Behind Enemy Lines is a weekly look at Tampa Bay’s NFC South foes every Tuesday. Let’s spy on the Bucs’ division rivals, shall we?
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• The Falcons ended up cutting a number of players and restructuring contracts to get below the salary cap in the weeks leading up to free agency, but now have been spending a little money to try and improve on a 4-12 2020 season that saw them finish last in the NFC South.
Bucs ILB Devin White and Panthers RB Mike Davis – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Atlanta reportedly has come to terms with former Panthers running back Mike Davis, who will stay in the NFC South on a two-year deal worth $5.5 million and $3 million fully guaranteed according to NFL insider Ian Rapoport.
Davis filled in admirably for an injured Christian McCaffrey last season in Carolina rushing for 642 yards rushing while adding 373 yards receiving on 59 catches. Davis totaled eight scores as the Panthers main back with McCaffrey sidelined all but three games.
• Atlanta has also reportedly reached an agreement with Barkevious Mingo on a one-year contract. Mingo had 2.5 sacks and 35 tackles in 2020 as a member of the Chicago Bears. The former first-round pick of the Browns has played for the Patriots, Colts, Seahawks and the Texans.
• In other free agent signings, the Falcons reached deals with safety Erik Harris and linebacker Brandon Copeland. Harris comes to Atlanta from the Raiders where he spent the last four seasons and Copeland joins the Falcons after spending 2020 in New England where he started six games before being placed on injured reserve.
• The Panthers haven’t exactly went big-money crazy in free agency, but have been picking up pieces here and there in hopes of improving on a 5-11, third-place finish in the NFC South under first-year head coach Matt Rhule. They kicked off free agency by coming to terms with linebacker Denzel Perryman on a two-year deal.
Perryman comes to the Panthers from the Chargers where he tallied 349 tackles, five sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery over 69 career games.
• A big piece of what the Panthers hope is a rebound year defensively is the signing of Haason Reddick to bolster the pass rush for Carolina. Reddick played for Rhule at Temple, and after three mediocre seasons in Arizona, he had his best year in 2020 with 12.5 sacks.
Reddick spoke to the Carolina media this week.
“Moving back outside and rushing, that’s for me,” Reddick said. “That’s what I do, get to the quarterback, get to the backfield and being disruptive. That’s what I do, and I’m glad that I’m here now and somewhere that’s understood and they know what I can do.
“I had a great year (in 2020), but there’s still a lot of teams who wonder is this guy a great pass rusher, can he do this at a high level, or was last season a fluke? We’re going to show them this year, it’s far from a fluke.”
DT MorganFox – Photo by: USA Today
• The Panthers also hope another addition to the defense yields better results in 2021, as they added former Rams defensive lineman Morgan Fox on a two-year deal worth $8.1 million, with $7 million guaranteed.
Fox was a rotational lineman along the Rams’ defensive line since 2017, had his best season in the league in 2020 collecting six sacks, eight tackles for loss, and nine quarterback hits.
• While the main focus has been the defensive side of the ball so far in free agency for the Panthers, they did add what they hopes will be a weapon offensively. Carolina reportedly signed tight end Dan Arnold away from the Cardinals. Peter Schrager reported it’s a two-year deal worth $6 million. Arnold started five games in 2020 and had 31 receptions for 438 yards and four touchdowns.
New Orleans Saints
• Unless a quarterback falls in their lap next month in the NFL Draft, it looks like a two-horse race to replace Drew Brees, who officially announced his retirement earlier this month. Former Bucs QB Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill will duke it out this offseason to see who gets the nod to start in Week 1 for New Orleans, as they try to defend their NFC South title.
Winston said he isn’t backing down from the competition.
Saints QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: USA Today
“I embrace every competition and I know Taysom is a competitive guy as well,” Winston said. “I’m excited to be getting back with this team and being around him, being in that room with him again, competing and challenging each other and leading a team to where we want to be. Because I know that’s what we both want. We both want the Lombardi Trophy. We both want that. I think that’s something that I experienced last year that will impact me forever, is being able to play in those meaningful games, being in the playoffs, competing with your teammates to a deeper level. And that’s what I’m about, competing and winning games. And that’s what we’re gonna do.”
Winston was also appreciative of his one season playing with Brees.
“I love you, and it was a privilege to get to learn from you last year, and really just see what I’ve admired from afar, it was real,” Winston said of Brees. “I’m thankful that you’ve shown me how to be an NFL quarterback, man. That was a privilege.”
• The Saints, like all 32 NFL teams, dealt with COVID-19 all season fairly successfully, but the virus did take a parting shot at the organization it was revealed recently.
In an email to Pro Football Talk, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy wrote, “The New Orleans Saints will forfeit their sixth-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft and will be fined $700,000 for violations of the NFL-NFLPA COVID protocols during the 2020 season,”
The Saints faced league discipline for celebrating in their locker room after a game with multiple players and coaches not wearing masks according to PFT.com.
• The Saints have seen a lot more departures than arrivals in free agency, as expected with their cap issues, but did manage to hold onto a member of their secondary this week. Cornerback P.J. Williams agreed to a one-year deal worth $2.3 million fully guaranteed according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
The Saints drafted Williams in the third round of the 2015 draft out of Florida State. The former Seminole had 40 tackles, one interception, two pass breakups and two fumble recoveries for New Orleans in 2020.
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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