NFL offseason team Draft needs: NFC South Division

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Atlanta Falcons


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The Falcons must determine if they want to re-sign veteran safety Lawyer Milloy, linebacker Keith Brooking, cornerback Domonique Foxworth and defensive end Chauncey Davis.

They would like to have all four back, but in these tough economic times they are not willing to overpay.

Strongside linebacker Michael Boley appears headed off to another team via free agency. He lost his starting position to Coy Wire late in the season.


1. Tight end (pass catcher): The Falcons want to provide quarterback Matt Ryan with a tight end who can serve as a safety valve and get down the middle of the seams against Cover-Two zone defense. They would be delighted if Oklahoma State’s Brandon Pettigrew drops to them at No. 24 in the first round.

2. Linebacker (weak and strong-side): The lack of impact plays from the linebacker corps will be addressed. Boley and Brooking could be gone next season.

3. Strong safety (strong safety): Milloy is 35 and his replacement must be obtained, even if he elects to re-sign with the Falcons.

  • Falcons team page

    Carolina Panthers

    OFFSEASON STRATEGYThe Panthers have a tough decision coming up – to franchise defensive end Julius Peppers (who doesn’t want to be here) or offensive tackle Jordan Gross (who does). The ideal situation for the Panthers is to sign both, but that won’t happen.

    Their next best bet is to re-sign Gross to a contract extension and then franchise Peppers and trade him for some draft picks. That would allow the Panthers to save face after a very messy situation.


    1. Defensive end: If the Panthers lose Julius Peppers – and it almost seems a certainty at this point – they will need a replacement. In fact, they could really use two speed guys coming off the ends to complement Tyler Brayton and Charles Johnson.

    2. Defensive tackle: The Panthers need help to go along with Maake Kemoeatu and Damione Lewis. The team ran into all sorts of injury problems here in the past.

    3. Cornerback: If the Panthers cut Ken Lucas as expected, they will need to fill that spot, even though they like Richard Marshall and C.J. Wilson as potential starters alongside Chris Gamble.

  • Panthers team page

    New Orleans Saints

    OFFSEASON STRATEGYThe Saints aren’t expected to use the franchise or transition tags this year, but they do have a couple of key priorities among their list of players who could be eligible for free agency on Feb. 27.

    The biggest names among their unrestricted free agents-to-be are middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who was their leading tackler this season, and right tackle Jon Stinchcomb, a three-year starter who has been a key to an offensive line that has allowed just 52 sacks in the last three seasons.

    The Saints have made it clear they want Vilma back as well as right guard Jahri Evans, a restricted free agent who’s started all 48 games since they selected him in the fourth round of the 2006 draft from tiny Division II Bloomsburg (Pa.) State.


    1. Safety: The Saints have given up too many big pass plays over the top the last few seasons, so acquiring an instinctive free safety with strong cover skills and an ability to make plays all over the field is a must.

    2. Cornerback: Tracy Porter earned a starting job as a rookie last summer and Randall Gay was solid as the nickel, but Mike McKenzie is getting up in age and finished the last two seasons on IR with major knee injuries.

    3. Running back: Deuce McAllister was released, so they need another bruiser in the backfield to complement Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas, who is more of a third-down back than an every-down pounder.

  • Saints team page

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    OFFSEASON STRATEGYThe Bucs began their offseason by re-signing QB Luke McCown to a two-year, $7.5 million deal. McCown has been given assurances he will compete for the starting job. The biggest priority is locking up WR Antonio Bryant, and the Bucs may use their franchise tag on him. Tampa Bay will look to acquire help on the defensive line and Titans DT Albert Haynesworth is a possibility. The Bucs are $46 million under the salary cap.


    1. Defensive tackle: Jovan Haye is a free agent and nose tackle Chris Hovan is on the downside of his career. The Bucs lack significant push in the middle and it has had an impact on their lack of a pass rush. The under tackle always has been a critical spot in the 4-3 defense and they have never adequately replaced Warren Sapp.

    2. Receiver: Antonio Bryant is an unrestricted free agent after leading the team in receiving last season. Joey Galloway had two broken bones in his foot and missed half the season. It’s uncertain whether he will return for a fifth season with the Bucs. Michael Clayton is a free agent. That leaves players like Maurice Stovall and Ike Hilliard. Not much left in the cupboard. Look for the Bucs to re-sign Bryant or use the franchise tag on him.

    3. Quarterback: The Bucs re-signed Luke McCown, but he is unproven at best with a 1-6 career record. Brian Griese and Josh Johnson remain under contract. At some point, the Bucs have to invest a high draft pick in the position. Kansas State QB Josh Freeman is a possibility with the No. 19 overall pick.

  • FOX Sports on MSN – NFL Draft – NFL offseason team needs: NFC South.