NFC South afternoon update

It’s been a pretty quiet Monday around the NFC South, especially in Carolina, where there are no current Panthers’ headlines to choose from. But, hey, Carolina general manager Marty Hurney will be the first to tell you that you generally don’t want your team in the headlines this time of year because it probably means you’re dealing with contract issues. Let’s take a run through what’s out there.

  • Andrew Brandt writes about how the franchise tag has evolved into a more powerful tool than ever. Brandt writes the tag gives teams more leverage on franchised players. But he also expects New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees to reach a long-term deal before next week’s deadline.

  • At least one columnist said Jonathan Vilma has played his last game with the Saints. That’s really not going out on that big of a limb. Assuming Vilma’s season-long suspension isn’t somehow overturned, it’s difficult to imagine the Saints hanging onto the veteran linebacker in 2013. Vilma already showed some signs of age last season and the Saints are going to need to create salary-cap room next year.

  • Knox Bardeen begins his ranking of the top 20 players for the Falcons. At No. 20, he’s got running back Jacquizz Rodgers. That may seem a little high for a guy that didn’t do much as a rookie. But I think this projection could be very accurate. The Falcons have been talking a lot about limiting Michael Turner’s work load. I also sensed genuine excitement about Rodgers’ potential from coach Mike Smith when we spoke at the NFL meeting in March. I think you’re going to see a lot more of Rodgers this season.

  • Eric LeGrand, the paralyzed former Rutgers player signed by the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent, is making lots of news. LeGrand reportedly will receive a Jimmy V award at the ESPY’s. He also reportedly has an endorsement deal with Subway.