Ollie Banton and Ryan Pavlicek-
Stoop Sports’ NFL staff writers Ryan Pavlicek and Ollie Banton look at the off season needs of the four teams in the NFC South.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Needs: CB, DE, TE
Simply put, the Bucs know that their pass defense led to their woes at the end of last season.
Fixing this position will be the primary concern for the Bucs, and they could even be big players in a trade for Darrelle Revis.With Revis, they can afford a cheap number two cornerback from the deep free agent class while trying to urge defensive end Michael Bennett to stay. Bennett is a major free agent of the team. If they don’t get Revis, the Bucs should look for an expensive cornerback from the free agent market like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie while also using their first round pick on another.
Whatever happens with the cornerback situation in Tampa Bay, they’ll also try to get more pass rushers through the draft and also bring in tight end competition through free agency for the under-achieving Luke Stocker.
Needs: TE, RB, DE
The Falcons will be very interesting to watch when free agency begins on March 12. The only glaring needs are at the tight end, and running back positions, as they already sport a very complete roster.
Tony Gonzalez will need to be replaced this year, or next, as we all await his plans. Regardless, in a deep free agent class at the position, the Falcons will have to make a move whether it be for the present or future without Tony Gonzalez.
At running back, the Falcons released Michael Turner because of a large cap hit and because they don’t use the position to much. The Falcons are a passing team, so look for them to try and find Turner’s replacement in the draft.
Defensive end is listed a need because the Falcons will try to replace John Abraham in the draft. They are looking to get younger by letting Abraham go, and this is the draft to do so. They would also benefit from more depth at the linebacker position.
Also watch the Falcons in free agency at the cornerback position. This year’s class of free agent cornerbacks is surprisingly deep and should be taken advantage of.
Need(s): WR, S
Cam Newton took a step back in his second season, giving skeptics even more proof of the existence of the “sophomore slump.” He showed that he is still a young talent with a ton of things to learn, but he definitely seems to be the future of this Panthers team. WR Steve Smith has been a staple in Carolina for over a decade, but it might be time to start looking ahead to when he retires. The Panthers are thin at wide receiver and should look to the draft to bring in some youth to gear toward the future.
Carolina’s defense also has some issues to address, especially at safety. They have a strong core of young talent led by Luke Kuechly, and bringing in a veteran guy could help the defense mature and prosper.
Like I said, I believe the Panthers should turn to the draft to help their WR needs. A lot of the big name wide outs in free agency will likely get overpaid, and I don’t see Carolina taking part in doing so. They are far from a contender and already have Steve Smith who has showed he can play at a high-caliber level, even at 33 years old. As far as safety is concerned, I think it would be good for the Panthers to sign a guy via free agency.
Dashon Goldson escaped the franchise tag in San Francisco and is ready to move on. Goldson has tons of experience playing for one of the best defenses in the league over the past several years, but is still just 28 years old and could be a big part of the Panthers’ future plans.
New Orleans Saints
Need(s): OLB, DT
Defense, defense, defense. After the bounty debate last offseason, the New Orleans Saints defense took a massive blow with the suspensions of Sean Payton, Gregg Williams, and several key defensive players. The Saints let up a league worst 147-rush yards per game in 2012, and if they want that number to go down in 2013, they’re going to need to bring in some serious talent.
After franchise tags getting placed on Bear’s DT Henry Melton and Dolphin’s DT Randy Starks, I don’t think the run-stopping nose tackle the Saints so desperately need is in the free agent market. This year’s draft class is loaded with talent on the defensive front, so New Orleans should have no problem finding a guy that fits their newly instated 3-4 defensive scheme.
As far as outside linebackers go, I like Connor Barwin to the Saints. His production dropped a bit in 2012, but I still think he is very good pass rushing outside linebacker. The Saints have found success in recent history using the blitz, and Barwin coming off the end would be a great addition to a struggling defense.