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TEAM NEEDS: Outside linebacker, defensive end, cornerback, strong safety, defensive tackle, tight end.
OLB -- The Falcons let both starting outside linebackers, Michael Boley and Keith Brooking, leave during free agency. They signed Mike Peterson, but he could train his heir apparent.
DE -- This will be an admission pick that Jamaal Anderson is not the edge rusher some thought he'd be when selected No.8 in the 2007 draft. The Falcons reportedly are in love with Southern California linebacker Brian Cushing and are delighted with the prospect that he could possibly drop to them.
CB -- The best cornerback on last year's roster, Domonique Foxworth, left during free agency. Chris Houston and Brent Grimes are sitting atop the depth chart. One name to keep an eye on is Troy State CB Sherrod Martin. He's a big (6-1, 198 pounds) and physical player. The knock on Houston is that he's hasn't been as physical as his stature would suggest. Grimes was decent after opening the season as a starter, but not special. He also hasn't held up for an entire season since making the team as an undrafted free agent from Shippensburg State. Georgia CB Asher Allen is another player to watch for the Falcons.
SS -- They drafted California FS Thomas DeCoud last season and he will get the first crack at replacing Lawyer Milloy. The Falcons have fully researched Western Michigan's Louis Delmas, Missouri's William Moore and Alabama's Rashad Johnson. Delmas best fits Dimitroff's description of a hybrid safety. The position has moved away from the big, intimidating thumper who just serves as extra linebacker in run support. The Falcons' scheme requires a strong safety be adept in coverage, especially in zone coverage. He has to thump in run support and exhibit deep middle-to-sideline range in pass coverage. The quandary is Delmas is not likely worthy of the No. 24 pick, but might not be available when the Falcons pick with the 55th pick in the second round.
DT -- Grady Jackson was also allowed to leave during free agency, but he's closer to 40 years old than 30. The Falcons have Trey Lewis, who showed some flashes in 2007 after being drafted in the fifth round out of Washburn. He's been battling to come back from two knee operations and will have show that he can be helpful. Keep an eye out for Southern California's Fili Moala, Hampton's Chris Baker or Stillman's Sammie Lee Hill when the Falcons are drafting after the third round.
TE -- The Falcons made a play for L.J. Smith in free agency. There are a few decent pass-catching tight ends in the draft and the Falcons could take one as high as 24 with Oklahoma State's Brandon Pettigrew.
TEAM NEEDS: Defensive end, defensive tackle, offensive line.
DE -- The Panthers still need to find a long-term replacement for Julius Peppers even if he decided to sign his tender and play for Carolina this season. The team can use depth at this position -- so it's time to start grooming a replacement.
DT -- One of Carolina's weaknesses last year was a lack of depth in the middle of the line. The Panthers need to add a body to help out Damione Lewis and Maake Kemoeatu. Both Lewis and Kemoeatu got banged up toward the end of last season and the team needs to do something to ease the pounding they absorb on a week-to-week basis.
OL -- After losing their top three backups in a span of four days, Carolina's offensive line depth has been depleted. The team has nobody on the bench they should feel comfortable putting in the starting lineup next season.
New Orleans Saints
TEAM NEEDS: Running back, free safety, outside linebacker.
RB -- With Deuce McAllister gone, the Saints need another bruiser in the backfield to complement Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas, who, even though he's been a pleasant surprise, is more of a third-down back than an every-down pounder. It's extremely likely that one of the drafts top two running backs -- Chris Wells or Knowshon Moreno -- will be on the board when the Saints' turn comes up in the first round.
FS -- The Saints failed in an attempt to get Jacksonville's Gerald Sensabaugh, so they settled for one-year contracts with veterans Darren Sharper and Pierson Prioleau. They'll likely try to get a youngster at this spot with one of their two picks in the fourth round.
OLB -- While they're set in the middle after re-signing Jonathan Vilma, the Saints can look at this position for the future because strong-side linebacker Scott Fujita is going into the final year of his contract and weak-side 'backer Scott Shanle has only two years left on his deal.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
TEAM NEEDS: Defensive tackle, defensive end, cornerback, receiver, quarterback.
DT -- The Bucs have a new system under defensive coordinator Jim Bates, who favors 320-pound pluggers to penetrating defensive tackles. That's a real change of personnel for the Bucs, who re-signed free agent Ryan Sims thinking he is a good fit.
"Coach Bates has had success with both," said Mark Dominik, first-year general manager. "When you go back and look at Miami, and you say who were their defensive tackles? They had (Tim) Bowens and (Darryl) Gardner -- big-bodied defensive tackles. And they were successful. They put up good statistics. Then he went to Green Bay and had one big body and then Cullen Jenkins, who is the 6-2, 300-pound guy. Again, he put up statistics. So to typecast exactly what the defensive tackle looks like ... it's part of the reason we wanted Ryan Sims back. He's our big body that we felt could do some stuff. But we rotate three guys. That's why we still felt why Chris Hovan could still be a big part of what we do because he's had success with that player who's relentless and tough."
The Bucs have targeted Ole Miss DT Peria Jerry, Boston College DT Ron Brace and in later rounds, Temple DT Terrance Knighton.
DE -- The Bucs need another pass-rushing defensive end to compliment Gaines Adams, who led the club with 6.5 sacks. That's not exactly the kind of production the team hoped for when they made him the fourth overall pick in 2007. Adams has been more effective rushing from the left side, so drafting a right defensive end is not out of the question. The Bucs have not re-signed defensive end Kevin Carter. Jimmy Wilkerson currently is first on the depth chart at left defensive end.
Northern Illinois defensive end Larry English and Georgia Tech defensive end Michael Johnson.
CB -- Under Bates, the Bucs will utilize more bump-and-run coverage, as opposed to the zone coverage deployed in the Tampa Two scheme. Second-year starter Aqib Talib tied for the club lead in interceptions with four last season. He's a perfect fit for the new defense. Ronde Barber survived the veteran purge because he still is a playmaker. But he is at the end of his career and not perfectly suited for the new scheme. Drafting a cover corner like Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins might make sense.
WR -- The Bucs named Antonio Bryant their franchise player and re-signed WR Michael Clayton. They released WR Joey Galloway, who signed with the New England Patriots. With two, physical, outside wideouts, there's room for a slot receiver like Florida's Percy Harvin, who could also be a weapon in the "Wildcat" formation. In the third round, the Bucs could target Florida wideout Louis Murphy.
QB -- The Bucs have four quarterbacks under contract after signing Steelers free agent Byron Leftwich. The list includes Luke McCown, Brian Griese and Josh Johnson. On the surface, it would appear they're not in the market for another quarterback. But that didn't stop the Bucs from working out Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman.
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