Surveying the NFC South landscape

March, 2, 2009
3/02/09
11:20
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

As things remain quiet in Atlanta and Carolina, (and to a lesser degree, New Orleans) Tampa Bay continues to be the only real player in free agency in the NFC South.

Things could speed up for the Saints today. They've got an offer in to cornerback Ron Bartell and they're looking hard at safeties Darren Sharper and Gerald Sensabaugh. Yeah, the Saints may not have a lot of salary-cap room, but they can manipulate enough to overhaul their secondary. If they can pull that off after re-signing linebacker Jonathan Vilma, this defense suddenly will look a lot better.

As I've been saying since the story of Tampa Bay's interest in quarterback Jay Cutler first broke, this story's not over. Peter King reports Cutler previously had asked for a trade out of Denver. That helps explain that Tampa Bay's inquiry wasn't just a random shot. The Bucs knew something was up with Cutler when they made the phone call.

Now that word's out about this, Cutler may be on the market more than he ever was. Even though the Bucs weren't able to work out a three-way trade that would have involved Matt Cassel, there's a chance they still may be able to get Cutler in a straight-up deal and the price tag may become better now that the world knows Cutler and the Broncos aren't on the same page.

But the Bucs, who still have tons of cap room, aren't focused entirely on getting a quarterback. Roy Cummings reports there now is interest in running back Kevin Jones. The Bucs also are expected to have running back Derrick Ward in for a visit later this week.

And what about Carolina and Atlanta? Continue to sit tightly because that's what the Panthers and Falcons are doing. They've sat out the first wave of free agency. But they'll jump in, at least on a small level, once price tags start to drop.

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