Let’s focus on the free agency side of things to help preview the New Orleans Saints’ rivals and begin to shape what’s to come in 2017.
The NFL offseason seems to always be more intriguing parity-wise than any other sport. Sure, the NBA and MLB give out more money, mainly due to the smaller rosters in those leagues. However, key and even former franchise players seem to switch teams every year in the NFL. A top-3 overall pick from 4 or 5 drafts ago could sign with a rival team, and it’s a normal happening in football. The 2017 offseason, as expected, is no different.
OT Luke Joeckel was the number one overall pick in 2013. After four odd seasons with Jacksonville, Joeckel signed a one-year contract with the Seattle Seahawks. Just like that. The Vikings replaced RB Adrian Peterson, who is part of the very exclusive 2,000-yard rusher club, with a younger running back after a decade with Minnesota. Arguably the greatest RB of the 21st century is now unemployed. And all of that is normal.
Another example pertains to an important team in the New Orleans Saints’ division. DeSean Jackson has signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This pairs up one of the best deep threats in the league with an already killer dynamic duo of James Winston and Mike Evans. The move made me question just how much that improved the Buccaneers, further making me question the same for the entire NFC South. How much better have New Orleans’ rivals gotten this offseason?
The division is fairly predictable, with the Falcons being the most consistent and talented, the Panthers being questionable and the Buccaneers being young and fiery. But I wanted to take an in-depth look at how those three teams are shaping up in comparison to the moves the Saints have made so far. More moves in free agency and, of course, the draft, will take place in the future. But this is a good time to look at what’s going on in the NFC South.
(Note: player signings listed here are from spotrac.com. The lists in this article do not include players who have not been signed. Nor players who have been traded or retired.)