Tom Brady‘s retirement shoved the Buccaneers‘ void-years bill to 2023, and the $35.1MM cap hit will complicate the team’s plans to replace the all-time great. Tampa Bay is more than $55MM over the cap, as of Wednesday, and has upper-crust cornerback Jamel Dean on track for free agency. While the rest of the NFC South is being connected to quarterbacks, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets the Bucs should not be considered players for top-tier QB free agents. This would include Jimmy Garoppolo and almost definitely Derek Carr, and while Stroud adds the team will look at the market, the Bucs’ price range could be considered in the midlevel area.
Former second-rounder Kyle Trask, whom Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes Bucs players are high on as a player who can compete for the starting job (after two years in development), is the only quarterback left on the roster. The team holds the No. 19 overall pick. Here is the latest from the NFC South:
- The Saints have been the team most closely connected to Carr. They will need to complete their usual batch of winter restructures to be in position to pay him, though there are not as many avenues available to the crafty organization compared to recent years. But the Saints started their path to cap compliance Wednesday. They restructured Marcus Maye‘s deal, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. By moving $6.07MM of Maye’s salary into a signing bonus, the team created $4.85MM in cap space. Baby steps. The Saints are still more than $50MM over the cap.
- Another Matt Rhule-era hire is no longer with the Panthers. The team parted ways with VP of player personnel Pat Stewart, Joe Person of The Athletic tweets. Stewart, who worked with Rhule at both Western Carolina and Temple, joined the Panthers in 2020.
- New Panthers HC Frank Reich will bring in ex-Rams assistant Jonathan Cooley, Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic tweets. Cooley is set to join the Panthers as their defensive backs coach. He and new Carolina DC Ejiro Evero worked together in Los Angeles, with the Rams promoting Cooley after Evero left for Denver last year. The Rams, despite blocking Cooley from interviewing with the Vikings in 2022, fired him just after this past season ended.
- Another Rams staffer fired along with Cooley in January will catch on in the NFC South. The Saints are hiring Kevin Carberry to be their assistant offensive line coach, Yates adds (on Twitter). Carberry served as the Rams’ offensive line coach during their Super Bowl LVI-winning 2021 season and last year. He will replace Zach Strief, who is now the Broncos’ O-line coach.
- When Ryan Jensen went down during a July practice, he tore his MCL and PCL fully but only partially tore his ACL. This allowed for the veteran Buccaneers center to avoid surgery, Dan Pompei of Athletic notes (subscription required). Jensen also suffered meniscus damage, per Pompei, who adds retirement was a consideration for the injured blocker. Jensen took out a $5MM insurance policy in the event of a career-ending injury. A stem cell treatment in Antigua, however, made a difference in Jensen’s recovery. The 31-year-old blocker managed to make it back to practice late in the season and played in Tampa Bay’s wild-card loss to Dallas. Two years remain on Jensen’s three-year, $39MM contract.
- Eddy Pineiro came to Charlotte as a Zane Gonzalez replacement, but the ex-Bears kicker fared well. Pineiro made 33 of 35 field goals, including a 15-for-16 mark from beyond 40 yards, and Person views him as the most likely Panthers kicker in 2023. Gonzalez suffered a preseason quad injury, leading to a full-season IR stay. The Rhule signee is under contract through 2023, while Pineiro is a free agent. But the latter has ties to special teams coordinator Chris Tabor, whom Person adds Reich is retaining. Tabor coached Pineiro in Chicago as well.