Following are some whispers we've been hearing from around the NFC:
• After spending big in the first days of free agency, the Buccaneers geared down and shifted their focus to the draft. They still have the salary-cap space to make significant additions, even after adding Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks and Eric Wright, but chose not to aggressively pursue the top running backs available in free agency. The team still has confidence that RB LeGarrette Blount, who was tendered as an exclusive-rights free agent this offseason, can be a quality, all-around back.
• Whether he’s promoted to lead the team while Sean Payton serves his one-year suspension or continues to serve as offensive coordinator under an interim head coach, it appears likely that Pete Carmichael will be one of the more authoritative voices when it comes to calling plays for the Saints next season. He gained significant experience in play-calling last season and, although Payton is widely considered one of the top minds in the game when it comes to designing and calling the offense, sources around the team say the club is very confident there won’t be a major drop-off if Carmichael is handling those duties.
• The Eagles might be done in free agency. Sure, they could add a veteran running back, an offensive lineman or someone to help on special teams — and if another trade like the DeMeco Ryans deal falls into their laps, consider them interested. But as far as any heavy lifting is concerned, don’t expect it. The team likes its roster heading toward the draft and will have extra picks to maneuver around, as usual.
• The two-headed report that Eagles head coach Andy Reid nearly left the team over not having enough personnel control and that he was interested in Peyton Manning received far more attention for the Manning portion. But the personnel matter is an interesting one. Although Reid has had final say on picks and signings for years, we have heard that there were issues regarding Reid and personnel matters when the team was discussing his future at season’s end.
• The Redskins desperately wanted more competition at receiver, which led to multiple signings at the position. But they could still release Santana Moss after June 1, which would give an additional salary-cap easement. If Moss can restructure his deal, he still could be back in the mix. But in no way is his place on the team assured.
• We hear that 2011 second-round pick DT Marvin Austin is continuing to progress in his rehab and is in good enough shape to feel confident about cracking the Giants’ rotation up front this coming season. He recently began lifting weights and has designs on participating, in some form or another, in all of the team’s offseason workouts.
• The Vikings might have gotten a steal with free-agent OG Geoff Schwartz, who could be in line to start at right guard. He was a forceful player at times in Carolina, and he seems to fit the style of blocking the Vikings will employ. This could be a relatively cheap signing that ends up netting good value and return.
• Keep a close eye on Packers second-year CB Davon House, the team’s fourth-round pick last year, who is expected to see a lot more action with free agent Pat Lee leaving for the Raiders. Team insiders believe that with the benefit of a full offseason — unlike last year — House should be a lot better in his second season. Word is the Packers’ coaches really like House’s size, speed (4.41) and athleticism but are still not sure he can be physical enough.
• Two positions where the Lions are in need of more depth, the way we hear it: cornerback and wide receiver. Cornerback is certainly the bigger need, especially with Eric Wright signing with Tampa Bay. However, the WR depth beyond Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson and Titus Young is quite untested.
• Newly re-signed Niners QB Alex Smith insists that the reports that he had considered a new agent to replace Tom Condon, who also represents Peyton Manning, were really much ado about nothing. “That has never been an issue for me,” Smith said. “I have full trust in Tom. He and I have a great relationship. I don’t know where that report came from. Obviously, I think, to a lot of people, it made sense just because he represents both of us, but no, I didn’t have any issues with it at all.”
• We hear the Cardinals are counting on Greg Toler to bounce back from the torn ACL that sidelined him all of last season and reclaim the starting LCB spot vacated by the versatile Richard Marshall, who signed with Miami. “They feel he could still be a pretty good player,” one team insider said of Toler. “He’s running around now and should be fully recovered in time for OTAs, although they will probably take it real easy this summer with both him and (RB) Ryan Williams.” Williams, the team’s second-round pick last year, also missed the entire 2011 campaign with a knee injury.
• Don’t be shocked if the Rams re-sign recently released veteran DE James Hall, if nobody else picks him up. “If they could sign him for something like $1.2 million, they should consider it,” said one team insider. “There are only three defensive ends on the roster right now (Chris Long, 2011 first-rounder Robert Quinn and Eugene Sims), so they could really use him. It wasn’t a case of Hall being done, like Fred Robbins. He can still contribute, and he’s real good with the younger guys.”
• In a Seattle secondary in which all four young starters (CBs Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor) got better as the 2011 season wore on, it’s easy to overlook reserve CB Byron Maxwell, the team’s sixth-round draft pick last year. “But whenever you talk to (defensive coordinator) Gus Bradley or (secondary coach) Kris Richard, they say, ‘Don’t forget about Maxwell,’ ” a daily team observer told PFW. “He can run real well, and he’s got great length. Right now, he shapes up as a very solid No. 4 (corner) behind Walter Thurmond.”