South Notes: Lovie, Bucs, Mankins, Norman

Former Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith is expected to become the new head coach at the University of Illinois, according to Ryan Baker of CBS Chicago (Twitter link). Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports has also confirmed the likely hire. Smith’s move back to the state of Illinois — where he coached the Bears for nine seasons — has repercussions in Tampa Bay, as Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports (Twitter link) that Smith’s contract with the Bucs contained offset language pertaining to any football job, not just those in the NFL. Therefore, Tampa is likely to going to recoup some of the $10MM it owes to Smith under the terms of his old deal.

Let’s take a look at more out from Tampa Bay and the NFL’s other South division clubs…

  • Free agent offensive lineman Nate Chandler was released by the Panthers earlier this week, but he’s now getting attention from another NFC South team, as Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Buccaneers are interested in Chandler. As Auman writes, Tampa’s interest in Chandler — who can play both tackle and guard — could be a sign that the club expects veteran Logan Mankins to retire.┬áMankins hasn’t yet made a final decision, per Auman, but he will let the Bucs know his choice before free agency starts.
  • Panthers cornerback Josh Norman isn’t going to accept a long-term deal that he considers to be below his market value, and he’s fine with playing out the season on the franchise tag, writes Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer. Norman won’t accept a hometown discount, as he tells Jones, but he dispensed with any notion that he would hold out of training camp in an attempt to spur Carolina into offering more money.
  • Safety Earl Wolff, who signed a futures contract with the Jaguars in January, was abducted by a group of armed men in Fayetteville, North Carolina on February 23, according to Thomas Pope of the Fayetteville Observer. Wolff was released unharmed, and one of alleged kidnappers was arrested on Wednesday.
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