NFC South Blog
White and the Falcons have agreed to a three-year extension that will tie the veteran wideout to the team through the 2017 season. Reports had emerged previously that White wanted a new deal before the start of training camp, and now that has been accomplished. White caught 63 balls for 711 yards and three touchdowns last year, his lowest totals since 2006. White will look to improve on those numbers as Falcons WR Julio Jones returns to the team this season following a foot injury that kept him out most of last year.
Martin will see fewer touches under new Bucs head coach Lovie Smith, the Tampa Tribune reports. Martin averaged 23 touches per game over the last two seasons under former head coach Greg Schiano, but that will not be the case going forward. However, Smith has said that Martin will remain the starter. RB Mike James, RB Bobby Rainey and rookie RB Charles Sims will battle for the number two RB spot.
Falcons head coach Mike Smith says that Jones will be limited in early camp work, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. "He'll be limited in terms of his snaps," Smith said. "Our number one goal is to make sure that we've got everybody as healthy as we possibly can be." Jones is recovering from surgery after breaking a bone in his foot last October, an injury which held him out most of the year. The Falcons are the subject of HBO's "Hard Knocks" this year, and Jones' situation should be well-covered there.
Falcons beat writer D.Orlando Ledbetter says of Julio "While his training-camp practice schedule will be limited, Jones plans to be in the starting lineup when the Falcons open the regular season against the New Orleans Saints". There is some concern here as Jones is still recovering from his second surgery on the same foot. Ledbetter mentions both both Jones and WR Roddy White will be well documented in the upcoming HBO "Hard Knocks" series.
The Charlotte Observer reports that Panthers QB Newton is not 100% after undergoing ankle surgery this offseason. Newton worked out with the Panthers receivers last week, but was unable to give full effort due to concerns about the ankle. The fourth-year quarterback did not miss any games last season due to the injury, but complained of stiffness following the Panthers' playoff game versus the 49ers. He opted to have surgery in March to "tighten" some of the ankle ligaments.
ESPN.com's Mike Triplett posted a story about Saints rookie wide receiver Brandin Cooks on Friday. The quick takeaway: Everybody loves him.
"Everybody looked at each other like, 'Wow, this kid is definitely at a different speed," tight end Ben Watson said of Cooks.
Linebacker Junior Galette said Cooks' speed is "top tier" in the NFL. Former player and current NFL writer Matt Bowen said Cooks is "Az Hakim, Part 2. You don't want to cover him in the slot."
Former NFL general manager and current ESPN analyst Phil Savage thinks Cooks has a better shot at immediate success than the Bills' Sammy Watkins because of Drew Brees and the Saints' offense.
"I could see Watkins having some of those one-catch, 15-yards kind of games, just because E.J. Manuel didn't play well or they double up Watkins and he's gotta go other places with the ball. Whereas with Cooks, I think there's gonna be probably three or four automatic completions in every game plan."
Triplett said Cooks can be the NFL Offensive Rookie of the year and will hit a lot of "home runs" on screens, reverses, deep balls, and punt returns.
Julio Jones will likely be drafted as a top-five wideout in many leagues this year. He's a stud, even though there's a pretty big red flag attached to his fantasy stock.
Jones has fractured the same bone in his right foot twice in the past 33 months. The re-break came in October and required season-ending surgery. In that surgery, doctors took steps to lower the odds that Jones' foot fractures won't become a chronic condition.
According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jones underwent a 'cutting-edge medical procedure' that involved using a larger screw than was used in his first surgery to secure the broken fifth metatarsal of his right foot. Doctors also injected bone marrow taken from Jones' hip into the foot to help the injury heal quicker.
While such a treatment can help, it's not fool-proof. As Dr. Phillip Kwong told Mark Inabinett of AL.com, there are sometimes uncontrollable factors behind why bones break again. In this case, it could be that Jones' structure puts an unequal share of pressure on the outside of his right foot rather than evenly across it.
More from ESPN's John Clayton. He provided a short primer about the wide receiver battle coming up in Panthers training camp. Despite the fact that Carolina spent a first-round pick on Kelvin Benjamin, Clayton says that Jerricho Cotchery is expected to open camp as the team's No. 1 wideout, and "every spot after that is open."
With just hours remaining before the franchise tag deadline, Saints TE Graham announced on his Twitter account that he has agreed to a deal with the New Orleans Saints. Graham is now the highest-paid TE in NFL history, with an average salary of $10 million per year. Additionally, $21 million of the contract is guaranteed. The deal follows an NFL arbitrator's decision to designate Graham a TE for the purposes of contract negotiations, which meant the Saints would only have had to pay Graham about $7 million to tag him for the 2014 season.
ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure reports that WR White, who is in the final year of his deal with the Falcons, had expected to have a contract extension in place following the NFL draft this spring. According to McClure, the 32-year-old White wants to play three or four more seasons, and retire with the Falcons, with whom he's spent his entire NFL career. The Falcons report to training camp July 25, and will be the subject of the 2014 edition of HBO's "Hard Knocks."