NFC South Roundup: Reviewing Divisional Changes

Bye! - Al Messerschmidt

In case you were a real human being and not some degenerate football addict, you must be struggling to remember all the moves made the past few days by our foes. Short people got traded, Hall of Famers got cut, and the Panthers forgot free agency started this week.

I think I will break this down by despicableness.  That means the Saints followed by the remaining teams in no particular order.

Saints

The Saints have skated by for years with these frustrating bonus-heavy contracts that allow them to sign big names when they should be in cap trouble.  Actually I'm not entirely sure the cap exists in New Orleans.  Either way, the Saints are typically pushed up against the cap with a major player needing to be resigned and slip away from any responsibility for their contracts.

New players

  1. FS Jairus Byrd.  I was hopeful Byrd would be a Falcon but instead I have to hate him for the rest of his career.  The ball-hawking safety is easily one of the best free safeties in the league and is a significant upgrade over Jenkins.

Old players

  1. TE Jimmy Graham.  Graham was franchised as a tight end.  He doesn't seem happy about it and the Saints will be in trouble in the unlikely situation Graham has a successful appeal that decides he is a wide receiver.  He will be a Saint through next season.
  2. WR Lance Moore.  Typically a pain in Atlanta's rear, the speedy but small Moore was released.  Moore had a down year and the Saints know just about any player will produce with Drew Brees at the helm of the offense.  Still, Marques Colston has slowed down and the Saints only other wide receivers are fairly young and unproven.
  3. C Brian de la Puente.  A quality center since 2011, de la Puente is a free agent.  Brees has been exceptional when he has had a clean pocket to step into, but may struggle without a quality replacement.  The Saints have no one centers left on the roster.
  4. FS Malcolm Jenkins.  Former first-round pick and long-time Saints free safety walked to the Eagles.  This would have been great if either (a) Jenkins was good; or (b) Jenkins wasn't replaced with someone significantly better.
  5. RB Darren Sproles.  The aging but dangerous Sproles was thankfully traded out of the division.  Sproles was fantastic in the Saints offense but New Orleans needed some cap space.
  6. CB Jabari Greer.  Once a great cornerback who could put Roddy White in check, Greer is old, frequently injured and no longer a Saint.
  7. RT Zach Strief. The Saints right tackle is still a free agent and but is expected to return to New Orleans.
  8. LB Ramon Humber.  A special teamer, Humber got a one-year deal to stay with the Saints.
  9. LB Parys Haralson.  Another role player, Haralson is still a free agent.

Panthers

The Carolina Panthers are having a pretty bad offseason.  Thanks to investing half of their cap (my estimate) on running backs, they don't really have money for anything else.

New players

  1. TE Mike McNeill.  The shining jewel of their offseason has been signing a blocking tight end.  Watch out, rest of the NFC South.

Old players

  1. DE Greg Hardy.  The Kraken was franchised after his fantastic season with the pass rusher being too valuable to just let walk.  It will probably be hard to keep Hardy long-term after paying Charles Johnson an extreme amount of money.
  2. WR Steve Smith.  Fan favorite Smith is old, expensive, and reportedly a headache for the organization.  A guy who has killed the Falcons multiple times is finally gone.
  3. S Mike Mitchell.  Carolina strong together a pretty nice secondary with a lot of fill-in players like Mitchell.  And now he is a Pittsburgh Steeler while Carolina has a big hole at safety.
  4. CB Captain Munnerlyn.  The young corner finally developed into a starter.  In fact, he played so well that Carolina couldn't afford him.  He signed with Minnesota.
  5. WR Ted Ginn Jr. Part of their slew of wide receivers that aren't very good, the speedy Ginn walked in free agency.
  6. WR Brandon LaFell.  You may remember LaFell as someone who should blow up after given a chance to start in Carolina.  Then he didn't.  He isn't good but isn't expected to be back with Carolina.  The team's top three wide receivers are gone.
  7. OT Bruce Campbell.  Really fast and really bad at playing football, Campbell is not expected back in Carolina.
  8. G Travelle Wharton.  Wharton is a free agent who is apparently also contemplating retirement, like about half of Carolina's starting offensive line.
  9. G Geoff Hangartner.  Retired.
  10. G Jeff Byers.  Retired.
  11. OT Jordan Gross.  Retired.

Buccaneers

Like most offseasons, Tampa has a new head coach and the team is clearing away bad decisions made by the previous head coach.  Luckily through years of poor drafting and constantly cleaning house, Tampa doesn't really have very many free agents who are even worth a mention.

New players

  1. DE Michael Johnson.  Tampa is looking a bit like Bengals South.  They handed $43.75 million to a guy coming off a down year with 3.5 sacks.  It may have been the most Bucs move ever but Johnson does have plenty of talent.
  2. LT Anthony Collins.  The former Bengal landed plenty of snaps last year thanks to injuries and he put together a great stretch.  If he can maintain his play and health he will be a very solid signing.
  3. C Evan Dietrich-Smith.  Tampa is trying to shore up a weak offensive line and got a pretty solid center from Green Bay.
  4. QB Josh McCown.  McCown played surprisingly well in spot-duty in Chicago, which is enough to get a starting position with Tampa.  Tampa has gotten great at striking out on developing quarterbacks.
  5. CB Alterraun Verner.  Verner had a great season in Tampa last year and is expected to be a great fit in Lovie's zone.  Of course, he won't be able to replace their old cornerback.
  6. DT Clinton McDonald.  McDonald thrived in Seattle's defensive line rotation, leading to Tampa to give him a four-year deal.
  7. TE Brandon Myers.  The former Giant signed with Tampa, a pretty mediocre talent who can block and catch.

Old players

  1. CB Darrelle Revis.  About two months after Lovie Smith said he is keeping Revis, Smith cut Revis.  Not even a year after trading a first round pick (and a fourth round pick this year) for one the most elite players in the league, Revis is a Patriot.  This waste makes me happy.
  2. LT Donald Penn.  Tampa's long-time left tackle was not given an extension and seems likely to sign elsewhere, potentially as a depth player.
  3. G Jamon Meredith.  Meredith isn't a great guard but has some versatility.  He was signed to a two-year deal to stay with Tampa.

Outside of Tampa's spending spree, the division is looking much weaker than last year.  Carolina never had the depth to maintain where they were last year while the Saints had to make some painful cuts.
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