- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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It’s that time of year again. Big name veterans are getting released around the league and that’s leading to the usual questions of if the new guys on the street could end up in the NFC South.
Atlanta Falcons. This team has been trying for years to add another quality pass-rusher besides John Abraham and nothing has worked out well. That’s why I could see Freeney as a possibility. He is 32, so he’s not a long-term answer. But the Falcons haven’t been shy about bringing in veterans in the past. Still, I don’t think the Falcons will try to pounce on Freeney immediately. They’d be wise to wait a bit and see what else might come available. I don’t see Woodson landing in Atlanta. The Falcons might be in the market for a cornerback, depending on what happens with Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson, but Woodson’s not a cornerback anymore. He moved to safety last season. Assuming the Falcons can keep William Moore from leaving as a free agent, they’re set at safety.
Carolina Panthers. We really don’t know yet if new general manager Dave Gettleman is willing to bring in veterans or if he wants to put his stamp on this team with youth. But, even if Gettleman is open to bringing in older players, his hands are tied due to the team’s salary-cap situation.
New Orleans Saints. The Saints also are tight against the salary cap, but they have more wiggle room than Carolina. The Saints have shown a past willingness to bring in veterans, but they’ll have to come at the right price this season. Adding Woodson would be a lot like what the Saints did in 2009 when they brought in Darren Sharper. I don’t know that Freeney would be a great fit in the 3-4 scheme the Saints are switching to. He may be too small to play defensive end in that system and I’m not sure he could make the switch to outside linebacker at this point in his career.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs like to talk about building through the draft. But they’ve been known to make some isolated exceptions (see last year’s signing of tight end Dallas Clark). But I don’t expect the Bucs to jump into immediate pursuit of Freeney or Woodson. If they can re-sign defensive end Michael Bennett, they’re pretty well set at defensive end. The Bucs are still waiting to hear if safety Ronde Barber is going to retire or play another year. If he retires, Woodson could become a possibility, but my guess is the Bucs would want to go with someone younger.