Trevor Penning is slotted to be the Saints‘ long-term Terron Armstead replacement, but a stopgap may be required ahead of that succession. The Northern Iowa alum is not a lock to open the season as New Orleans’ left tackle, Mike Triplett of ESPN.com notes. The Saints expected the Division I-FCS product to be raw coming in, and it does not appear he has seized the job for which he’s ultimately ticketed just yet. If Penning is on the bench to start the season, swingman James Hurst would be in line to get the call. The former Ravens starter was a 15-game first-stringer with the Saints last season.
Here is the latest from the NFC South:
- Departure rumors have encircled Deion Jones for a stretch now, but the well-paid Falcons linebacker is on the shelf after undergoing shoulder surgery. Jones is set to count $20MM toward the Falcons’ cap this year — the highest figure on the rebuilding team. The Falcons should be considered unlikely to cut Jones, Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com writes. They would be slammed with $18MM-plus in dead money, saving barely $1MM, by releasing the seventh-year veteran. Jones could potentially be an in-season trade chip, once the Falcons pay out part of his $9.6MM base salary. At just 27, the off-ball linebacker would be an upgrade for many teams. Atlanta signed ex-Dean Pees charge Rashaan Evans, has Mykal Walker returning, and the team drafted Troy Andersen in Round 2. The Arthur Smith–Terry Fontenot regime appears to have a post-Jones plan in place.
- New Panthers secondary coach Steve Wilks, returning to Charlotte after a few notable stops, is not planning to have Jeremy Chinn play much linebacker, per David Newton of ESPN.com. Despite the team signing free agent safety Xavier Woods, the plan is for Chinn to stick at his listed position. The third-year defender saw extensive run on Carolina’s defensive second level as a rookie, and while Newton notes Chinn will still move around, the Woods addition will not lead to extensive Chinn linebacker burn. Having already totaled 224 tackles in two seasons, the former second-round pick has a big year in front of him. Chinn will become extension-eligible in 2023.
- The Panthers are on the lookout for a veteran edge rusher, but the team has plans for the recently extended Frankie Luvu. The fifth-year linebacker is on a new Carolina deal because the coaching staff believes he can contribute on the edge, according to Newton. In his first Panthers season, Luvu started four games but worked mostly as a backup. Among players who saw the bulk of their snaps as off-ball linebackers, Luvu graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 2-ranked pass rusher — behind only Micah Parsons — last season. Granted, this came on just 249 snaps and produced just 1.5 sacks, but the American Samoa native earned a two-year, $9MM deal to stay.
- Panthers defensive lineman Daviyon Nixon is not expected to be full-go when training camp starts, Joe Person of The Athletic notes (subscription required). The former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year-turned-Carolina fifth-rounder is still recovering from the knee injury that ended his rookie season. With Matt Ioannidis in the fold alongside Derrick Brown, Nixon is in line to be a rotational presence in his second season.