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NFC South Offseason Grades

 

Atlanta Falcons: The biggest loss for the Falcons was offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who left to take the head coaching job with the 49ers. Steve Sarkisian is an adequate replacement with some upside, but he’ll need to improve on the personnel already in place as Atlanta added no offensive starters through the draft or free agency. Defensively Dontari Poe was the gem of the free agent class while Takkarist McKinley was admired enough by the front office to give up two selections in order to move up and select him. Those two additions should strengthen the Falcon’s defensive line, already a team strength. Third round pick Duke RIley will be expected to compete for the starting weakside linebacker job, but it is difficult to see that position being anything other than a weak spot for the Falcons this year. Atlanta’s Super Bowl window just opened but might only last for another year or two. There was no reason for the team to go crazy since Seattle and Green Bay appear to have taken a step backwards and Dallas still can’t win in the playoffs. Offseason Grade: B

 

Carolina Panthers: It was whispered in league circles last season that no organization had done less to help a young franchise quarterback than the Panthers. Apparently Dave Gettleman heard those rumors and responded with an extremely uncharacteristic offseason. Julius Peppers has returned home before he retires. Peppers will replace Kony Ealy whom the team traded to the Patriots after deciding he did not fit into their long term plan. He’ll be able to mentor third round choice Daeshon Hall before he does. Captain Munnerlyn was added to give the team a veteran presence at cornerback, where the other 4 players will all be first or second year players. Offensively I am higher on the addition of Matt Kalil than others appear to be and I expect Taylor Moton to be a starter for the team before the year is out. Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel, however, is where the team really got out of their comfort zone. Both players are running back receiver hybrids that offer a ton of versatility and playmaking potential. Samuel should have no issues replacing Tedd Ginn Jr as the deep threat, while McCaffrey will be able to move around the field as he splits time with Jonathan Stewart. I really liked what the Panthers did. Offseason Grade: A

 

New Orleans Saints: The Saints have probably one year left to contend before Drew Brees either retires or leaves to play elsewhere. Larry Wofford will start immediately at guard. He was a solid signing. Defensively Alex Okafor should start at defensive end and AJ Klein and Manti Te'o were likely not brought in at their salaries to be backups. Brandin Cooks being traded to the Patriots was a surprise but it will serve the team in the future, though not this year. Marshon Lattimore was a good pick if he stays healthy - I’m not sure he will - and Tedd Ginn Jr will be able to stretch the field in lieu of Cooks. Adrian Peterson was an interesting signing but it gives the Saints some more options with their running game and a healthy Peterson is better than Mark Ingram.  The Saints did what they need to in order to make a possible play off push with Brees in his last year. The defense is paper thin but the offense should be the same as it always has been with Brees. I would have liked it better had they chosen between the future and 2017 instead of trying to do both. Offseason Grade: C+

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tampa Bay largely stood pat this offseason, which is strange considering they aren’t a very good team. Certainly the addition of Desean Jackson could be noteworthy and OJ Howard could be a real benefit to this team but there still isn’t an abundance of talent on the roster. Doug Martin may or may not be back with the team once his four game suspension is over. That will leave the Buccaneers without a great option at running back. Jameis WInston has looked the part since being drafted and he’ll need to continue to grow as the team just really didn’t do much to improve this year. I don’t understand what Tampa Bay is doing. Offseason Grade: D

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