Written By: Cody Manning
(K) Matt Bryant (3 Years, 10.1 Million)
(OG) Brandon Fusco (3 Years, 12.75 Million)
(DE) Adrian Clayborn (Patriots)
(DT) Dontari Poe (Panthers)
(WR) Taylor Gabriel (Bears)
The Falcons entered the offseason with very little salary cap to make any major moves as they have Matt Ryan’s contract to worry about soon. They did go out and got some help for their franchise quarterback by picking up Brandon Fusco. He has plenty of starting experience and should come into to provide depth at the guard position. Thomas Dimitroff did show loyalty to his kicker, despite his age, he gave Matt Bryant a three-year extension. This shows the value of having someone in that position that you can rely upon every week.
Like I previously mentioned, Atlanta entered the offseason with little money to spend. This resulted in losing Adrian Clayborn, Dontari Poe, and Taylor Gabriel to free agency. Losing players like Clayborn and Poe are going to have an impact on their defense since they were important cogs to the unit. What makes losing Poe hurt even more is that he went and signed with a division rival. Now he will have a chance to disrupt the Falcons line twice a year. I also believe losing Gabriel hurts because he can be a weapon in the right offensive scheme. He was an important part to their 2016 Super Bowl run and can take the top off a defense.
You can argue that the Falcons took a step backwards during free agency this year. While they did add depth to their offensive line, there other signings weren’t very notable. It can be the unnoticed moves that help a team, majority of their signings are depth and special teams moves. They also lost two guys that were on top of the defensive line depth chart, and their third receiver. Atlanta has more issues to fix then they entered the offseason with and will be leaning on their 2018 Draft Class to help contribute to a potential successful season.
(DE) Julius Peppers (1 Year, 5 Million)
(K) Graham Gano (4 Years, 17 Million)
(DT) Dontari Poe (3 Years, 28 Million)
(WR) Jarius Wright (3 Years, 7.5 Million)
(OG) Andrew Norwell (Jaguars)
(DT) Star Lotulelei (Bills)
(RB) Jonathan Stewart (Giants)
(S) Kurt Coleman (Saints)
(TE) Ed Dickson (Seahawks)
(DE) Charles Johnson (Free Agent)
Their best move this offseason in free agency was acquiring Dontari Poe as Lotulelei’s replacement. Some argue that was an upgrade and will help hog space for Kuechly to roam free. Like Atlanta, they realize the importance of a kicker you can lean on, and I thought the move to bring Graham Gano was a smart move. Lastly, Julius Peppers should retire as a Panther, and they should bring him back until he no longer can compete. Plus, he gives that veteran presence inside the locker room.
Carolina entered the offseason with the idea that they would more then likely lose Andrew Norwell to free agency. I feel like this is questionable because they hit on a UDFA and let him walk away to another team. They should have considered offering him an extension prior to this season so they could have possibly got him on an affordable contract. I also thought the loss of Jonathan Stewart could have some impact. While they did spend a premier pick on Christian McCaffery, Stewart brought some thunder, and goal line opportunities. Plus, he could have helped develop McCaffery, and give the veteran presence on the offensive side of the ball.
The Panthers had a subpar free agency as they did bring in a solid defensive tackle and wide receiver depth (Traded for Torrey Smith as well). They addressed a position of need and tried to bring in some potential weapons for Cam Newton to throw to. Carolina also kept around a veteran leader who will have to speak up even more on the defensive side with losing some leaders in the locker room. They will enter the NFL Draft with issues such as finding Norwell’s replacement, a back to compliment McCaffrey, and a young tight end to groom as Greg Olsen’s replacement. The Panthers will need to hit on their needs if they want to find a way back to the playoffs in the competitive NFC.
