NFC South offseason breakdown

Atlanta Falcons


The Falcons had a terrific regular season in 2010, but didn’t come close to achieving their goal of making it to the Super Bowl. The Falcons are a team set up to win in the fourth quarter by running the football. If they fall behind by 10 points or more against a good team, the chances are not very good that they will be able to come back and win the game.

In order to get to Super Bowl, they will need to get at least one more solid pass rusher added to the mix. Adding depth to the secondary would also help.

Key Free Agents

Jason Snelling/RB-FB – Snelling is one of the better backup running backs in the NFL, so he could find a nice contract offer elsewhere like the one RB Chester Taylor received from the Chicago Bears last year. Snelling’s versatility would be missed if the Falcons don’t re-sign him.

Eric Weems/KR-PR – Weems quickly turned into one of the NFL’s best special teams returners last season. He figures to be a restricted free agent once the new CBA is completed.

Justin Blalock/LG – Should the Falcons decide not to bring him back, they could look toward moving in 2010 third-round pick Mike Johnson to Blalock’s spot.

Harvey Dahl/RG – He worked his way up the depth chart over the years and has become a solid starter. Dahl should be an unrestricted free agent under the new CBA.

Tyson Clabo/ORT – Clabo is in the upper half of right tackles in the NFL, so look for the Falcons to try to secure him long-term once the new CBA is finished.

Mike Peterson/WLB – The veteran linebacker turns 35 in June, but the team really doesn’t have anyone who is ready to step in for him on a full-time basis.

Brent Grimes/CB – Few defensive backs improved as much as Grimes did last season. He went from being a marginal player in 2009 to a quality starter. Look for the Falcons to do what they can to secure for at least next season.

Team Needs


Carolina Panthers


For the first time since the 2002 season, the Panthers will have a new head coach patrolling the sidelines. New head coach Ron Rivera has put together mostly a veteran staff which has had success with other teams.

For Rivera to win early during his tenure, he must figure out a way to get much better production out of the quarterback position. The defense should be able to handle itself.

Key Free Agents

Matt Moore/QB – The team seems somewhat committed to giving QB Jimmy Clausen a chance at the starting job, so it’s unlikely they will re-sign Moore.

DeAngelo Williams/RB – It’s hard to see the team using their franchise tag on Williams since the team spent a first-round pick on RB Jonathan Stewart in 2008.

Ryan Kalil/C – He’s one of the better young centers in the NFL, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if Kalil gets the franchise or designation tag from the team.

Charles Johnson/DE – Johnson had a breakout season in 2010 with 11 ½ sacks. And because of his success, the team could choose to use their non-exclusive franchise tag designation on him.

Thomas Davis/WLB – The talented linebacker has had some very bad luck with injuries and might be playing elsewhere next season.

James Anderson/SLB – He didn’t do much in his first four years of play, but Anderson got a chance to start 15 games last season and played fairly well.

Team Needs


New Orleans Saints


The Saints bitter Wild Card loss to the host Seattle Seahawks was symptomatic of their performance for the entire 2010 season — underachieving and disappointing.

Much was expected from this team considering they won the Super Bowl the season before. But, for whatever reason, some key players did not play up to their usual standard, and now the team has several key free agents to re-sign and more than 30 players who are scheduled to become free agents.

Key Free Agents

Pierre Thomas/RB – The talented back has had a bad injury over the past few seasons, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if they decided not to re-sign him. Thomas could be an unrestricted free agent depending on the rules of the new CBA.

Lance Moore/WR – While many look at him at perhaps as one of the top slot receivers in the NFL, Moore played quite a bit on the outside last season. He has to be one of their top priorities to re-sign.

Jonathan Goodwin/C – The Saints could look toward 2010 fifth-round pick Matt Tennant to replace him.

Jermon Bushrod/OLT – The team selected LT Charles Brown in the second half of last year’s NFL Draft, so re-signing Bushrod might not be a priority.

Carl Nicks/LG – The expectation is that Nicks will be a restricted free agent once the new CBA is completed. If he is, Nicks could get the high tender (first and third round).

Anthony Hargrove/DT – He turned his career and life around a few years ago. Hargrove became an important part of the defensive tackle rotation over the past two seasons, so they should have some interest in re-sign him.

Remi Ayodele/DT – He played in his first full season as a starter in 2010. The Saints have next to no depth at defensive tackle, so they could look to re-sign him.

Scott Shanle/WLB – While the veteran linebacker turns 32 in November, he’s known as one of the team leaders on defense.

Roman Harper/SS – He struggled during the team’s Wild Card playoff loss to the host Seattle Seahawks, but Harper is known in personnel circles as a solid player. The team does not have another strong safety under contract.

Team Needs


Tampa Bay Buccaneers


While the Buccaneers had a 10-6 record last season, they didn’t wind up making the playoffs. Still, they had a great season considering no one believed they had a realistic shot to win more than a handful of games.

And the foundation of their success starts with QB Josh Freeman, who made marked improvement in 2010. The team just needs to continue to build around him in order to be a perennial playoff contender.

Key Free Agents

Carnell Williams/RB – The veteran back has turned into a very solid third down back. The Buccaneers would be wise to re-sign Williams to be LaGarrette Blount’s backup.

Davin Joseph/G – Joseph is arguably the best offensive lineman the Buccaneers have on their 80-man roster, so re-signing him has to be a priority. And the Buccaneers have little depth at guard as it is.

James Lee/ORT – He only played in one game in his first two years with the team, but Lee wound up starting nine games last season for the Buccaneers. He figures to be a restricted free agent.

Stylez G. White/DE – The veteran pass rusher turns 32 in July, but he has 24 sacks over the past four seasons.

Barrett Ruud/MLB – The team has nowhere to turn should they not re-sign Ruud, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they used their non-exclusive franchise tag on him.

Quincy Black/SLB – Should the team pass on re-signing him, 2010 seventh-round pick OLB Dekoda Watson is his projected replacement.

Ronde Barber/CB – The veteran defensive back turns 36 in April, but the team has indicated that they want to re-sign him. 2010 third-round pick CB Myron Lewis figures to get a shot as his long-term replacement.

Team Needs