasn't made quite the impact the Saints were hoping for when they signed him in 2012, he was probably playing his best football yet in New Orleans during the second half of last season. Haralson, meanwhile, has stormed inside for would-be sacks on each of the past two days of practice in full-team drills.
  • Monday's practice made me second-guess my decision to add undrafted rookie tight end Nic Jacobs to my projected 53-man roster in place of receiver Joe Morgan. Jacobs had a rough practice, dropping one pass and having a ball stripped away from him by safety Pierre Warren after a catch. But then again, it's the 6-foot-5, 269-pounder's prowess as a blocker and special teams asset that made me put him on the 53-man roster in the first place. … Meanwhile, Morgan had two great catches in practice Monday -- especially impressive on a rainy day. As I said Monday morning, I'm not ruling Morgan out of the battle against Nick Toon and Robert Meachem for the fourth or fifth receiver jobs by any stretch. I just don't think the Saints will keep all three of those veteran receivers, so I decided to omit Morgan.
  • The Saints could get a chance at a do-over in the rain Tuesday. There's more rain in the forecast for their scheduled 8:50 a.m. ET practice. They also have a walk-through scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
The New Orleans Saints have more wiggle room than expected under the salary cap.

Bailey
Bunkley
Defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley agreed to a pay cut of $2.85 million. And newly-signed cornerback Champ Bailey’s first-year cap cost is only $1.5 million in an incentive-laden two-year contract.

Those two deals were officially processed on Wednesday, leaving the Saints with nearly $4 million in cap space. Their new deal for safety Rafael Bush hasn’t been processed yet, though that shouldn't affect New Orleans’ cap figure by more than $1 million or so.

Bunkley’s pay cut makes a lot of sense for two reasons.

He was originally slated to make $4.5 million in salary and bonuses this year – a lofty price tag considering he has been a part-time player for the Saints the past two years. Last year he finished with only 13 tackles, in part because of a calf injury that sidelined him for four games.

However, it also made sense that the Saints didn’t just cut Bunkley outright, since they still believe the 30-year-old can be an asset as a powerful run-stuffer. And he finished last season strong, playing some of his best football in his two-year stint in New Orleans.

Bunkley will make a total of $1.65 million this year, including a $300,000 roster bonus due Thursday. The final two years of his five-year contract were not affected, though they will likely have to be addressed again in the future.

Saints coach Sean Payton said situations like Bunkley’s play out every year in the NFL.

“You go through the numbers, you try to look closely at your roster. There’s some things that go into that,” Payton said. “He’s someone that I think has really kept in good shape. He had the injury earlier in the year. We saw really good signs from him in training camp. He knows the position. We’re excited he re-signed.”

Bailey, meanwhile, won’t cost the Saints much unless he performs for them – which is obviously a win-win proposition for the team.

Bailey’s two-year deal is worth between $3.75 million and $6.75 million, based on various bonuses and incentives. But only the $500,000 signing bonus is guaranteed.

Bailey is due a base salary of $1 million this year, plus another $250,000 roster bonus if he is active for at least six games. In 2015, he is due $2 million in salary and roster bonuses.

There is a total of $3 million more in incentives and escalator clauses based on playing time, interceptions and Pro Bowls. The exact thresholds are not known.
A look at the New Orleans Saints' projected defensive depth chart as it stands today:

DE1 –- Cameron Jordan, Tyrunn Walker

DE2 –- Akiem Hicks, Glenn Foster

NT –- Brodrick Bunkley, John Jenkins

OLB1 –- Junior Galette, Keyunta Dawson, Kyle Knox

OLB2 –- Parys Haralson, Victor Butler, Rufus Johnson

SILB –- Curtis Lofton, Ramon Humber

WILB –- David Hawthorne, Kevin Reddick

CB1 –- Keenan Lewis, Rod Sweeting, A.J. Davis, Trevin Wade

CB2 –- Corey White, Patrick Robinson, Terrence Frederick, Derrius Brooks

SS –- Kenny Vaccaro, Rafael Bush

FS –- Jairus Byrd

Thoughts: There aren't too many glaring holes here. I keep ranking cornerback as the Saints' top defensive need because they could use a more proven starter opposite Keenan Lewis. But they obviously have plenty of depth at the position.

