As we get ready for the launch of free agency on Wednesday, here’s a summary of where the rest of the NFC South stands. Since cap space dictates how active a team can be, we’ll start with the team with the most space. That would be the fourth place Buccaneers, who have a whopping amount of money to potentially spend.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers have lots of space and lots of needs to fill as well. They also have a number of their own players they have to make decisions on.
The Buccaneers have a large number of free agents, but who will be re-signed? Doug Martin was already cut. What’s in store for Brent Grimes, T.J. Ward, Evan Smith, Clinton McDonald, Joe Hawley, Sealver Siliga, Keith Tandy, Garrison Sanborn, Justin Trattou, Adam Gettis, Robert McClain, Charles Sims, Will Clarke, Adarius Glanton, Jude Adjei-Barimah, Kevin Pamphile and Patrick Murray.
See anyone you would like in a Panthers uniform next season? Maybe a couple but none at the top of my list. When I look at their list of needs I see a lot of common needs in the division.
Buccaneers needs: Defensive end, cornerback, left tackle
The [Buccaneers'] defensive end spot is one of those positions that ends up on the "team needs" list every season just out of habit, and Tampa hasn't proven anyone wrong yet. Cornerback is also an issue, with Brent Grimes hitting free agency and Vernon Hargreaves coming off a rough second season. General manager Jason Licht may not see left tackle as a priority, but someone needs to say something about starter Donovan Smith getting Jameis Winston crushed on a weekly basis for three years running.
Every team seems to need a pass rusher and defensive backs. Is there a more pass happy division in football than the NFC South? Maybe on paper but no where it is more important. Especially for the Buccaneers’ No. 32 ranked defense in yards per game. They need to spend some money on defense if they are going to get out of the cellar.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints wasted no time in grabbing up a former Panther — something they seem to do every offseason. They jumped on safety Kurt Coleman shortly after the Panthers cut him. The Saints might be done in free agency. They may have $30 million available but they have yet to sign franchise quarterback Drew Brees. He may command most of that on a one year deal. That suggests they will go with a two or three year deal provided the 39-year old vet wants to play that long. His market value is $25 million. which doesn’t leave a lot of money to deal with these remaining needs.
Saints needs: Linebacker, defensive end, tight end
The Saints signing an unathletic veteran linebacker in free agency is the foremost New Orleans tradition that doesn't include a parade. They are still looking, although Alex Anzalone showed promise before an injury last year. Alex Okafor's torn achilles injury last season opened up a hole opposite Cameron Jordan the team never truly filled. And while the Saints have needs at slot cornerback, the team's reported desire for a reunion with Jimmy Graham is proof that the Coby Fleener era could be ending soon at tight end.
I would hate it if either defenisve tackle Star Lotulelei or guard Andrew Norwell ended up in Atlanta. Fortunately, the Falcons don’t have a lot of cap space to work with and both of the former Panthers will command top dollar at their position.
Falcons Needs: Defensive tackle, guard, wide receiver
The Falcons' roster is as well put together as general manager Thomas Dimitroff's coiffed hair. This shouldn't be that surprising for a squad that led the Super Bowl 28-3 one season before having the ball down five points in Philly with first-and-goal late against the eventual Super Bowl champions. The Falcons could certainly use more beef on the defensive line, where Dontari Poe and Adrian Clayborn are likely to leave in free agency. The offensive line got pushed around too much in short-yardage situations, and some receiver depth after Julio Jones and Mo Sanu would help.
Clayborn would actually be a nice compliment to Mario Addison in my view.
Beyond the starters they are letting walk the Falcons are otherwise looking for depth. They have solid players on both sides of the ball and should be in contention again in 2018.