NFL Offseason Roundtable: NFC South Editors Talk Free Agency, Draft Part 1


NFC South Fansided editors converged recently to chat about how the offseason has went leading up to the NFL draft for the New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons. We talked about each team’s free-agent acquisitions, how the teams will act during the 2013 NFL draft and which team has the advantage in the division as the season approaches.

Click here for part 2. 

Here’s the breakdown:

The NFC South was obviously dominated by the Falcons in 2012, with the Dirty Birds logging the only winning record in the division. Heading into this offseason, they didn’t need to do much to keep their spot at the top of the league. What do you perceive as the Falcons biggest needs this offseason, and how do you feel they addressed them?

Jan 20, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws the ball against the San Francisco 49ers during the fourth quarter in the NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

BD: The Falcons biggest needs going into this off-season were a consistent running back and a pass-rushing defensive end. You can check off the first need since the Falcons signed one of the most consistent running backs in history in Steven Jackson. As for the pass-rushing defensive end, it’s a wait and see what they do in the draft approach. Signing Osi Umenyiora helps in the short-term, but more then anything, the Falcons need a long-term answer at defensive end and that may come in the draft.

WDD: Like you said, the Falcons didn’t have to do much to head into 2013 as Super Bowl contenders. Giving John Abraham’s contract the boot and picking up a similar player who makes more financial sense in Osi Umenyiora was a great move.

Obviously there was a need at running back with Michael Turner shown the door, but that was filled very nicely with a Super Bowl-hungry back in Steven Jackson.

Moving forward I’d fully expect the Falcons to address problem areas in the draft such as cornerback, defensive end and offensive guard.

TPP: The Falcons’ biggest need was just to continue to build up depth, and bring in players to help them close out games. They have the talent to win every game they play, so the addition of Steven Jackson adds an element of lead protection and time of possession that wasn’t available previously. Atlanta has set themselves up to improve most through the draft, which I believe they will do.

Do you believe that Steven Jackson is going to make a positive impact on the Falcons, or do you believe he is sufficiently past his prime? If he does make a positive impact, just how does it change the Falcons’ offense?

December 23, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson (39) reacts after he scored a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

BD: The Steven Jackson is definitely going to make an impact for the Falcons and will change their offense because of the running back that he is on the field. His ability to be able to take the load at running back will misguide defenses, allowing Matt Ryan to make even bigger plays down the field.

WDD: Jackson is going to have a massive impact with the Saints. He looked bad last year in St. Louis behind a mediocre offensive line and defenses could focus on shutting down the run with Sam Bradford and Co. not representing a serious threat through the air.

In Atlanta, defenses won’t be able to stack eight in the box for obvious reasons such as Matt Ryan and his plethora of weapons. He’ll be able to pound out the tough yardage between the tackles when needed, but will also see massive running lanes compared to what he is accustomed to over the past few seasons.

As a whole, Jackson changes the dynamic of the Atlanta offense because it has to be taken seriously on the ground.

TPP: As a Buccaneer fan and a Buccaneer writer, I am not concerned with Jackson when it comes to how Tampa Bay matches up with the Falcons. Against the Bucs, Jackson is not a player who worries me, as I believe he’s a runner the Bucs can contain with their sturdy run defense.

I am concerned with how he rounds out the Falcons’ offense, and the impact he will have on the Falcons closing out games and balancing out their already powerful passing attack. I feel like his addition makes the Falcons favorites to remain on top of the division, but doesn’t necessarily make them any better than they were in terms of being that much better than other Super Bowl contenders.

The Saints, Buccaneers, and Panthers all finished with the same 7-9 record. Which team do you believe had the most needs heading into this offseason?

Dec 22, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) reacts after scoring a touchdown as wide receiver Louis Murphy (83) looks on in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

BD: I believe it was the Saints because of the personal change they are going through, moving into the 3-4. For any team, it is tough moving into a different defensive formation because they may not have the personal to run that formation.

WDD: Carolina had the most needs heading into the offseason. New Orleans was a close second thanks to the worst statistical defense in NFL history, but the Panthers had major holes on both sides of the football. Add in a seriously bad cap situation and it’s easy to see why Carolina has been so quiet this offseason.

TPP: This would have to be the Panthers. The sad part (for Panthers’ fans) is that they don’t have the money to spend to improve the team. The Buccaneers and Saints both had a good amount of defensive needs, but both teams seemed capable of being in the hunt for a winning record without making many offseason move. The Panthers seemed fortunate to get to 7-9, and don’t seem to be a few moves away from a playoff berth.

Do you believe any of these three teams have done what is needed to address their team’s shortcomings?

December 9, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Mark Barron (24) against the Philadelphia Eagles prior to the game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

BD: Not by very much, no. I do think these teams will be in a much better situation, in terms of needs, after the draft.

WDD:  Tampa Bay is still a work in progress, but the signing of Dashon Goldson was a step in the right direction. The team has the talent to be playoff contenders in most areas, and wrapping up the trade for Darrelle Revis will change this answer to a resounding “yes.”

The offseason hasn’t been so kind for the other two teams. The Saints brought in a solid corner in Keenan Lewis and got Rob Ryan his guys with Victor Butler and Kenyon Coleman, but it’s not even close to enough for what was a laughably bad defense a year ago.

Carolina hasn’t done much of anything. Outside of being able to retain corner Captain Munnerlyn, the Panthers have made no impact signings to change the complexion of the team. A few interesting depth moves have been made, but they aren’t anywhere close to solving their problems.

TPP: I think all three teams are reliant upon the draft to make the biggest impact on filling their offseason needs. In terms of making the best signings, I think the Buccaneers have done the best job by adding Derek Landri, Tom Crabtree, and of course, Dashon Goldson.