Conversely, the Saints don't have much depth at safety. But if they sign a veteran corner such as Champ Bailey, they could use him as a pseudo-safety in nickel and dime packages. They could potentially do the same thing with White, who played safety in college.

The one position I really think the Saints need to address at some point in the draft is linebacker. They could use young backups who can play special teams right away and eventually push to replace veterans such as Hawthorne and Haralson.

And as coach Sean Payton said last week, teams are always on the lookout for more pass-rushing help -- though they should be improved in that area with Victor Butler returning from injury and Rufus Johnson having another year to develop.
The New Orleans Saints restructured cornerback Keenan Lewis' contract to save some salary-cap space. And they are $3.09 million under the salary cap after all of their latest moves, according to the NFL Players Association.

Lewis did not take a pay cut. He simply converted some of his base salary in 2014 and 2015 into bonus money -- a common procedure in the NFL that allows teams to push the salary-cap costs back into future years.

Lewis
Lewis’ base salaries dropped from $3.3 million to $1.1 million in 2014, and from $4.1 million to $1.8 million in 2015.

UPDATED: He received a $4.4 million signing bonus as part of the restructured deal, which essentially replaced the salary. He also added slightly to future roster bonuses. Here's the new year-by-year breakdown, according to ESPN Stats and Information:

Signing bonus: $4.4 million
2014: Base salary $1 million, workout bonus $50,000. Salary-cap cost $3.35 million.
2015: Base salary $1.8 million, roster bonuses $700,000, workout bonus $50,000. Salary-cap cost $4.85 million.
2016: Base salary $4.25 million, roster bonuses $700,000, workout bonus $50,000. Salary-cap cost $7.3 million.
2017: Base salary $4.75 million, roster bonuses $700,000, workout bonus $50,000. Salary-cap cost $7.8 million.

So far, Lewis is the only Saints veteran who has done one of these simple restructures this year. In recent years, the Saints have done them with a number of players to carve out cap space.

It’s unclear whether the Saints plan more of them. They could easily push some salary-cap costs back in some of their bigger contracts with players like Drew Brees, Jahri Evans, Ben Grubbs or Marques Colston. But perhaps the Saints figure they have already pushed back enough of the cap costs on those deals and wanted to spread it around the roster a little more.

The Saints also have not touched the contract of defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley, who is to make $4.5 million in salary and bonuses this season. That seems awfully high, considering Bunkley was used as a part-time player the past two seasons. It’s possible the Saints are still considering asking for a pay cut later in the offseason (like they did with safety Roman Harper last year). Or perhaps they envision a bigger role for Bunkley this year after he finished strong last season.

Thomas
Thomas' pay cut: Running back Pierre Thomas, meanwhile, did take a pay cut in 2014 when he signed his new three-year deal with the Saints this month. The details are now available after that three-year, $6.9 million contract was officially processed.

Thomas will now make $2.4 million in salary and bonuses this season instead of $2.9 million. But that $2.4 million is all guaranteed. The Saints saved $1.33 million off this year’s salary cap with Thomas’ new deal.

Here’s the breakdown of Thomas’ contract:

Signing bonus: $1.245 million
2014: Base salary $855,000, roster bonus $300,000. Salary-cap cost $1.57 million.
2015: Base salary $2.1 million, workout bonus $50,000. Salary-cap cost $2.565 million.
2016: Base salary $2.2 million, roster bonus $100,000, workout bonus $50,000. Salary-cap cost $2.765 million.

Humber, Morgan deals: Also, the contract numbers are in on the Saints’ new one-year deals with receiver Joe Morgan and linebacker Ramon Humber. Morgan’s deal is for the minimum $495,000 with no bonuses. Humber’s deal is worth $795,000, including a $65,000 signing bonus. However, he will only count $635,000 against the Saints’ cap as part of the NFL rules regarding veteran salaries on minimum-level deals.

