The NFC South represented the Super Bowl a year ago but the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead. This past year the Saints might have been the best team in the NFL but were struck by the miracle in Minnesota. The Panthers also made the playoffs this year and the Bucs appear to be up and comers. You can make the argument that the NFC South is the best division in football.
While the lifeblood of any team is built through the draft, team’s can place the franchise tag on players starting on February 20th. Free agency starts just a few weeks later in March. What can we expect from each team in the NFC South during free agency?
Free Agents: Dontari Poe, Adrian Clayborn, Matt Bryant, Taylor Gabriel, Courtney Upshaw, Athyba Rubin
With Matt Ryan heading into his walk year, the Falcons can’t afford to spend a ton of money prior to working on an extension with their franchise quarterback. Ryan’s eventual payday will determine how the Falcons can shape their roster. Heading into the offseason, the Falcons have just $12 million to spend this offseason.
That $12 million in space can likely disappear just bringing back the team’s impending free agents. With Poe and Clayborn hitting the market, look for the Falcons to try to find a defensive lineman one way or another. Cornerback could be another area the team looks at but likely on the bargain bin.
Free Agents: Julius Peppers, Graham Gano, Andrew Norwell, Star Lotulelei, Derek Anderson, Ed Dickson, Charles Johnson, Amini Silatolu, Andrew Gachkar
Carolina has a bad mix of a ton of players coming up on the market and just $11 million in cap space. There’s not a ton they can do in terms of roster cuts either besides for Jonathan Stewart and maybe Mario Addison. Peppers will likely come back on some sort of team friendly deal but Lotulelei is likely a goner. Unless the team is willing to go in some deep waters, their star defensive tackle will head elsewhere. Carolina does have Vernon Butler to replace him next to Kawaan Short.
The Panthers also need a receiver or more weapons to put next to Cam. After the trade of Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina needs to replace him. Curtis Samuel and Christian McCaffrey may be part of that solution but Norv Turner will need to run an offense, not plays built around them.
New Orleans Saints:
Free Agents: Drew Brees, Nick Fairley, Kenny Vaccaro
The Saints have $25 million in cap space but that will disappear once they re-sign Drew Brees. Brees is not eligible for the franchise tag so the Saints cannot mess around trying to get a deal done. It seems that Brees is unwilling to really test the market but the Saints can’t try to low ball him either. New Orleans won’t have much of an offseason after bringing their quarterback back to the team.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Free Agents: Brent Grimes, T.J. Ward, Evan Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Clinton McDonald, Robert McClain, Clinton McDonald, Charles Sims
Good news, Tampa has $63 million to spend. Bad news, Tampa is stuck with Dirk Koetter and can’t seem to win despite a pretty decent roster. The Bucs could use an offensive lineman, defensive lineman, and more defensive backs. There’s a ton of options the Bucs could consider.
The real building blocks of the team are Mike Evans, Jameis Winston, and Gerald McCoy. This Bucs team just needs to keep adding young talent.