Hey everyone, we're back, this time covering the NFC South and what each of its teams can do to make their off-seasons good ones. Before you dive into this one, check out each of the previous installments of this series below:
The NFC South is widely considered the worst division in football right now, with multiple QB hungry, floundering teams. In fact, the Saints seem to be the only team with stability at the position. The Bucs won this division last year, but without Tom Brady, this division is completely up in the air.
Since this is a fantasy page, we will take an offense-centric look into this offseason, while still hitting on the big defensive names.
Obviously, there is no objective perfect off-season, and NFL GMs know what they're doing, but in the spirit of good fun and just getting some opinions out there, let's take a look into the NFC South's future.
Last Year's Record: 7-10
2023 Estimated Cap Space: $66,426,591
2023 Draft Picks: 1st (1), 2nd (1), 3rd (1), 4th (2), 5th (1), 6th (1), 7th (2)
Notable Free Agents; Kaleb McGary (T), Olamide Zaccheaus (WR), Isaiah Oliver (CB)
This is a lot of cap space, but I don't necessarily see a whole lot of moves happening here, the timeline just isn't right. This team needs to be deeper, so I could see them go that route rather than spending big. Unfortunately, it seems like they're going with Desmond Ridder as the QB here. I just don't have faith that it will work out, but we'll give him his full year with an offseason of studying under his belt.
Coaching; I'm a huge fan of Arthur Smith, and feel for him in this terrible purgatory situation. However, with Marcus Mariota and washed Matt Ryan at QB, he's led this team to records above expectations. Ryan Nielsen, former Saints DL coach, is taking over the DC position, and will likely do so seamlessly. It's getting close to put up or shut up time for Arthur Smith's regime.
Trades; Atlanta already announced they'll be cutting Marcus Mariota next week, but I would've been interested to see if anyone would trade for him as a backup. Oh well
Free Agency; As I said above, this team has a lot of holes and is lacking depth. Their moves must start, however, with bringing back tackle Kaleb McGary, who had a quietly solid season last year:
+ Kaleb McGary (T)
+ Bud Dupree (OLB)
+ Roger Saffold (G)
+ Robert Woods (WR)
- Olamide Zaccheaus (WR)
- Isaiah Oliver (CB)
Arthur Smith brings a lot of familiar faces from Tennessee in to get some veteran presences into the offense.
2023 NFL Draft; The Falcons should be looking to go best player available with their 8th overall pick. I could see this being guys like OL Peter Skoronski out of Northwestern, or EDGE Tyree Wilson. WR is definitely something that should be addressed later on in the draft too, with a player such as Josh Downs out of UNC.
So altogether, here's what the Falcons' starting offense would look like in 2023...
QB - Desmond Ridder
RB - Tyler Allgeier
WR - Drake London
WR - Robert Woods
WR - Josh Downs
TE - Kyle Pitts
Last Year's Record: 7-10
2023 Estimated Cap Space: -$3,161,528
2023 Draft Picks: 1st (1), 2nd (2), 3rd (1), 4th (2), 5th (1)
Notable Free Agents; Sam Darnold (QB), D'Onta Foreman (RB), Bradley Bozeman (C), Rashard Higgins (WR), Matthew Ioannidis (DE)
With the cap crunch and lack of an obvious, established QB, this is going to be tough for this new staff to navigate...
Coaching; I'm extremely excited for the Frank Reich era in Carolina. I think he was given the short end of the stick in Indy and was a top ten coach in this league for a long time there. He should be able to turn this team around. Hopefully, he finally ends up with a QB.
Free Agency; Again, there isn't much cap space to work with here, but I'll assume they free up enough to get some re-signings done:
+ D'Onta Foreman (RB)
+ Bradley Bozeman (C)
- Sam Darnold (QB)
- Rashard Higgins (WR)
- Matthew Ioannidis (DE)
If I were the Panthers, I'd just hand the reins blindly to Matt Corral. This regime is brand new, jobs shouldn't be in jeopardy. Run the only guy you've got out there, and maybe look for future answers in the draft...
