I’m going through each division and offering my opinion on the best free agency acquisition and biggest loss for each team. So far, I did the NFC East and NFC West. Now I’m going to take a look at the NFC South, which should be a pretty strong division in 2017.
Thanks to Pro Football Guru, we can look at every team’s additions and losses in free agency that’s updated on a daily basis.
Note: For the sake of these series of articles, I’m only looking at players who were on the roster in 2016 who will no longer be there in 2017. Likewise, I’m looking at guys who were not on the roster in 2016, but will now be in 2017 (in-house re-signings and draft selections excluded)
The Falcons look to avoid any type of “Super Bowl” hangover after blowing a 28-3 lead last year to the Patriots. Like the Panthers last year, all eyes will be on them to see if they bounce back strong or let that loss linger going into 2017. They did a good job of keeping their roster intact in free agency.
Loss: Nobody significant
- The Falcons did a great job of keeping most of their 2016 Super Bowl roster intact. They lost two offensive linemen and Inside Linebacker Paul Worrilow, but none of those three players should hurt the Falcons enough for me to call it a significant loss.
Addition: Dontari Poe (from Chiefs)
- The Falcons need better production from their defense, and it all starts up front. Poe could be a monster, and should be the immediate leader of the Falcons front. He’s only 26 (27 in August) and it’s a position the Falcons needed to address.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs made a strong push for the playoffs last season, but came up just short. Their defense showed some serious promise during their critical five-game winning streak in the second half of the season, and they made some solid moves in free agency in hopes of taking the next step.
Loss: Mike Glennon (Bears)
- Jameis Winston is the Bucs’ franchise quarterback, but he hangs on to the ball a lot in hopes of extending plays with his feet. He’s also pretty fearless when he takes off; it’s a style that’s admirable, but can hurt the team. If something were to happen, Glennon was a solid backup. Now that comfort is gone without him, and while Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t a terrible second option, Glennon was a security blanket that probably brought some bigger upside to the table.
Addition: DeSean Jackson (from WASH)
- The Bucs made a huge splash by signing DeSean Jackson, one of the league’s most feared deep threats in the league for years now. Mike Evans is the clear no. 1 in Tampa Bay, and he’s Winston’s favorite target. But DeSean offers a speedy option who can hit for a home run on any given play. He makes the Bucs’ offense a whole lot scarier.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints have been disappointing for the last couple of seasons, and their defense is the major reason why. I don’t think they did enough to address that this offseason, and they may struggle on that side of the ball again.
Loss: Jahri Evans (Packers)
- The Saints lost a few valuable names, but Evans has been their right guard since 2006; he’s only missed seven starts, and none last season. Considering how long he’s been there, and how important his job is in front of Drew Brees, he’s the Saints biggest loss. They’ll also miss Brandin Cooks, but the Saints still have a solid receiving core.
Addition: Adrian Peterson (from Vikings)
- The Saints brought in Larry Warford to replace Evans, and he’s an important addition. But all eyes will be on Adrian Peterson this season. The Saints have been a pass-heavy team under Drew Brees forever, and rightfully so. But a more balanced, scarier run game could really help the Saints slow the game down and keep their ailing defense off the field. The Saints still have Mark Ingram; he’s been good when given the touches, but Peterson is just clearly a different animal. Who knows how much he has left in the tank, but reports out of New Orleans state how amazed players are by him and it’ll be interesting to see if he can have a big year at his age.
The Panthers just couldn’t seem to get right after a big-time loss in the 2015 Super Bowl. Then-reigning MVP Cam Newton wasn’t himself, and didn’t have enough protection last year. I expect them to be better in 2017.
Loss: Kony Ealy (traded to Patriots)
- Ealy racked up 14 sacks in his first three years in the league, and he’s only 25. The Panthers defensive line still feature guys like Kawann Short, Charles Johnson and Julius Peppers, but Ealy will still be missed and could turn out to be a really productive player, and probably will since he landed with the Patriots. Another big loss: Tackle Mike Remmers.
Addition: Matt Kalil
- While Remmers will be missed, Kalil should fill in nicely for the Panthers. Cam Newton took a huge beating last season; he was knocked down far too many times for a franchise quarterback coming off an MVP, Super-Bowl-appearing season. They needed to address the position and Kalil was their best signing.