NFL Nation: Mike Golic

One common complaint we talk about often in these parts is how the NFC South sometimes gets lost in the shadows of divisions or teams with bigger markets and higher profiles.

Well, maybe we should be careful what we wish for. The NFC South is about to take center stage on a national platform, for all the wrong reasons.

The scandal involving the New Orleans Saints and what the NFL says was a “bounty program," designed to reward defensive players for intentionally injuring opponents, will be the topic of an hour-long NFL Live Special on ESPN at 4 p.m. ET Monday.

Trey Wingo is scheduled to host. He’ll be joined in studio by Tedy Bruschi, Darren Woodson, Mike Golic, Marcellus Wiley. Former NFL quarterback Steve Young and former NFL defensive back and head coach Herm Edwards will join them via satellite and there could be other special guests.

In this audio clip with Herm Edwards filling in for Mike Golic, he and Mike Greenberg talk about the Drew Brees contract situation.

Like just about everyone else, Edwards and Greenberg are stunned that Brees and the New Orleans Saints don’t have a deal already. They reportedly remain far apart and the Saints are prepared to use the franchise tag on Brees if a deal isn’t reached by Monday.

If it comes to the franchise tag on Brees, that’s pretty much a disaster for the Saints. Brees isn’t going to be happy if he doesn’t have a long-term deal and the last thing the Saints want is an unhappy Brees.

On top of that, franchising Brees means the Saints won’t have the tag available to use on guard Carl Nicks and receiver Marques Colston. Without the tag available and with Brees taking up more than $14 million in cap space, it will be pretty much impossible for the Saints to keep Nicks and Colston.

This is approaching crisis stage. The Saints are on the verge of losing Colston and Nicks and they’ll probably need to cut several other prominent players to stay under the salary cap. The Saints will be able to keep Brees, one way or another, but it’s looking like their roster won’t be nearly the same.

Those changes won’t be for the better.

Cameron Wake apparently still a sleeper

March, 22, 2011
3/22/11
1:45
PM ET
Seven weeks ago, I disagreed with the notion some readers supported, that Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Cameron Wake deserved to be considered a legitimate candidate for the Associated Press 2010 Defensive Player of the Year Award.

I don't believe he was a complete enough defender for that prestigious accolade. But the one thing Wake does supremely well is rush the passer.

Even so, Wake barely cracked this week's ESPN.com positional power rankings -- for pass-rushers. We didn't rank players based on run-stuffing or pass-coverage. Just pass-rushing.

Wake didn't get as much respect as I thought he should've.

Wake came in 10th in our power rankings because I rated him fourth. Three panelists didn't put him on their ballots at all. One ranked him ninth. Three ranked him 10th.

For the record, this was my ballot:
  1. DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker
  2. Tamba Hali, Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker
  3. Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers outside linebacker
  4. Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins outside linebacker
  5. Jared Allen, Minnesota Vikings defensive end
  6. John Abraham, Atlanta Falcons defensive end
  7. Julius Peppers, Chicago Bears defensive end
  8. Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis Colts defensive end
  9. Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker
  10. Chris Long, St. Louis Rams defensive end

Wake finished third in the NFL with 14 sacks. He was the most dangerous edge rusher in the AFC East by a big margin. Opponents had to game plan to stop him.

While I don't lean too heavily on stats while putting together my weekly positional power rankings, there are a handful of numbers you want to look for when it comes to pass-rushers. Sacks are the NFL's only official stats that are applicable. Other figures such as quarterback hits and hurries must be tracked by analytical outfits such as Football Outsiders.

Football Outsiders charted Wake third in the NFL with 15 quarterback hits (not counting sacks) and fourth with 38 hurries.

What more can you say?

Other divergences on my ballot included rating Freeney lower than any other panelist, omitting both Steelers outside linebackers, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, and being the lone voter to include Long.

The reason Long made my list was because he was always around the quarterback last year. He had a respectable 10 sacks, but he led the NFL with 41.5 hurries and was tied for sixth with 14 QB hits in the Football Outsiders data.

 
ESPN analysts Mike Golic, James Hasty and Eric Allen discuss whether protection rules for quarterbacks, such as the no-lunge penalty prompted by Tom Brady's knee injury, go too far.

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