Saints' Bunkley, Foster practice fully

December, 13, 2013
12/13/13
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METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans Saints defensive linemen Brodrick Bunkley (back) and Glenn Foster (knee) both practiced fully Friday after steadily increasing their workload throughout the week. They are officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Rams.

Bunkley, who is the only starter on the Saints’ injury report this week, seems likely to play based on his practice workload. Foster might be more of a question mark since he missed two full weeks before returning to practice this week.

Meanwhile, outside linebacker Keyunta Dawson (calf), safety Rafael Bush (ankle) and tight end Josh Hill (hamstring) did not practice Friday and haven’t practiced all week. They are listed as questionable but appear to be long shots to play.

Offensive tackle Terron Armstead (nose) is listed as questionable after practicing fully Thursday and Friday.
The New Orleans Saints’ injury report shrunk a bit on Thursday. Only three players remained out of practice – linebacker Keyunta Dawson (calf), safety Rafael Bush (ankle) and tight end Josh Hill (hamstring).

Defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley (back) returned to practice on a limited basis. Defensive lineman Glenn Foster (knee) remained limited. And offensive tackle Terron Armstead (nose) returned to full participation.

If Bunkley is able to play Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, the Saints would have all 22 projected starters available.
METAIRIE, La. – Although the New Orleans Saints didn’t practice on Wednesday, they were required to submit a projected injury report. Five players were listed as “Did Not Practice” – offensive tackle Zach Strief (ankle), defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley (ankle), defensive end Glenn Foster (knee), outside linebacker Keyunta Dawson (calf) and safety Rafael Bush (ankle).

Strief left Monday night’s game early because of the ankle injury and was limping noticeably on his way back to the locker room. But after the game he said he’s optimistic he won’t be out long.

“We’ll see,” Strief said Monday night. “I’m not a guy that has to be 100 percent; I’m a bad enough athlete. I think it scared me a good bit on the field, but it’s not as bad as it could have been.”

Strief will certainly be missed if he can't play Sunday night against the Carolina Panthers. But second-year backup Bryce Harris has gotten a decent amount of experience as a fill-in and extra blocker this season, and should be capable of stepping up to fill the void.

Bunkley and Bush are new to the injury report this week. The severity of their injuries is unknown. Foster and Dawson were held out of Monday’s game with their injuries.
A look at the New Orleans Saints' defensive line through the first six weeks of the 2013 season:

Looking back: The Saints’ defensive line play has been outstanding this season -- especially considering how many young players have stepped up through a barrage of injuries. They’ve arguably been New Orleans’ most valuable unit during the team’s 5-1 start.

End Cameron Jordan was excellent last season, but he’s been even better in his third NFL season, earning a lot of national attention for his play. A power rusher and a standout run defender, he has five sacks and a forced fumble this season. According to Pro Football Focus, Jordan also has five quarterback hits and 24 hurries.

[+] EnlargeCarson Palmer
AP Photo/Bill FeigCameron Jordan has led an early season surge by New Orleans' defensive line.
Second-year end Akiem Hicks and rookie nose tackle John Jenkins have also been very good as the primary starters in the Saints’ three-man front. Both are stout run-stuffers, but they’ve also shown an ability to push the pocket back on passing downs, sometimes leading to sacks on the edges. Hicks has one sack of his own. Backup ends Tyrunn Walker, Tom Johnson and Glenn Foster have taken turns producing while rotating in and out of the lineup because of injuries. They each have one sack this season. And veteran nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley just returned in Week 6 from a Week 1 injury.

Looking forward: It’s hard to imagine we’ll keep seeing the same level of dominant production that we saw from this group in September -- especially now that the secret is out around the league. But there is nothing fluky about the individual performances. Jordan has been on this steady rise since his rookie season. Hicks and Walker showed flashes of this kind of talent as rookies last season. And Jenkins and Foster showed signs of this type of ability in the summer. Now that all of the injuries are healing, the Saints are suddenly overloaded with depth.

