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NFC South Free Agency: Falcons quiet while Bucs keep the band together during legal tampering

Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith were finally at the big show but couldn’t participate.

NFL: Super Bowl LV-Champion Tampa Bay Buccanners Boat Parade Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

We have known for awhile that the Falcons would not and could not be big spenders in free agency in 2021. Of course, we said the exact same thing in 2020 knowing the team would put themselves into even bigger trouble if they signed a few big name players. They signed a few big name players, none of them played well, everyone got fired, and the new staff is cleaning up the mess.

The Falcons did tender Matt Gono, however, his role yet again is unclear. Will he be the swing tackle? Will he replace Kaleb McGary? Will be play at guard? We are not sure but his salary under his second-round tender indicates the new staff likes him and he should get a chance at serious playing time.

That’s the end of Atlanta’s moves. The Falcons have yet to be rumored to be in on any player. That is unlikely to change for days, if not a week or two, considering their cap situation and their slow pace in restructuring contracts. However, that latter point can change in an instant.

Let’s look at the rest of the NFC South to see how teams not ruined by Thomas Dimitroff did.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints, in order to pull out enough cap space to rub two quarters together, signed Taysom “Cajun Tebow” Hill to a $140 million fake deal strictly for cap savings. That move was apparently needed to sign their real quarterback of the future: Jameis Winston. No deal is there yet, and some desperate team like the Chicago Bears could always jump in and snag Winston. So far, the only real thing the Saints have done is signed James Hurst, their swing tackle, to a three-year, $9 million deal.

Carolina Panthers

Desperate to replace Teddy Bridgewater, the Panthers have to wait out big names like Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson while improving the supporting cast. So far, that has meant adding guard Pat Elfin and tackle Cameron Erving of the Jets and Cowboys, respectively. Some understated moves indicating that the Panthers may play it cool with the free agency market certain to be depressed. However, this remains a bit surprising with over $30 million in cap space. Expect them in on at least one big name.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs are bringing back... everyone? The worst part about winning a Super Bowl, at least as I generally understand the theoretical concepts behind winning such a game based on what fans from other teams have said, is that the team will be picked apart. Other teams are desperate to grab coaches and top free agents in the hopes of recreating the magic. Yet Bryron Leftwich and Todd Bowles are back. So is Tom Brady with a contract extension. Slot monster Chris Godwin was franchised.

So who gets snatched up by other teams? Not Shaq Barrett, who signed a four-year deal to remain in Tampa. Even Rob Gronkowski, who un-retired, was traded, and ran like a toddler in moon shoes before eventually returning closer to form, returned to the Buccaneers on another one-year deal.

It is amazing that only a few years ago Jason Licht was hiring Dirk Koetter as his head coach and trading up for a kicker in the second round of the draft. Now he’s bringing back all the major components of the championship team.

It just goes to show you that the NFL makes no sense.