Behind Enemy Lines is a weekly look at Tampa Bay’s NFC South foes every week. Let’s spy on the Bucs’ division rivals, shall we?
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• The Falcons know quarterback Matt Ryan will likely be on the roster in 2021 because of his salary and the dead money that it would cost the team if they moved on from their former league MVP, but that wont stop them from bringing in other quarterbacks according to new general manager Terry Fontenot.
“Whether we’re talking about free agency or whether we’re talking about the draft, we are going to add to every position,” Fontenot said. “We’ll build strength. We’re not afraid to build strength. We’re going to add to every position. It’s about adding. We want a culture of competition, and (coach) Arthur Smith has said it: We want to bring in smart, tough, highly competitive football players that are going to fit this culture. And we’re going to do that at every position, whether it’s quarterback or whether it’s wide receiver.
“You look at (former Packers GM) Ron Wolf. You always bring in quarterbacks. You need to bring in quarterbacks, whether it’s in the draft, whether it’s in free agency, or signing guys off the street. It’s so important, bring in quarterbacks a lot, build strengths. (Former Ravens GM) Ozzie Newsome, bring in the best players available. These are men that have had all that success, and it’s about having the right 53, but we have to add competition at every position. So we’re not going to be afraid to add to strengths. But both (Ryan and Julio Jones) are really good and I’m excited to be here with those players.”
• Recent mock drafts have echoed Fontenot’s sentiments and most have the Falcons taking a quarterback with their first round draft pick.
Here is what CBSsports.com’s Ryan Wilson had to say about about BYU’s Zach Wilson who has been shooting up draft boards as of late.
“As it stands, Wilson is our QB2 in terms of upside (though we think Mac Jones is behind only Trevor Lawrence in terms of being NFL-ready in 2021) and the new coach Arthur Smith may want to start preparing for life after Matt Ryan, who will be the starter in ’21.”
• Atlanta has almost completed their coaching and front office overhaul, and hired Chris Olsen as their senior director of football administration last week.
Olsen joins the Falcons after 13 seasons with the Texans, where he served as the senior vice president of football administration.
• The Falcons aren’t the only NFC South team projected to have a new QB face in the building. The Panthers have made it known that they weren’t satisfied with the play of Teddy Bridgewater last season and are looking for an upgrade.
Noted draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah sees Carolina selecting North Dakota State’s Trey Lance with the eighth overall pick, but David Newton of on ESPN’s NFL Live said in a bold offseason predictions article that the Panthers are looking to make a trade for a veteran starter.
“The Panthers will do whatever it takes to get Deshaun Watson, and that includes giving up three first-round draft picks and (running back) Christian McCaffrey,” Newton said. “Owner David Tepper wants to win a Super Bowl. He’s made that clear. He understands it takes a marquee quarterback to do that. If you look at recent history, outside of (Kansas City Chiefs quarterback) Patrick Mahomes, the quickest way to do that is to trade for a marquee quarterback and not draft one in the first round. Just ask Tampa Bay.”
Newton did make it clear that he was not reporting actual intentions from Carolina, but rather making a bold prediction based on his knowledge of the team that the Panthers will be aggressive in their offseason pursuit of Deshaun Watson.
• Adam Schefter of ESPN reports the Panthers are cutting defensive tackle Kawann Short, who is 32 and has been limited with injuries over the past two seasons. Short was also on the books for $20 million in 2021, so the move was expected.
New Orleans Saints
• When the Saints season ended following their divisional loss to the Buccaneers last month, the new year began immediately. New Orleans was projected to be the most over the cap team entering the 2021 NFL new year, but over the last week the Saints have cleared over $30 million in cap relief.
First quarterback Drew Brees restructured his deal despite his impending retirement, in a move that saved the Saints $24 million off of their projected overage. Next, the Saints cut offensive lineman Nick Easton saving $5.87 million.
Even with those moves, Spotrac still shows the Saints $65 million still over the projected 2021 cap. And lots more moves will need to be made to make them compliant prior to the new NFL year beginning in March.
The Saints also waived tight ends Jason Vander Laan and Cole Wick, both of whom opted out of the 2020 season.
• Saints GM Mickey Loomis knows the challenge of getting his team under the cap while still being competitive won’t be easy, but said recently it isn’t impossible.
“For sure it’s going to be challenging and yet, I don’t want to speculate as to how challenging it’s going to be until we have a better understanding of what’s going to be available, not just for this year, but even for the year after,” Loomis said “So I can’t really answer that question other than to say yeah, it’s going to be daunting. I think it’s going to be daunting for a majority of teams in our league.”
• With a number of expected cuts still to be made and an uncertainty at quarterback it was a little surprising to see the Saints still getting solid Las Vegas odds to win it all in 2021. BetMGM has New Orleans at 18:1 odds of winning the 2021 championship, eighth overall and fifth in the NFC, behind the Green Bay Packers, the reigning champ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10:1) the Los Angeles Rams, and the San Francisco 49ers.
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, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. 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 email@example.com
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