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NFL free agency: NFC South signings are a decidedly mixed bag

Fact: Will Lutz smells like beef and cheese

NFC Championship - Los Angeles Rams v New Orleans Saints Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

NFL free agency kicked off last week, and it’s been a hectic seven days. This is always an interesting time of year. You see which positions teams are emphasizing ahead of the draft. You sit back, hoping division rivals make bad decisions and overpay as much as possible. You lament your favorite team’s inactivity. It’s like Christmas, without all the yelling and hard alcohol.

By now you know all about the subdued approach the Falcons took in free agency. As our own Kevin Knight so eloquently described in this must-read piece, Thomas Dimitroff and company think they can fill some big needs in the draft. It’s not the most exciting approach, but they’re owning it. Let’s take a look at how the rest of the NFC South fared.

Buccaneers

Signings: OT Donovan Smith, LB Shaquil Barrett, LB Deone Bucannon, WR Breshad Perriman, QB Ryan Griffin, P Bradley Pinion, RB Peyoton Barber

The Buccaneers went all in on Donovan Smith, a decision they may regret. (Note to other bad NFL teams: you don’t have to throw $27 million at a developmental, underachieving offensive lineman, just because you drafted him in the second round four years ago.) Barrett and Bucannon are a couple of rotational linebackers and each received a one year, prove it deal. Pinion gives the Bucs some flexibility, given his ability to handle kickoffs and punting duties. Perriman will take over the speedy receiver role following the departure of DeSean Jackson. Overall the Bucs’ efforts in free agency were pretty underwhelming.

Grade: C

Panthers

Signings: C Matt Paradis, OT Daryl Williams, S E. Reid, DE Bruce Irvin

Paradis is a good player, and he signed a team-friendly deal, but the Panthers already had a capable center. In short, he was arguably a waste of money. Williams is an adequate tackle, and the Panthers didn’t have a good alternative. The Panthers would’ve been foolish to let Reid walk. They got him to sign a for 3 years, $22 million, which is a bargain. Irvin signed for 1 year, $4 million. Some think Irvin is over the hill, but from an objective standpoint, he was still one of the league’s most efficient pass rushers last season. It was a smart signing, even if he only plays as a rotational guy.

Grade: B+

Saints

Signings: C Nick Easton, DT Malcom Brown, DL Mario Edwards, RB Latavius Murray, QB Teddy Bridgewater, K Wil Lutz, LB Craig Robertson, S Chris Banjo, OL Michael Ola, LS Zach Wood, OL Cameron Tom, LB Vince Biegel, S Justin Hardee

The Saints really emphasized special teams in free agency. Biegel and Hardee were core special teamers for the Saints, and it was smart to keep them in New Orleans. Meanwhile, Lutz and Wood did a lot of damage in 2018, so letting either walk would’ve been foolish. Murray is no Mark Ingram, but the Saints really believe Alvin Kamara can shoulder a bigger workload in 2019. Let’s hope that’s not the case. The Saints did a lot to anchor their offensive and defensive fronts by signing Easton and Brown. Easton isn’t super durable and the Patriots let Brown walk, so let’s hope those two signings aren’t as good as they look on paper.

Grade: A-

Overall the Saints and the Panthers got better. The Bucs, on the other hand, aren’t in a hurry to get better, and that’s fine by me. Your thoughts about all these moves, Falcoholics?