NFC South Free Agency Grades

NFC South Free Agency Grades

The first wave of free agency is officially in the books, and while there are still plenty of good players available on the open market, it’s safe to say that the biggest NFC South free agency moves have already been made, which means that we can grade the players selected by each team. Each team got better over the past week, but which team is in the best position to win the division in 2023?

Free Agency Grades For Each NFC South Team

Carolina Panthers: B-

Players AddedMiles Sanders, Vonn Bell, Hayden Hurst, Shy Tuttle, Bradley Bozeman, Andy Dalton, Justin McCray, DeShawn Williams

Players Lost: Sam Darnold, D’Onta Foreman, P.J. Walker

After trading up for the first-overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Panthers knew that they needed to do a lot of team building via the open market. So far, so good. The most important thing was creating an environment where a rookie quarterback could succeed, and they did an ok job at that. Hayden Hurst is a solid tight end, and Miles Sanders should provide support out of the backfield, even if he was a bit of an overpay. This team still needs better pass-catchers, but the good news is that there are plenty of viable free agent wide receivers still on the market.

The Panthers will draft a quarterback in a few months, but Andy Dalton is a perfect bridge starter in the event the rookie isn’t ready to go from Day 1. Carolina’s defense doesn’t need nearly as much help as their offense, but both Vonn Bell and Shy Tuttle should be able to step right in and make a more physically imposing unit.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: B+

Players Added: Jamel Dean, Anthony Nelson, Lavonte David, Baker Mayfield, Aaron Stinnie, Chase Edmonds

Players Lost: Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Mike Edwards

The Buccaneers entered the 2023 offseason with less cap space than any other team, so they had to do a lot to earn the NFC South free agency grade. The team deserves a lot of credit for being able to keep Jamel Dean in town. Dean is a strong cornerback, and in today’s pass-happy NFL, you need as many good pass defenders as you can. Anthony Nelson and Lavonte David also return, with David’s contract representing one of the best signings of free agency.

Of course, the signing that will make or break this class is Baker Mayfield. The Buccaneers aren’t in a position to draft a quarterback, so it made sense for them to test the free agent market. Mayfield appeared to be their first choice, and perhaps he can rebound from his largely disastrous 2022 with two great weapons in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans.

Atlanta Falcons: C+

Players Added: Jessie Bates, David Onyemata, Kaleb McGary, Kaden Elliss, Taylor Heinicke, Keith Smith

Players Lost: Marcus Mariota, Abdullah Anderson, Isaiah Oliver

The Falcons entered free agency with a lot of cap space, and they wasted no time in putting all that spending money to good use. With needs all over the roster, the team spent most of their money improving the defense, which is probably a wise move. The only real fault is the quarterback position. The Falcons have the eighth pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, so there is a very real chance they won’t be able to draft their quarterback of the future. If that happens, then they’ll have to go into the season with Taylor Heinicke and Desmond Ridder battling for the starting job, and that is not ideal.

New Orleans Saints: D

Players Added: Derek Carr, Nathan Shepherd, Jamaal Williams, Storm Norton, Khalen Saunders

Players Lost: David Onyemata, Kadel Elliss, Shy Tuttle, Marcus Davenport, Andy Dalton, Deonte Harty

Despite an overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary, the New Orleans Saints refuse to believe they are not contenders and continue to act as though they’re still in the final years of the Drew Brees Era. Because of this, they earn the lowest free agency grade in the NFC South. Derek Carr is better than Andy Dalton, but is he good enough to justify that type of contract? Outside of Carr, the only other meaningful offense player added was Jamaal Williams in what appears to be a massive overspend. Yes, he found the endzone a lot last year, but for the vast majority of his career, he’s been nothing more than an adequate backup.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Saints lost multiple starting-caliber players in the front seven, and it’s physically impossible for the team to replace that much talent in one offseason. The Saints are good enough to hover around .500 next year, which means they’ll probably miss the playoffs and miss out on a chance to draft their quarterback of the future.

Main Photo: Chris Pedota – USA Today Sports