Hitting the NFC South hot spots

Let’s reach into the NFC South mailbag and touch on the questions that seem to be on a lot of minds.

Joe in Fredricksburg, Va. writes that it seems everyone’s saying the Falcons need help at receiver and wonders if Kerry Meier is no longer in the plans.

Pat Yasinskas: Kerry Meier was drafted by the Falcons last year, got hurt in the preseason and missed his rookie year. All indications are Meier will be healthy this year and the Falcons like him a lot. However, I think the people who are saying the Falcons need a receiver this year (and I’m one of them) are talking about a speed receiver. Meier doesn’t fit that profile. He projects more as a candidate to take over Brian Finneran’s role and, in some ways, Meier has the potential to do more than Finneran. He can line up as an H-back, play anywhere on special teams, and perhaps even throw the ball about because he was a college quarterback. But Meier is not a speed receiver who can stretch the field. I think the Falcons will draft a speed receiver and look to Meier to take over the Finneran role.

Ryan in Tampa, Fla. says he read my post about North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn. He doesn’t think the Panthers will take Quinn at No. 1 overall, but wonders if he might be a possibility for the Bucs at No. 20.

Pat Yasinskas: First off, let’s clarify what I wrote about Quinn and the Panthers, since a lot of mailbag responders seemed to think I suddenly was saying the Panthers are going to take Quinn at No. 1 overall. I said nothing of the sort. Just that a lot of draft gurus suddenly have Quinn on the rise and he is a local guy, but I pointed out his off-field troubles and medical history are likely to keep him from being considered at No. 1. As for the Bucs, if Quinn’s there at No. 20, he has to be a consideration. It’s no secret Tampa Bay is in need of a defensive end. The Bucs will have to really do their homework on Quinn, both medically and off the field. But it seems like Quinn is on the rise because of his athleticism. At least at this point, I’m thinking there’s a good chance he’s gone before No. 20.

Chris in Camanche, Iowa asks if the Saints will pursue running back DeAngelo Williams if he hits the open market.

Pat Yasinskas: There remains a lot of uncertainty because of the labor situation. But I think the fans that are sitting around dreaming about Williams coming to their team (and I’m not talking just about New Orleans fans since I’m hearing from fans across the league) are probably wasting their time. The Panthers are placing a restricted tag on Williams. Again, the union is saying franchise and restricted tags aren’t valid, and we’ll have to wait to see how a new labor agreement is structured. But, if Williams is deemed a restricted free agent when all is said and done, I seriously doubt he’ll be leaving Carolina. He’d cost another team two draft picks, and Williams and the Panthers both have given indications they’d like to work out a long-term contract.

Bhavik in Athens, Ga. asks if the Falcons might pursue Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson in free agency.

Pat Yasinskas: This is pretty much just like the Williams question. It sounds like a great idea because Johnson is coming off a season in which he had 11.5 sacks, and he has plenty of upside. But Johnson is in the same situation as Williams. The Panthers are placing a restricted tag on him, and I don’t anticipate them allowing him to leave.

John in North Wilkesboro, N.C. asks if there is any chance the Panthers might pursue former New Orleans tight end Jeremy Shockey.

Pat Yasinskas: I do think the Panthers will do something pretty major at tight end this offseason. Coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski have made it clear they want to get more production from their tight ends in the passing game. But I don’t think Shockey fits the profile of what the Panthers are looking for. He’s on the downside of his career and he has baggage. Those two things alone probably rule him out of any consideration.