NFC South mailbag

Derrick in Marrero, La., writes: Pat-You know we all love Peyton Manning here in NOLA, but I really need some clarity on why every pundit around the network circle didn't even bat an eye when he ran away with the MVP award. Drew Brees led Manning in all passing categories with the exception of yards (Comp % which was an NFL record, passer rating which was I believe the 7th highest ever, yards per attempt, TDs and Ints) His team lost only 1 more game than Manning's? In addition everyone stated "Look who Manning is doing it with?" I ask , Who in the world is Drew throwing to? I just would like to see someone ask nationally just why was the vote so lopsided? The MVP cannot be a popularity vote?

Pat Yasinskas: You’re preaching to the choir here. I though the vote should at least have been closer. I don’t think there’s a player in the NFL who does more for his team than Brees. But I don’t have a vote. Also, and I am by no means saying this is fair or right, but I think the award, much like the Pro Bowl, is somewhat of a popularity contest. The Manning name does carry a lot of weight.

Firat in Wesley Chapel, Fla., asks if the Bucs should take a safety or defensive tackle with the No. 3 overall pick.

Pat Yasinskas: I’m a big believer in that it all starts up front, and I think Tampa Bay’s defensive line was a weakness there. I think the Bucs almost have to go with a defensive tackle. You can find competent safeties later in the draft.

Charlie in Union Beach, N.J., asks why the Panthers didn’t simply lock up Julius Peppers to a long-term deal several years ago.

Pat Yasinskas: That’s a good point because locking up Peppers earlier would have prevented the Panthers from having to use the franchise tag on him in 2009 and probably in 2010. I know for a fact there was an attempt by the Panthers to sign Peppers to a long-term deal in 2008. The Panthers offered to make Peppers the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history. He turned that deal down. That was during a time when Peppers apparently wanted out of Carolina.

Falcon Fan in Germany asks about the possibility of the Falcons drafting a tight end this year as an eventual replacement for Tony Gonzalez.

Pat Yasinskas: I don’t think it’s a huge priority because Gonzalez is still going strong. I doubt you’ll see the Falcons taking a tight end in the early in the draft, simply because they’ve got other needs that are more pressing. But I could see them looking for a tight end in the middle rounds and grooming him behind Gonzalez for a year or two.