Note to readers: I'm going to do a live chat on CharlotteObserver.com from noon to 1 p.m. today (Friday). So if you've got a few minutes to spare at lunchtime, stop by. It's always a lively discussion. We'll talk Panthers, NFL free agency, college hoops and whatever else is on your mind.
The NFC South team that is going to undergo the most seismic change this offseason is Tampa Bay -- which already fired coach Jon Gruden and jettisoned a bunch of its well-known but aging players (Warrick Dunn and Derrick Brooks among them).
The Bucs could be dangerously good -- or dangerously bad -- in 2009. I consider Tampa Bay the Panthers' biggest rival.
Since the Panthers basically have to stand on the sideline during the big-money time of free agency, they can only hope that a lot of great players don't migrate to the NFC South. That's why they caught a break in the wee hours Friday morning, when former Tennessee DT Albert Haynesworth picked Washington over Tampa Bay in the first huge move of the NFL free-agency period.
Haynesworth has had some problems in his past, but I believe he was the best DT in football last season. You stick Haynesworth in the middle of Tampa's defense and you're not going to see DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart bust out for nearly 300 yards like they did in that signature Monday night win over Tampa Bay in December.
Of course, Washington is still in the NFC, but that's not the same as being in the same division. Carolina got a little lucky with this one.