Behind Enemy Lines is a weekly look at Tampa Bay’s NFC South foes every Wednesday. Let’s spy on the Bucs’ division rivals, shall we?
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• Atlanta’s salary cap situation is far from ideal as the team is currently a little over $15 million over the proposed 2021 cap. Being in such a hole makes free agency a daunting task and new GM Terry Fontenot knows maneuvering around their cap limitations will make free agency tough.
“We’re going to have to find players because you can’t just build your roster with overpaid players in free agency or top draft picks. We have to really dig and find value in free agency,” Fontenot said, reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “That’s working with the coaches and finding exactly what they need and going and finding the players that they need. That’s throughout the entire draft and that’s in undrafted free agency. So, we have to be scouts and go find good players that can really fit the make-up and profile that we are looking for.”
Falcons GM Terry Fontenot – Photo curtesy of the Atlanta Falcons
• Despite being in a salary cap quandary the Falcons feel pretty good about having the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft, which gives them a number of options including trading down to acquire more picks.
“There are so many different scenarios,” Fontenot said to TheAthletic.com. “There are going to be some really good players there at No. 4. We can move up, and we can move down and acquire more picks. There’s just a lot of different scenarios to really go through. It’s a prime spot to be in. It’s not somewhere that we want to be in very often with this team, but we are going to take advantage of that and be open to all possibilities.”
• The Falcons have already begun making some cuts including releasing starting safety Ricardo Allen last month to clear some cap space. Allen has reportedly begun looking for a new city to call home.
Former Falcons’ safety Ricardo Allen visited today with the Cincinnati Bengals, per source.
Allen spent his seven years in the NFL with the Falcons before he and his salary were dumped as part of an expected purge to get Atlanta compliant with the salary cap prior for the start of free agency.
• The Panthers will likely have someone other than Teddy Bridgewater under center in 2021 and the question becomes what does Carolina do with their big free agent signing from last March?
Reportedly Bridgewater is coveted by the 49ers who expect Jimmy Garoppolo to be their starter this year, but due to his injury history San Francisco is looking at a backup that could step in and maintain a quality level of play.
QB Teddy Bridgewater – Photo by: USA Today
Joe Person of The Athletic says San Francisco has contacted the Panthers about acquiring Bridgewater’s services. A big hangup could be Bridgewater’s $17 million cap hit if traded in 2021. Bridgewater signed a three-year, $63 million deal with Carolina last offseason, but new head coach Matt Rhule wasn’t overly pleased with his first season at the helm and the Panthers are reportedly hot on the trail of Deshaun Watson, if Houston decides to trade their disgruntled quarterback.
• If Watson stays in Houston, look for the Panthers to find their new starter in the upcoming NFL Draft. Several mock drafts have the Panthers taking a quarterback, and the name picking more and more steam is North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance. You can read the Panthers mock draft report from their team website here.
• Flying a little under the radar was the Panthers hiring of a familiar face to coach their defensive line. Well, familiar face might be overstating it a bit, but Frank Okam, who played for Tampa Bay from 2010-2012, was promoted to defensive line coach and recently talked about his coaching style.
“Some guys get it on the board, some guys get it in film, some guys need to rep it to make sure,” Okam said. “I want to challenge these guys emotionally, psychologically, and physically to help them become the best version of themselves.”
New Orleans Saints
• The buzz continues to grow that the Seahawks might be dealing quarterback Russell Wilson soon. Wilson reportedly said the Saints would be one of four teams he would agree to be traded too. How the Saints could afford Wilson’s big contract is debatable, but with the Saints in cap trouble, a package of high-priced veterans could help ease taking on Wilson’s $19 million cost in 2021, and greater cap hit beyond that.
Someone who seems to be intrude about Wilson joining his team is defensive end Cam Jordan who thinks the addition of Wilson makes them super Bowl favorites.
• The salary cap merry-go-round in New Orleans continues as the Saints, the most over-the-cap team in the league, attempts to be ready for free agency later this month. The latest move was first reported by Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, revealing the Saints have converted some of David Onyemata’s $7 million base salary to a signing bonus. The move will add to Onyemata’s cap hit in 2022, but opens up $4.34 million in space this year.
In 2020 Onyemata recorded 44 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 16 quarterback hits and an interception.
• Rapoport also reported the Saints are looking into trade options for Malcom Brown.
The #Saints have had trade conversations about potentially dealing DT Malcom Brown, sources say. In the third year of a 3-year, $15M contract, a trade or release would save NO about $5M against the cap – and obviously they have a lot of work to do to get under the cap.
• Noah Spence, a 2016 second-round pick of the Buccaneers, re-signed with the Saints this week according to reports. Spence who is coming off a torn ACL suffered in offseason workouts in 2020 will make the NFL league minimum, $990,000.
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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