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The NFC South Is a Beautiful Disaster with Tom Brady Gone

NFC South
(Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times)

The NFC South Is a Beautiful Disaster with Tom Brady Gone

Well it finally happened. Tom Brady has retired, ending the greatest quarterback career in history. Brady’s departure from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers leaves the NFC South a complete and utter mess. Let’s dissect the division and take a brief look at where each team stands entering the offseason.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers were Super Bowl contenders with Brady and a loaded roster. Brady’s final season was good enough to get him in the MVP conversation. Now their two remaining quarterbacks are Blaine Gabbert and Kyle Trask (not great), Antonio Brown is gone, Chris Godwin is injured, and the team likely doesn’t have the cap space to keep all the talent on their roster around for much longer. They can obviously restructure some things, but unless they woo someone like Aaron Rodgers to Tampa, the Bucs stand to take a major step back next season.

New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints find themselves in salary cap hell for the second consecutive year. They are currently over $75 million in the red. Big problem. Also, Sean Payton is out as the head coach. He leaves the Saints with Taysom Hill’s albatross of a contract and an injured Jameis Winston. The New Orleans front office was able to work around their salary cap restrictions to put together a competent roster, but it’s looking doubtful they can do that as effectively a second time. They will likely lose talent due to their financial restrictions, and that’s not great for a non-playoff team that is now without Sean Payton.

Atlanta Falcons

Am I crazy to suggest that the Falcons could win the division next year? Matt Ryan is past his prime, but he’s the best quarterback in the division as of today. If Kyle Pitts takes the next step and they can build a defense that is at least league-average, Atlanta could find themselves in the mix. I trust Arthur Smith to make the Falcons better in his second season as head coach, so we’ll see.

Carolina Panthers

I think the Panthers might be in the worst situation of any team in the NFL, and that’s including the Saints’ cap issues. After starting 3-0, Carolina decided to go all in and trade for C.J. Henderson and Stephon Gilmore. They then went 2-12 over their final 14 games. They have zero answer at quarterback – Sam Darnold sure ain’t it, Cam Newton is a shell of himself, and does anyone really want to roll with P.J. Walker? They were just paying Newton to be the replacement to the replacement to his own replacement (yeah, read that again), and that should be a clear indicator the front office hasn’t been making wise decisions. Now they also have no second- or third-round picks in the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft. Matt Rhule is 10-23 in his first two seasons as the head coach, and that’s not a great sign for things to come. Carolina is directionless.

That’s the current state of the hilariously beautiful disaster that is the NFC South. Let’s see what moves they make in the offseason.

***

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