2023 NFL Draft; In our latest mock, the Panthers select Florida QB Anthony Richardson with the 6th overall pick after trading up. He is raw from a passing standpoint, but brings an extremely high rushing floor. Therefore, if Corral doesn't work out, you can pass the job on to Richardson and have him run around a little bit out there as he refines his passing abilities while the Panthers likely fight for this division.
So altogether, here's what the Panthers' starting offense would look like in 2023...
QB - Matt Corral
RB - D'Onta Foreman
WR - DJ Moore
WR - Terrace Marshall
WR - Laviska Shenault
TE - Tommy Tremble
New Orleans Saints
Last Year's Record: 7-10
2023 Estimated Cap Space: -$25,089,595
2023 Draft Picks: 1st (1), 2nd (1), 3rd (1), 4th (1), 5th (2), 6th (0), 7th (2)
Notable Free Agents; Andy Dalton (QB), Jarvis Landry (WR), Juwan Johnson (TE), David Onyemata (DT), Marcus Davenport (DE)
Well, the Saints are one leg up on the rest of the division, as they have Derek Carr, who is at least a serviceable QB. However, they are way over the salary cap, and we know they are beginning to feel the effects of their cap antics of years past.
Trades; A Michael Thomas trade could be in the works, but I do think he would be a good fit for a Derek Carr led offense, so he'll stay here in the ideal world.
Free Agency; With the Saints paying money off of contracts from like 5 years ago, they are finally in a salary cap bind. Moves will be tough to come by:
+ Juwan Johnson (TE)
- Andy Dalton (QB)
- Jarvis Landry (WR)
- David Onyemata (DT)
- Marcus Davenport (DE)
Juwan Johnson seemed to steal the starting TE job from Adam Trautman, and deservedly so, he feels like a solid starting receiving archetype TE for the Saints.
2023 NFL Draft; The Saints traded their top ten pick to Philly to trade up for Trevor Penning last year (yikes,) but at least they have the 29th pick to make up for it. A good pick for them would be RB Jahmyr Gibbs, or a secondary piece like Alabama S Brian Branch.
So altogether, here's what the Saints' starting offense would look like in 2023...
QB - Derek Carr
RB - Alvin Kamara (?) /Jahmyr Gibbs
WR - Michael Thomas
WR - Chris Olave
WR - Rashid Shaheed
TE - Juwan Johnson
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Year's Record: 8-9
2023 Estimated Cap Space: -$49,061,621
2023 Draft Picks: 1st (1), 2nd (1), 3rd (1), 4th (1), 5th (2), 6th (1), 7th (3)
Notable Free Agents; Julio Jones (WR), Kyle Rudolph (TE), Jamel Dean (CB), Sean Bunting (CB), Lavonte David (LB)
Well, Tampa went all in with Tom Brady, and won a Super Bowl for their efforts. Now, they pay for it, as they are ridiculously over the cap - even more so than the Saints -which is wild. A lot of players will leave between the cap crunch and the loss of Brady. This will be a grueling offseason, especially as they have no clear answer at QB.
Free Agency; They really can't do much besides make depth moves can they:
+ Andy Dalton (QB)
- Julio Jones (WR)
- Kyle Rudolph (TE)
- Jamel Dean (CB)
- Sean Bunting (CB)
- Lavonte David (LB)
2023 NFL Draft; Brian Branch, mentioned in the Saints section as well, would be a nice fit in Todd Bowles' defense as well, so hopefully the Bucs don't let him slide past this pick. Other good options would be some top corners that potentially fall to their 19th pick.
So altogether, here's what the Buccaneers' starting offense would look like in 2023...
QB - Andy Dalton
RB - Rachaad White
WR - Mike Evans
WR - Chris Godwin
WR - Russell Gage
TE - Cade Otton