Time for another edition of the NFC South mailbag.
Pat Yasinskas: Hang loose. Hoover and Pierce probably will be available after the draft. Or at least more guys like them will be. It’s just the nature of the business right now. Teams are focusing in on the draft and they’re not going to lock up aging players until they see what their remaining needs are. Heck, the Saints are doing this with one of their own guys, letting veteran safety Darren Sharper hang out as a free agent.
Travis in Johnson City, Tenn., writes: Have you heard if the Falcons have any serious interest in Jason Worilds? I really believe that this guy has what it takes to be an outstanding DE in the very near future. Everyone seems to say he is more of a 3-4 guy, but has the same measurables as Robert Mathis of the Colts. I really believe his natural abilities can carry him a long way.
PY: Haven’t heard anything strong on potential interest by Atlanta. But teams are pretty good about keeping their intentions quiet. From the scouting reports I’ve read on Worilds, he sounds somewhat like Lawrence Sidbury, whom the Falcons drafted last year. The Falcons still have high hopes for Sidbury. But I’m not ruling Worilds out because the Falcons certainly are looking at all possible ways to improve their pass rush.
Nick in Atlanta writes: Hey Pat, I was just wondering what prospect in the draft are the Falcons really considering? Is it Brandon Graham out of Michigan, Sean Weatherspoon out of Missouri or someone a little outside the box?
PY: I think both of those guys and several others are under serious consideration. I’d also throw in Penn State linebacker Navarro Bowman and defensive lineman Jared Odrick. I’m not saying that because I’m a Penn State fan. I’m basing it on something I heard that leads me to believe they like both of those players. Graham and Weatherspoon also make lots of sense. When you’re sitting at No. 19, you can’t really lock into one player. I know some people have thrown out scenarios where the Falcons could take a running back or a receiver. I’m not buying into that. Thomas Dimitroff drafts on a need basis and the biggest needs this team has are in the front seven of the defense.
Steve in Redlands Calif., writes: Hey Pat,Thanks for filling my Saints fix during the offseason! The other day you mentioned a "contingency plan" the Saints have if they don't re-sign Darren Sharper. What is that plan at this point?
PY: Well, it’s not like the Saints are coming out and saying what their plan is. But they’ve got some alternatives. Malcolm Jenkins was a first-round pick last year and spent his rookie season as a backup cornerback. He has the size and skills to play free safety and the Saints knew that when they drafted him. I think moving Jenkins to free safety is one alternative. Usama Young is also a guy who’s done well as a backup and on special teams and he could be another candidate. Of course, the return of Sharper remains a possibility.
Gary in Hickory, N.C., writes: As difficult as it is to find two stud defensive tackles, is there any possibility the Panthers switch to a 3-4? Their linebacker corps is very good with Thomas Davis, Jon Beason and Dan Connor. Given the Panthers limited draft picks, wouldn't it be easier to find another linebacker or two?
PY: I follow your logic. But that’s not going to happen. John Fox is a creature of habit. He runs a 4-3 defense.
Marc in Brea, Calif., writes: Yes I've heard the Bucs are cheap. Yes I have heard that all their money is being sucked up by ManU. Yes I have heard their going young. But, for the life of me I cannot figure out their kicking situation. To me a guy like Neil Rackers hits the FA market and they don't give him a whiff? Let's not forget the revolving door at kicker last year. Is Tampa's plan to really use one of the 11 picks this year in the kicking game? I hope not. I'm a believer in the new regime but there are some things that make me scratch my head. This is one of them.
PY: Tell you the truth, I like Connor Barth, whom the Bucs settled on as their kicker down the stretch last season. Yeah, he’s not a proven veteran like Rackers. But Barth kind of fits with the whole youth movement here and I don’t see any reason to go out and use a draft pick on another kicker.