NFC South Notes: Bucs, Falcons, Panthers

The Buccaneers revamped both their front office and their coaching staff this offseason, but that doesn’t mean the situation in Tampa Bay is entirely negative. The team is actually in decent shape with regards to the salary cap, thanks in no small part to several players whose performance far exceeds their compensation. With that in mind, Pat Yasinkas of examines the top five bargains on the Bucs roster, with linebacker Lavonte David taking the top spot. David, a 2013 All-Pro, graded out as Pro Football Focus’ second-best 4-3 outside linebacker (subscription required), but his base salary is just $705K. Likewise, running back Doug Martin, who has shown flashes of brilliance when not impaired by injuries, will make only $1MM in 2014 and count just $1.8MM against the cap. Of course, both of these players are on their rookie contracts, and hefty extensions for both would certainly repeal each’s “bargain” label.

More from the NFC South:

  • Change is definitely afoot in Tampa, as Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune notes (on Twitter) that the Buccaneers could have 11 new starters in 2014, including eight on offense alone.
  • Kaufman also tweets that the primary goal for the Buccaneers should be to avoid last place in the NFC South; Tampa Bay has finished in the basement six times in the past 12 years, while the other teams in the division have only done so twice each.
  • The Falcons bolstered their offensive line this offseason, adding Jon Asamoah in free agency and Jake Matthews in the draft, and quarterback Matt Ryan is hopeful that the changes will be a step towards Atlanta improving upon its 2013 4-12 record (per Daniel Cox of “I think our offensive line has done a really nice job during the OTA period as well as during minicamp,” said Ryan, who was sacked 44 times last year (third-most in the NFL). “From a communication standpoint, we’ve got a few changes from what we’ve done around here in the past and those guys are working through those changes. I think one of the big things that [head coach] Mike [Smith] preaches is communication at the line of scrimmage. You can hear those guys talking a bunch and making sure they’re on the same page.
  • Smith, who was notably unhappy with the presence of HBO’s Hard Knocks series in Baltimore when he was a position coach with the Ravens, has embraced the cameras this time around because he believes the show will handle sensitive Falcons issues, such as cuts, with tact, writes D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • In his latest mailbag,’s David Newton writes that rookie Kelvin Benjamin is the Panthers’ nominal No. 1 receiver, adding that his size (6’5″, 240 pounds) will make him an ideal red zone target.
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