It will also help the pass rush if they keep things unpredictable. After relying heavily on a four-man rush in the first four games, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan caught offenses off guard with more frequent blitzes over the past two weeks.

Snaps played (out of a possible 375): Jordan 349, Hicks 238, Jenkins 207, Foster 93, Johnson 65, Walker 59, Bunkley 14, defensive end Keyunta Dawson 11.

ESPN scouting Insider Matt Williamson’s take: “I love their defensive line. I think Jenkins was a find (in the third round out of Georgia). Hicks has come on strong in his second year. Jordan is a star in the making. They have depth. Bunkley is a good player. And they’re better suited to a 3-4. I think it’s one of the better 3-4 defensive lines out there, and they’re really the unsung heroes of this whole success story.”
METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans Saints receiver Lance Moore is officially listed as questionable for Monday night’s game against the Miami Dolphins. But his chances of playing appear slim after he did not practice all week with a hand injury.

Moore
The Saints officially ruled out two players on Saturday -- safety Roman Harper (knee) and defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley (calf).

Eight others are listed as questionable. But the three players in the most jeopardy of missing the game are Moore, tailback Mark Ingram (toe) and defensive end Tom Johnson (hamstring) after they missed practice all week.

The others listed as questionable were able to practice on a limited basis this week – guards Jahri Evans (hamstring) and Tim Lelito (calf), defensive lineman Tyrunn Walker (knee), cornerback Chris Carr (knee) and safety Isa Abdul-Quddus (ankle).

Evans – easily the most important player on the list – insisted this week that he’ll return to the lineup against the Dolphins after missing last Sunday’s game.

Moore will certainly be missed if he can’t play. But the Saints do have several other options they can turn to in the passing game. Obviously they’ll rely heavily on tight end Jimmy Graham, receiver Marques Colston and running back Darren Sproles, as always. Others who could see increased targets include receivers Kenny Stills, Robert Meachem and Nick Toon and tight end Benjamin Watson.

Stills might be the biggest beneficiary. The rookie fifth-round draft pick was a breakout player for the Saints in the preseason, but he’s played a limited role so far in the regular season with just three catches for 96 yards and no touchdowns.

“If [Moore] is not playing, then obviously somebody’s going to have to step up. And hopefully they trust me enough to get in there and make some plays,” said Stills, who said he has tried to prepare every week and every play like the ball’s coming his way.

That attribute has been very important to the various Saints receivers in this deep offense over the years. The ball gets spread around quite a bit, so players need to stay both patient and focused.

Stills said he’s heard that from several people, but Meachem in particular. In the past, Meachem admitted that was something he had to get used to as a first-round draft pick out of Tennessee. Now, Meachem is the wise veteran giving advice to young teammates.

“It’s something that all the guys talk about. But Meach, for sure, has always mentioned that to me,” Stills said. “‘Don’t worry about it, don’t stress about how many targets you’re getting, how many catches you’re getting. It’s a week-to-week thing in this offense, and your time will come.’”
METAIRIE, La. – The New Orleans Saints didn't plan to start a youth movement or some kind of extreme roster makeover on their defense this season. In fact, they worked hard to restructure the contracts of core veterans such as Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma and Roman Harper because they wanted them to be part of their revitalized defense.

But the Saints and new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan have been forced to continually adapt as six projected starters have gone down with injuries.

[+] EnlargeJunior Galette and Cameron Jordan
AP Photo/Bill FeigYoung players such as Junior Galette and Cameron Jordan, with five sacks between them, have emerged to help turn around the Saints defense.
The result? The Saints are 3-0, and a defense that last season set the NFL record for most yards allowed now ranks as the fourth-toughest in the league (295.7 yards allowed per game).

Although no one around Saints camp is claiming they’re better off without those missing veterans, there is obviously some sort of mojo that has developed while dynamic young playmakers such as linemen Cameron Jordan and Akiem Hicks, outside linebacker Junior Galette and safety Kenny Vaccaro have started to emerge.

“I gotta start by saying it’s very unfortunate that we had so many pivotal parts of our defense go down. One guy that sits right next to me in this locker is Will Smith, and that’s something that can’t be replaced,” Hicks said. “But there’s definitely an energy, and we can use that. So it’s been working out.”

