Weekend mailbag

Time for a weekend trip through the mailbag.

Rich in Estero, Fla., writes: Pat, I absolutely loved the piece you did on Josh Freeman! He really is a standup guy (even more than I thought.) A lot of times in the recent years you've been critical of Tampa and rightfully so. This is the kind of article that semi-confirms my thought about the Bucs: We're moving in the right direction, not just to be one-year wonders, but to be perennial contenders. I know Freeman hit a few bumps in the road, but do you see him as being one of the ELITE QBs within the next 3 years? I know it's hard to speculate so far into the future, but give it a shot!

Pat Yasinskas: I think Josh Freeman has a chance to be a very good quarterback, maybe even elite. I think you have to be encouraged by what he showed as a rookie. Sure, he had some rookie moments, but he also made some plays with a bad team around him. With a full offseason and stability on the coaching staff, I look for Freeman to take a big step forward next season. Understandably, people are critical of the Bucs. But Freeman is the focal point of this whole building process, and I think that’s reason enough to be encouraged. As far as Freeman being a “stand-up guy,’’ I always thought he did a good job of carrying himself with the media. After sitting down with him the other day, I was even more impressed than before. He’s poised and engaging and he’s also very genuine. A lot of times when athletes make an appearance, they’re gone as soon as their obligation is over. Freeman stayed around and just chatted with “The Fabulous Sports Babe’’ and me and took pictures with Babe.

Robbie in Murphy, N.C., writes: It's being reported that the Panthers offered Julius Peppers a long-term contract that would have paid him between 13-14 million annually. I think Peppers is crazy for thinking that any other team will beat that deal, he may even find it hard for a team to match that deal.

Pat Yasinskas: Agree totally. I think Peppers might have a hard time getting more than $10 million a year. He’s 30 and he hasn’t always been consistent. Plus, I think most owners are going to be very conservative with their money because of the uncertain labor situation. Then again, it’s only going to take one owner to change that and Peppers’ athletic ability could tempt someone into breaking the bank. But I don’t think Peppers’ issues in Carolina were all about money. I think he just wanted out of there.

Jeremy in Wilmington, N.C., writes: Hey Pat, thanks for always keeping us readers up to date on everything in the NFC South. Just read one of the Miami articles and saw that Chad Pennington is going to be an unrestricted free agent next year. I realize he is coming off of his 3rd surgery, but I wonder what the possibilities are of the Panthers going after him? He seems to be a decent quarterback and Miami was doing well with him before he went down. If anything, he managed the games well with the duo of Brown and Williams--similar to what Fox likes and not to mention DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart could take some load off his shoulders. Everyone saw potential in Matt Moore but like you said we probably need another option. Any thoughts?

Pat Yasinskas: Not saying they will do it, but I think Pennington would be a perfect fit. He’s a dependable game manager and is a guy who has been a leader wherever he’s been. Yep, I like what Moore did at the end of last season, but I don’t think you can definitively say he’s the answer yet. And, sadly, I think it’s become obvious Jake Delhomme’s not the answer. I think the Panthers should bring in someone like Pennington. If Moore steps up and wins the job, great. If not, Carolina would have a viable alternative.

Bryan in Sydney writes: Hi Pat, Do the restrictions on free agency for the top eight teams still apply to players that have been cut, or to all UFA's? So, would the Saints be able to pursue someone like Joey Porter (if/when he gets cut), or would they have to lose a similarly priced veteran? If you're concerned about the locker room fit, Sean Payton could keep him in a "Cone of Silence" a la Get Smart until game days.

Pat Yasinskas: No, the rules apply only to unrestricted free agents. If a player is cut by another team, the Saints are free to pursue him. But I’m not sure Joey Porter is someone the Saints would have any interest in.

Robert in Washington, D.C. writes: Hey Pat, If he falls to the 95th pick, I feel like Sean Payton might be able to talk himself into Tim Tebow. What do you think? I think with Payton's offensive mind, Tebow could look like an awesome new toy.

Pat Yasinskas: It’s true Payton is a brilliant offensive mind. However, I remember being out at Saints practice last year and asking Payton about possible interest in Michael Vick, who was available at the time. His response was something like, “Why would I even consider taking the ball out of Drew Brees’ hands?’’ Can’t argue with him on that one.