Around the NFC South

METAIRIE, La. -- Let's take a look at the top morning headlines from around the NFC South.

  • There is a radio report out of New Orleans that Drew Brees and the Saints are closing in on a long-term deal that could be finalized as early as Friday. There is no official word on this yet. But, if true, this would be the best news of the offseason for the Saints. They’ve had plenty of turmoil, and Brees’ contract situation has been a part of it. If Brees gets back with the team soon, the healing process can start.

  • NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reportedly will hear the appeals of New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith, as well as two former Saints, on June 18. Goodell previously said he would not hear the appeals until grievances filed by the NFL Players Association were heard. An arbitrator previously has ruled against the Saints on one grievance. Another grievance was heard by another arbitrator, who has yet to make a ruling. If that arbitrator makes the ruling soon and it is against the union, then I would expect Goodell to uphold the suspensions. Goodell also has been hit with a defamation lawsuit by Vilma.

  • Mike Triplett writes that a new report alleging New Orleans players were financially rewarded for “whack hits’’ shouldn’t bring any new discipline. Nothing is guaranteed in what’s been a bizarre offseason for the Saints, but it at least sounds like “whack hits’’ were clean and not intended to hurt anyone. The NFL doesn’t want any pay-for-performance systems. But that isn’t the real issue in the Saints’ bounty scandal. The NFL is more concerned about stopping any program that provides incentives to hurt an opponent.

  • Carolina linebacker Jon Beason says the Panthers are preparing to be champions. That may seem like a lofty aspiration for a team that went 6-10 last season, but shouldn’t every team be dreaming of the Super Bowl right now?

  • Atlanta coach Mike Smith said that rookie offensive tackle Lamar Holmes will not participate in practice until training camp. Holmes has a toe injury and the Falcons said they’re holding him out of the rest of the offseason program as a precautionary measure. A lot of Atlanta fans have been thinking that Holmes has a chance to beat out Sam Baker for the job at left tackle to open the regular season. I don’t think that’s ever been the case. The Falcons view Holmes as a project and think he could start in a year or two, but don’t want him protecting Matt Ryan’s blindside right away. Even if Holmes had been a long shot to beat out Baker, the lack of participation in the offseason program has set him back and surely means he’ll begin his career as a backup.

  • Greg Schiano said he wouldn't have taken the Tampa Bay coaching position if he didn't think he was the right man for the job. Schiano must have had a pretty strong feeling about this one. Schiano previously has said he turned down opportunities for other jobs. But he also has said Tampa Bay was the first job that made him feel like it was worth leaving Rutgers. I'm not sure exactly what the attraction was, but it had to be strong for Schiano to agree to take over what was one of the worst teams in the NFL last season.