The Saints lost three projected starters to season-ending injuries this summer – outside linebackers Smith and Victor Butler and end Kenyon Coleman. Then inside linebacker Vilma was placed on short-term injured reserve after he had minor knee surgery in training camp (he could return at midseason). And in recent weeks, safety Harper and tackle Brodrick Bunkley have been sidelined by injuries, and nickel cornerback Patrick Robinson suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2.

Yet none of those injuries has seemed to faze the Saints. If anything, the circumstances have empowered some of the young players who are stepping into more prominent roles.

Coach Sean Payton said that kind of injection of youth and energy can benefit a team – but only if the players “earned those positions.”

“In other words, I don’t think by design you go out and say, ‘We’re going to keep all these young players and cut the veterans,’” Payton said. “One thing that we try to do is just keep the best players. And the young players that earned spots we felt like were players that earned spots. And the veteran players that made the roster we felt like earned those spots. So, like you said [when the question was posed], it wasn’t by design.”

It hasn't just been young players stepping up to fill the void. Veteran linebacker David Hawthorne has played well as a replacement for Vilma. And the Saints traded for veteran linebacker Parys Haralson to help replace Smith.

And the most important change the Saints made to their defense this offseason came on the coaching staff -- which was by design. Payton fired former defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo after just one year on the job and replaced him with Ryan -- whose versatile schemes and energetic personality clearly have resonated much better with Saints players.

“Anything but the old defense, I would have got excited regardless,” said Galette, who has never been shy about voicing his displeasure with Spagnuolo’s system, which he felt was too rigid and reactive rather than unpredictable and aggressive. “But Rob, just meeting him as a person off the field, his character and his personality just kind of sinks in with everybody else, and he still feels like he’s young and he brings a lot of energy himself.

“Anything but Spags would’ve been great. But Rob is just a plus.”

The players have been feeding off of each other as well. As veteran inside linebacker Curtis Lofton said, that amped-up energy level is especially noticeable along the defensive front, where young guys such as Jordan, Galette, Hicks, Martez Wilson, Tyrunn Walker, John Jenkins and Glenn Foster have taken turns rising to the challenge – and cranking up friendly rivalries among themselves.

For instance, when Galette (two sacks) was asked who’s having the better season so far between him and Jordan (three sacks), he said, “C’mon, are you serious right now? That’s not a serious question. Who do you think?”

“There’s no days off. We get to the film room, and it’s like, 'OK, I got off the ball faster than you.' You’re competing. And that’s that competitive nature that I feel like we lacked in past years,” Galette said – though he was quick to point out that he doesn't think the Saints are better off without their injured veterans.

“Obviously it would help if Will and Victor were here. But we can’t worry about that right now,” Galette said. “This is who we have right now, and this is what we’re gonna keep rolling with.”

It may not be how the Saints drew it up in the playbook, but sometimes the best thing a team can do is call an audible.
The New Orleans Saints have put out their first unofficial depth chart in their media release for Friday night’s preseason opener. Let’s run through the positions where the competition is closest.

Charles Brown is listed as the No. 1 left tackle. Jason Smith is with the second team and Terron Armstead with the third team. But I think this competition remains very wide open and the preseason games will determine a lot.

With wide receiver Marques Colston still sidelined with an injury, the Saints are listing Joe Morgan as the starter opposite Lance Moore. That’s a sign Morgan has the inside track to be the third receiver once Colston returns.

The defensive line features Kenyon Coleman and Cameron Jordan as the first-team ends with Brodrick Bunkley at tackle. But I think Akiem Hicks still has a shot to start at defensive end and rookie John Jenkins could start at defensive tackle.

The Saints are listing first-round draft pick Kenny Vaccaro as a third-team safety. I think this is just a gesture of courtesy for the veterans. Vaccaro will be getting lots of playing time.

