Time for a run through the Friday morning headlines from around the division.
Heading into the last year of his contract, running back Jonathan Stewart said he hopes to remain with the Carolina Panthers. There’s been a lot of speculation Stewart will leave via free agency because the Panthers already have a lot of money invested in DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert. But I wouldn’t write off Stewart staying with the Panthers for the long term just yet. A lot of things can happen between now and the start of free agency next March. The Panthers could have injuries at running back and that could make Stewart less expendable. He also could have a big year and, with Williams closing in on 30, that could force the Panthers to keep Stewart. Heck, you could even see an extension long before the start of free agency. The Panthers have almost $9 million in cap space and teams won’t be able to carry over cap space like they did last year. The Panthers could use most of that cap space to give Stewart a deal (before or early in the season) that’s heavy on the front end.
Carolina linebacker Jon Beason, who is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, said he will be ready to go at full strength in training camp. The Panthers were cautious with Beason in the offseason workout and have targeted training camp as the real time for him to get back on the field. Even then, I’d expect the Panthers to ease Beason back in and give him some days off in the early stages of the preseason.
The Times-Picayune continues its series of the top 25 Saints with wide receiver Lance Moore at No. 13. Mike Triplett writes Moore is one of the most underrated members of the offense. I think that’s very accurate. In a receiving corps that’s loaded with talent, Moore doesn’t get a lot of attention. But he might be New Orleans’ most dependable receiver.
Bradley Handwerger looks at New Orleans receivers that could take the place of Robert Meachem, who left via free agency. He lists Adrian Arrington, Joe Morgan and Nick Toon as possibilities. I think the rookie Toon could emerge quickly. He’s a smart and polished receiver and those attributes could earn him immediate playing time.
Here’s a look at Atlanta’s defensive tackle situation. Corey Peters has emerged into a very solid player. But the key here is Jonathan Babineaux, who didn’t have a great season last year. For Atlanta’s defensive line to really shine, Babineaux needs to bounce back and show that age and injuries aren’t catching up to him.
Speaking of Atlanta defensive linemen that need to bounce back, defensive end Ray Edwards said he’s much healthier as he prepares for his second season with the Falcons. Edwards was a big free-agent signing last year, but didn’t have big production. Knee issues might have played a role in that. But Edwards had another knee operation after the season and said he’s had plenty of time to recover.
After a troubled college career, receiver Preston Parker has developed into a reliable player for the Buccaneers. He credits former Tampa Bay fullback Earnest Graham for showing him how to be a professional.