Around the NFC South

Here's a look at the top Tuesday morning headlines from around the NFC South.

Here’s a debate about whether Atlanta’s trade up to get receiver Julio Jones was worth the draft picks the Falcons gave up as compensation. It’s a legitimate question, and you can make points on both sides of the argument. But I think time will show the Falcons did the right thing by trading for Jones. He’s going to be a special player. We saw flashes of it in his rookie season. Consistency is the next step, and that will come soon because Jones will get a full offseason program this year.

Stephen Holder takes a look at how a potential trade by St. Louis out of the No. 2 spot in the draft would impact the Buccaneers at No. 5. He says it likely would mean the Bucs would have their choice at No. 5 between LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne and Alabama running back Trent Richardson. That appears to be a no-lose decision. Both are good players, and the Bucs have needs at both positions.

In this chat, Jeff Duncan said the Saints will continue to negotiate with quarterback Drew Brees right up until the March 5 deadline. He says the Saints will only use the franchise tag on Brees if all else fails, and says it’s more likely the tag will be used on guard Carl Nicks.

D. Orlando Ledbetter writes that the market for Atlanta free-agent linebacker Curtis Lofton has been set by the five-year $42.5 million deal signed by Cleveland’s D’Qwell Jackson. While Lofton’s agent might use that as a negotiating point, I’m not sure Jackson’s deal is a realistic parameter for Lofton’s deal. Lofton is a very good middle linebacker and a defensive leader, but I don’t think it would be accurate to say he’s one of the top five middle linebackers in the game. I think his market value is somewhere less than Jackson’s.

Nakia Hogan writes that one draft prospect who could be intriguing to the Saints is West Virginia’s Bruce Irvin. At 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, he’s a “tweener’’ between a defensive end and a linebacker. But the guy has unique pass-rush skills, and the Saints need to improve their rush. They don’t have a first-round pick, but Irvin could be available in the second round.

Defensive tackles Michael Brockers and Devon Still are commonly mentioned as prime candidates for the Panthers, who have the No. 9 pick. But Joseph Person writes that Memphis tackle Dontari Poe has worked himself into the argument with a strong showing at the combine.