Links: Falcons' Rodgers aims to play

June, 24, 2013
6/24/13
10:54
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Atlanta Falcons

With the addition of Steven Jackson to the Falcons' roster, backup Jacquizz Rodgers maintains a positive attitude toward his potential playing time. “When I get in the game, I’m going to try to make my plays and try to get my number called more often,” Rodgers told D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I’ll try to make every carry and every catch count.”

Rookie cornerback Robert Alford says he's a versatile player who is willing to play anywhere in order to get the Falcons a Super Bowl ring.

Since joining the Falcons in the offseason, Osi Umenyiora has shown the rest of Atlanta’s young defensive ends what it means to be a professional pass-rusher, writes Daniel Cox of the team's website.

Carolina Panthers

J.J. Jansen "understands if fans don’t know his name. He plays a position with little clout: long-snapper," reports the Charlotte Observer's Ben Weinrib.

Undrafted rookie safety Robert Lester accepted the Panthers' free-agent offer, and as the Charlotte Observer's Joseph Person writes, "if Lester’s showing at the team’s three-day minicamp is any indication, it was a decision that could prove to be mutually beneficial."

New Orleans Saints

The Saints need new cornerback Keenan Lewis to stop the big plays, and former Steelers teammate Ike Taylor offers high praise for Lewis and his abilities. SB Nation's Canal Street Chronicles breaks down film on Lewis.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune continues its top 25 players on the Saints series, kicking off Monday with No. 20 defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley.

QB Drew Brees takes to Twitter to calm fears over a fake news story that he'd broken his legs in a car accident.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Unwanted faxes could create a $270M headache for the Buccaneers, according to the Tampa Bay Times' Peter Jamison.

While the Bucs' new defensive backs coach has been afforded some significant luxuries in CB Darrelle Revis and S Dashon Goldson, Tony Oden still has a sizable workload on his hands.

Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has focused on his diet in the offseason, dropping 20 pounds.

Around the NFC South

May, 17, 2013
5/17/13
9:22
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Let's take or morning run (or bike ride) through some news and notes from around the NFC South:

ATLANTA FALCONS

General manager Thomas Dimitroff is taking part in National Bike To Work Day. I don’t think we’ll see any roster moves out of the Falcons this morning.

Quarterback Matt Ryan turns 28 today. That’s a prime age to become one of the league’s highest-paid quarterbacks. The Falcons have stayed quiet about where negotiations are for an extension, but I suspect a deal will get done before training camp.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

Linebacker Chase Blackburn figures to be a backup and special-teams player. But he’d be a starter if the Panthers were fielding a baseball team. Blackburn hit three home runs as members of the Panthers, including coach Ron Rivera, took batting practice before a Charlotte Knights game.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

The Saints have signed defensive tackle Isaako Aaitui. He’s spent time with the Dolphins and Jets, and will compete for a roster spot behind Brodrick Bunkley and John Jenkins.

Quarterback Luke McCown, who was cut by the Saints in the preseason last year, said he’s more optimistic about his chances of making the roster this year. He should be. Chase Daniel had a firm grip on the backup job last year. With Daniel leaving via free agency this year, the backup job is wide open. McCown and Seneca Wallace will compete for that spot, and McCown might have the early advantage because he knows the offense.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

With David Garrard reportedly retiring, Tampa Bay’s opener against the New York Jets could become even more of an intriguing game, Stephen Holder points out. The game already was matching up Tampa Bay cornerback Darrelle Revis against his former team. With Garrard gone, it means the Bucs could be going against rookie quarterback Geno Smith.

Saints facing 2014 cap issues

May, 14, 2013
5/14/13
10:52
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The good news for the New Orleans Saints is they have all this year’s draft picks signed. The bad news is those signings have pushed their 2014 cap salary-cap commitment even higher.

The Saints now have $145.5 million committed toward a 2014 cap that’s likely to be only slightly more than $120 million. Only the Dallas Cowboys ($145.8 million have more committed toward the 2014 cap).

After this season, the Saints will be looking at another chapter in which they’ll have to trim cap room by restructuring contracts or releasing players. Let’s take a look at the 10 highest scheduled cap figures for 2014 for the Saints:

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