NFL Quick Hits: Jimmy Clausen's Panthers Future, Saints' Carl Nicks Problems and More

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Welcome to the weekly Thursday NFC South Nuggets, where I poke fun at everything that has happened with the Buccaneers, Panthers and Saints in the past week.  We discuss Tampa's franchise tag and terrible linebackers, the big question about Carolina's backup quarterback position, and a Saints guard who loves exclamation points.

Tampa is preparing to franchise their most prized player, kicker Connor Barth.  They clearly want to keep the nucleus of the team that put together four entire wins last season, and Barth must be the youngriest of them all.  Barth completed 26 of 28 field goals, making him their only offensive playmaker.  Sounds as if the Buccaneers are staying good on their promise to spend more this off season, shelling out an estimated $2.6 million.

Formerly benched OLB Geno Hayes is not expected back in Tampa.  They may move a disappointing Mason Foster to OLB, ensuring Tampa maintains their elite missed tackle ability.  New defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan said Foster's tape "was not too good."  Tampa is expected to be in the mix for just about any middle linebacker in free agency, with Curtis Lofton believed to be at the top of their list.

The long fabled Jimmy Clausen era may continue in Carolina.  Despite being active all of zero games in 2011, Clausen is somehow "in the mix" to backup Cam Newton despite a nearly $1 million roster bonus.  If Cam is injured, the Panthers clearly want to know their quarterback will continue throwing interceptions at a Jake Delhomme rate.  

In the same article, it was hypothesized that Carolina wants a quarterback that has a similar skill set to Cam Newton.  They mention projected late round pick Russell Wilson, a short but athletic quarterback for Wisconsin.  Hopefully Wilson will be able to force inaccurate throws into triple coverage like Cam Newton without missing a beat.

The Saints are frantically trying to restructure the contract of the only Saints player that fits Steve Spagnuolo's scheme on the defensive line, as Will Smith would otherwise count over $10 million towards the cap.  Sadly, if successful, restructuring his contract would give the Saints between $5 to $6 million more to work with to resign other players.

Understandably, Carl Nicks wants to get out of New Orleans as quickly as possible, tweeting, "I don't want to be franchised!!!!"  How badly does he want out of New Orleans?  Four exclamation points worth!  Saints fans may think it has more to do Nicks eyeing a long term contract, but surely he must hate the Saints as much as myself.

Get more great NFL news and analysis over at The Grits Blitz.