We should have some very busy days ahead in the NFC South and across the league.
Free agency doesn’t officially start until 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday. But I’m expecting things to start happening as the day goes on Monday.
We’ll keep our eyes on the scandal involving the Saints' bounty program. Saints owner Tom Benson and coach Sean Payton reportedly were seen in New York over the weekend, according to the New Orleans television station Benson owns. That could be a sign the league is getting close to deciding on punishments.
We’re also likely to see some player releases and contract restructures. The Panthers are currently over the $120.6 million salary cap, and likely will be releasing players and restructuring contracts.
The Saints are barely under the salary cap, and likely will be making some moves if they want to re-sign any of their own free agents -- a group that includes guard Carl Nicks and receiver Marques Colston.
The Falcons have a bit more salary-cap room, but it looks like they might be preparing for a major splash (Mario Williams?). They already have restructured the contract of Dunta Robinson, and more moves could be on the way.
The Bucs are well under the cap, but veteran center Jeff Faine and tight end Kellen Winslow have high cap figures, and we don’t know yet if they fit into the plans of the new coaching staff. The Bucs also are waiting on a decision from cornerback Ronde Barber on if he wants to return for a 16th season. The Bucs have told Barber they would like him back, and he asked for a little time to make a decision.