Behind Enemy Lines is a weekly look at Tampa Bay’s NFC South foes every Wednesday. Let’s spy on the Bucs’ division rival Falcons, Panthers and Saints, shall we?
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• Atlanta’s new general manager and new head coach are having a bit of a conflict according to some. Reports have surfaced that GM Terry Fontenot would like to take a quarterback with the No. 4 overall pick in this month’s NFL Draft but coach Arthur Smith believes he can get a couple more years out of veteran Matt Ryan.
The #Falcons have a conflict about what to do with the 4th overall pick.
While head coach Arthur Smith believes Matt Ryan has at least two more seasons, GM Terry Fontenot is focused on taking a QB.
So who will be the tiebreaker in what the Falcons do? Technically Smith was hired prior to Fontenot, but it’s not known exactly how the chain of command works in Atlanta. Owner Arthur Blank likely will be consulted and could be the one to make the final call on draft night.
• While the debate to take a quarterback will continue until draft night, it may not even be an option when the Falcons are on the clock as another reports surfaced that the Falcons have had exploratory talks about trading their first-round pick and moving back. SI.com’s Albert Breer wrote this week that Atlanta has begun talks with teams who want to move up to take a quarterback. Carolina and Denver are rumored to be interested in moving up in this year’s draft, presumably to take a QB.
• No truth to the rumor that in the lobby of the Falcons facility they have begun serving tea and crumpets. But there is truth to the rumor that Atlanta will be playing a home game in England this fall.
The NFL confirmed last week the Falcons will be the home team in an October game at Tottenham-Hotspur Stadium in London. The Buccaneers played the Panthers at the same venue in 2019. The game is scheduled to be played there – as of now – but could be changed if the COVID-19 pandemic that prevented any International series games from being played in 2020 were to become an issue between now and then. The NFL has played four regular season games in Mexico City, six in Toronto and 28 in London since 2005.
• The Panthers have found their replacement for Teddy Bridgewater and their future long-term starter at QB – maybe.
The team traded for former No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold but according to reports that won’t necessarily prevent them from drafting a quarterback at No. 8, or even moving up to take one. The Panthers reportedly traded a sixth-round pick in 2021, a second-round pick and fourth-round pick in 2022 to get Darold, but didn’t have to part with this year’s first-round selection.
• It appears while drafting a quarterback is still an option, the Panthers are committed to Darold for the next two years.
The Panthers will exercise QB Sam Darnold's fifth-year option, per source.
Darnold’s fifth-year option salary is projected to be $18.9 million.
The former Jet has thrown for 8,097 yards with 45 touchdowns and 39 interceptions in 38 starts since entering the league in 2018, and he completed 59.6 percent of his passes for 2,208 yards with nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions last season.
• So what’s next for Bridgewater? The Panthers have reportedly allowed Bridgwater and his agent to talk to teams about a trade out of Carolina according to Ian Rapoport.
Scott Fitterer on Teddy Bridgewater: "We're going to find the right place him, whether it's here or someplace else."
• The Panthers hope to find some diamonds in the rough along the O-line and added former Gator Martez Ivey. Undrafted out of Florida in 2019, he signed with New England, but was cut at the start of the season. Ivey played in the XFL with the Tampa Bay Vipers in early 2020 before the league folded. He did not sign with another club last season.
New Orleans Saints
• Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston are set to battle for the starting QB in New Orleans in 2021. But that doesn’t mean the Saints won’t necessarily avoid the position in this year’s draft according to reports. One of those players that likely will be available is former Gator standout quarterback Kyle Trask.
The Saints currently hold the No. 28 pick and most mock drafts expect Trask to be on the board when the Saints are on the clock.
• Some Vegas sites have been tossing out their win totals for NFL teams over the last week and one had the Bucs O/U set at 11.5. The defending NFC South champion Saints aren’t faring so well with the early projections. Despite four straight seasons with 11 wins or more PointsBet have New Orleans’ win total at just nine games in 2021. The same site has the Panthers at 7.5 wins, and the Falcons at 7.
• The Saints and their fans know that Drew Brees won’t be under center when the season kicks off in September, but head coach Sean Payton said that realization may not fully hit everyone until the team gathers back together minus their captain and future Hall of Famer.
“We’re not there yet because we haven’t any practices, we haven’t turned around with something coming up where we’re like, That’s something Drew would’ve handled. We haven’t had that moment yet,” Payton said. “I’m sure there’ll be a few of them. But it’s a young team, that’s what’s exciting. . . . I think it’ll be different the first time we have an OTA, the first time we have a mini-camp or the first time we get into training camp,” Payton said. “It hasn’t hit you quite yet because you haven’t done anything football-related. You’re involved in draft work, free-agent work. I’m sure there’ll be a couple stages to it where it’s the first meeting, first practice and so on.”
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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