NFC South 2021 free company grades: Buccaneers ace the offseason, Saints struggle to tread water


Because the 2021 NFL Draft attracts nearer, dozens of notable veterans stay unsigned. Many might nonetheless show worthwhile into the summer season and early fall. However a lot of the large waves of free company are previous, and most groups have already assembled their cores. So which groups knocked it out of the park? Which of them swung and missed? We’re going division by division at CBS Sports activities to judge all 32 groups and their early-offseason efficiency.

Within the NFC South, now we have one clear winner:

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It isn’t unusual for Tremendous Bowl champions to lose a handful of core items whereas they’re nonetheless basking within the Lombardi celebration. That is not the case in Tampa, the place the Bucs have labored wonders with their cap to convey again each notable title piece save for Antonio Brown, who might nonetheless return. It’s a must to go all the best way again to the 1977 Raiders to discover a Tremendous Bowl champion that returned all 22 of its starters. The kicker is that they’re not likely overpaying for a single one. Gronk, Suh and David are on cheap win-now offers, and Barrett’s large extension is an absolute steal contemplating he would’ve commanded near $20 million per yr on the open market.

Is it somewhat dangerous to run it again moderately than get inventive to improve in some areas? Possibly, however it’s not as if Godwin and Barrett — arguably the 2 greatest re-signings — will not be round for the long run, too. They may stand so as to add some depth alongside the trenches, and so they nonetheless want a backup for Tom Brady, however there isn’t any method to classify their offseason as something however a house run.

Grade: A

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We get that the Falcons are in transition — new coach, new entrance workplace, not a ton of cap house. The draft has at all times been the point of interest of their 2021 offseason. However if you’re nonetheless lugging Matt Ryan and Julio Jones alongside for the kickoff of the Arthur Smith period, properly, you are sure to be caught between tiny tweaks and a complete overhaul. Davis, for instance, is a pleasant addition who will convey some dimension and pass-catching capacity at a low value, however he is additionally their “premier” signing. Everybody else, from Mingo to Moreau, is a lottery ticket that, at greatest, might wiggle right into a beginning position and, at worst, find yourself on the chopping room ground come September.

Once more, that is par for the course for a workforce turning pages on an previous regime. And possibly Smith will do wonders with Ryan and make us look foolish for second-guessing Atlanta’s determination to cling to its longtime QB-WR duo for at the very least yet one more yr. Nevertheless it’s arduous to not recommend the Falcons would’ve been higher off wiping the whole slate clear for 2021.

Grade: C

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If solely that they had solved QB. (And so they nonetheless may.) Teddy Bridgewater is okay, however they’ve advised us how they actually really feel by publicly touting a possible improve and, behind closed doorways, pursuing different vets prefer it’s their job. Fixing that place, most probably with a first-round choose, will make a few of their different selections a bit simpler to swallow. Paying Elflein and Erving, for instance, a mixed $23.5 million, regardless of each linemen in all probability nonetheless belonging in the marketplace, wasn’t fairly. We get that they wish to defend the QB (whomever it’s), and Moton’s return will probably be huge, however they might’ve allotted sources for his working mates higher.

They do deserve props, nevertheless, for taking some low-risk, high-reward swings at receiver and pass-rusher. Moore seems like a sneaky breakout candidate after serving as a Russell Wilson deep menace, and Reddick and Fox might earn larger offers down the highway. Their lack of huge gambles is bittersweet; they’re missing a star addition however did not overpay outdoors of the O-line. Now it is time to draft.

Grade: C+

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Is it honest to criticize the Saints for dropping a ton of gamers they had been absolutely anticipated to lose? That is actually what’s going to decide whether or not you suppose this offseason has been evenly discouraging or completely catastrophic in New Orleans. They clearly deserve blame for his or her mammoth-sized cap points, which allowed them to spend on whomever they happy in earlier years, however break down the losses on a case-by-case foundation, and the injury would not appear deadly: Brees was bodily nearing the end line, Sanders and Prepare dinner had been stable however replaceable, and Hendrickson was sure to be overpaid in the marketplace.

Now, does that imply betting on Winston to succeed Brees was good? For a backup’s wage, it is actually a frugal transfer, and at the very least the upside is about as excessive as some other free agent QB. (Would anybody actually be surprised if Jameis threw for 4,500 yards and 25 touchdowns with Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas by his aspect?) The protection actually took successful, dropping amount and high quality, however the Saints additionally correctly tagged Williams to offer themselves one of many league’s high up-and-comers at security.

Grade: C-



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