New Orleans Saints
(QB) Drew Brees (2 Years, 50 Million)
(DE) Alex Okafor (2 Years, 6.7875 Million)
(P) Thomas Morstead (5 Years, 20 Million)
(LB) Demario Davis (3 Years, 24 Million)
(CB) Patrick Robinson (4 Years, 20 Million)
(S) Kurt Coleman (3 Years, 16.350 Million)
(S) Kenny Vaccaro (Free Agent)
(S) Rafael Bush (Bills)
(QB) Chase Daniel (Bears)
It’s a no-brainer that resigning legend Drew Brees was the best move by New Orleans in free agency. While the negotiations took longer then expected, the deal got done, and he will be looking to bring New Orleans back to the promise land once again. New Orleans did land some quality players to add to their defense in Demario Davis, Patrick Robinson, and Kurt Coleman. They don’t jump at you as big names, but they land depth at each position, and all of them should contribute next season.
The Saints did let their once young promising safety Kenny Vaccaro go to free agency. He was showing signs of meeting his potential prior to his injury he suffered this past season. While it was an understandable move, it can be questionable that they let the player they were developing go, then to sign a safety to that is coming off a down year as a replacement. New Orleans fans would never want to see him but losing Chase Daniel hurts. He is a known quality backup around the league and could fill in for Brees if an injury were to happen until he came back. Now with the loss of Daniel, fans would have to lean on Tom Savage to fill the void, which is a downgrade is most people’s eyes.
New Orleans did what they had to this offseason, which was signing Brees to a favorable deal on both sides and bring in quality guys that can help contribute for a Super Bowl run next season. They did lose some players, but all can be replaced, which was done during free agency, and they have the draft to help fill needs as well. The Saints didn’t make any headline grabbing moves, but they still are putting together a roster that should be competing for the NFC South crown once again.
(WR) Mike Evans (5 Years, 82.5 Million)
(TE) Cameron Brate (6 Years, 40.8 Million)
(CB) Brent Grimes (1 Year, 7 Million)
(QB) Ryan Fitzpatrick (1 Year, 3.3 Million)
(OC) Ryan Jensen (4 Years, 42 Million)
(DE) Vinny Curry (3 Years, 23 Million)
(DT) Beau Allen (3 Years, 15 Million)
(K) Chandler Catanzaro (3 Years, 9.75 Million)
(RB) Doug Martin (Raiders)
(DT) Chris Baker (Bengals)
(DE) Robert Ayers (Free Agent)
(S) T.J. Ward (Free Agent)
Tampa Bay’s General Manager Jason Licht made all his free agency moves geared towards upgrading the trenches. The signing of Ryan Jensen helps upgrade the interior offensive line which should result in a stronger running game next season. The signings of Vinny Curry and Beau Allen are arguably upgrades to the counterparts that they are replacing. Both players should help the defense find ways to get pressure on the quarterback as well. Lastly, signing Mike Evans extension, and resigning Cameron Brate moves, showed that Licht is dedicated to keeping his franchise quarterback’s favorite weapons around him for a long time.
When you look at the Buccaneers moves during free agency, it is difficult to find something you would consider a bad move. Some people may question Mike Evans contract, but if you compare it to Sammy Watkins, then it looks like they got him on a deal. Others question signing Cameron Brate long-term a year after drafting O.J. Howard. My argument against that is Brate’s deal will be coming to an end when it will Howard’s contract is up, plus his annual salary is not that high compared to other tight ends. You can find ways to be nitpicky to find a “worse move”, but they had to spend their cash somewhere, and in my opinion, they did it in the right ways.
The Bucs had a under the radar successful free agency. While the signings may not have star names, they all are good players that are significant upgrades over the players they are replacing. Curry takes over an aging veteran, Allen replaces an under-performing 2017 free agent signing, and even a kicker to hopefully end the curse at Raymond James Stadium. Plus, if you add in the Jason Pierre-Paul trade, then you will see an improvement on Tampa Bay’s defensive front. If they can fill other needs through the draft, then maybe we could see the Buccaneers live up to that hype they had prior to the 2017 season.