By: Dominic Choroski
With the new CBA passing and the official tampering window opened, it is a crucial time for NFL teams. Every front office is looking at their rosters and assessing what positions they can upgrade at. Here we will take a look at the teams in the NFC South and see what their biggest needs are ahead of Free-Agency and the draft, as well as possible options to fill those needs.
If you watched the Falcons at all last season you know the secondary was one of the worst in the league. Teams scored 28 passing touchdowns and threw for nearly 4000 yards against this secondary. Safety Keanu Neal saw another season cut short due to injury, Isiah Oliver has had some struggles adjusting from college to the NFL, and veteran Desmond Trufant will be 30 at the start of next season. In a division with receivers like Mike Evans and Michael Thomas, the Falcons need to find someone to sure up the back end.
The recent release of running back Devontae Freeman means the Falcons will be looking for a new ball carrier. That being said Matt Ryan was sacked 48 times last season, and at his older age, protecting him is a must. Additionally, Vic Beasley is also on his way out the door. Adrian Clayborn may or may not be back with the team. The possibility of losing those two sets the Falcons up for the edge rusher market. A lot of holes to fill in Atlanta these days.
Possible Addition: Free-Agent Cornerback Byron Jones
All reports are that new head coach Matt Rhule would like to keep Cam Newton as the starting quarterback. However, the retirement of star linebacker Luke Kuechly opens up a big hole. Shaq Thompson is a good young piece but more help is needed to make up for that loss. Even with Kuechly last year this defense gave up 31 rushing touchdowns. Finding a running mate for Thompson who can help stuff running lanes is huge for Carolina this season.
Losing veterans has been a theme for the Panthers recently. Tight End Greg Olsen will be suiting up for the Seahawks next season, which means that Cam Newton’s favorite target is gone. This offense would benefit from finding Newton another safety valve and soon. On top of that, the offensive line is still an area of concern. Is Cam still the elite quarterback of years past? Tough to tell when he is constantly injured cause the line in front of him is giving up 58 sacks.
Possible Addition: Draft Clemson DB/OLB Isiah Simmons
New Orleans Saints
Michael Thomas set the single-season record for receptions last season with 149. In other words, nearly 36% of all the team’s receptions went to Thomas. Drew Brees will be back for at least another year with championship aspirations. The Saints should take a page out of the Falcons book and get another receiver to complement their number one guy. Adding an additional weapon could be the final piece to get Brees his second Lombardi Trophy.
Speaking of Brees, while he is winning the battle against father time he will, at some point, retire. With Teddy Bridgewater departing, that leaves only Taysom Hill behind Brees. Apparently Sean Payton believes Hill can be a starting quarterback in this league, but the facts are Hill will be 30 years old at the start of the season and has only thrown 13 passes in the NFL. Its time to find the future of the franchise.
Possible Addition: Draft Arizona State Wide Receiver Brandon Aiyuk
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs placed the franchise tag on Shaq Barrett, which means he will at least be back next year. What that also means is that Jameis Winston is out the door. Bruce Arians and company are moving on from the 30 for 30 men, and are apparently all in on Tom Brady. Even if Brady doesn’t sign in Tampa, finding a new leader of the offense is on their mind. The Bucs have some weapons, they just need someone to make use of them.
The Bucs have some great receivers, however, they have not had a thousand-yard rusher since 2015. Whoever is the signal-caller for this offense next year would benefit greatly from having a consistent ball carrier behind them. On the defensive side of the ball, you can never have too many pass-rushers and while Barrett was phenomenal, there isn’t much depth behind him.
Possible Addition: Free Agent Running Back Melvin Gordon
If you want to see the team needs for the AFC South click here.