The NFC South is home to three playoff teams from the 2017 season, in Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans. Both Atlanta and New Orleans advanced to the Divisional Round losing in close games, in fact New Orleans had their game won if not for a blunder in the secondary which allowed Minnesota to score as time was winding down. As a whole the NFC South free agency period hasn’t been very exciting with only one, possibly two if you wait until the end of your draft to take a Tight End, potential Fantasy Football draft pick signing in the division.
However, there have been some key offensive line and defensive signings in the division. I’ll be taking a look at these along with the few fantasy redraft positional players that have been signed in the NFC South.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)
Tampa Bay focused on defense in the draft, and their first round pick, Vita Vea, should help solidify their interior defense playing next to Gerald McCoy at Defensive Tackle. To improve their Defensive Ends Tampa signed Vinny Curry, from the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, to a three year deal and traded for Jason Pierre-Paul from the Giants. They also signed another Eagle in Beau Allen along with Mitch Unrein from Chicago to add to their rotation on the defensive line. All of these signings improve the Tampa defensive line and should allow them to make a big jump in the defensive rankings this year.
On offense the Buccaneers are still trying to put everything together. They are good to great at the skill positions: receiver, tight end and possibly at running back with the addition of Ronald Jones II in the draft, and the departure of Doug Martin to Las Vegas. At Quarterback they are still waiting for Jameis Winston to show consistency and cut out the turnovers. They re-signed Ryan Fitzpatrick which gives them a backup at Quarterback capable of wining, and it is looking as though they will need some Ryan Fitzpatrick magic if the rumored suspension of Jameis Winston is true. On the offensive line they brought in Ryan Jensen from Baltimore to play center and will move Evan Smith back to guard which improves the line. The success or failure of Tampa Bay will largely rest on the shoulders of Winston again this year. However, the team has made improvements on defense which will help keep them in games and allow them to win some low scoring affairs, and on offense some minor improvements have been made along the line which should allow the running game to be more consistent this season.
Atlanta Falcons (10-6)
In the draft Atlanta took receiver Calvin Ridley, with their first round pick, who should step in right away and replace free agent departure Taylor Gabriel who signed with Chicago in the offseason. The two key additions on offense are guard Brandon Fusco who previously played for San Francisco and tight end Logan Paulsen from the Washington Redskins. Fusco will step in and start at right guard and Paulsen will be counted on to help replace Levine Toilolo who signed with Detroit and was mainly an extra blocker on the line. These additions will ensure Atlanta’s running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman will continue to produce, and hopefully at a higher level in their second year under offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.
On defense the Falcons lose Dontari Poe to their rival the Carolina Panthers, and Adrian “six sack” Clayborn to the New England Patriots. Poe will be the harder player to replace. 2017 Free Agent, Jack Crawford who missed most of the 2017 season, may get the first shot. The Falcons added defensive end Terrell McClain, from the Washington Redskins and cornerback Justin Bethel, from the Arizona Cardinals, as depth pieces for their defense. If the front four of this defense is able to take a step forward this will be a quality defense, the back seven are definitely among the best in the league.
Carolina Panthers (11-5)
Free Agency for the Panthers was mostly about replacing free agent departures. Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei signed with the Buffalo Bills, and gets replaced by Dontari Poe from the rival Falcons. This is a big upgrade for the Panthers defensive line. Also, safety Kurt Coleman signed with the rival Saints and is replaced by Da’Norris Searcy from Tennessee. This may also be a slight upgrade. The other key signing on defense is cornerback Ross Cockrell who will also be an upgrade to the Panthers secondary.
On offense the major news is the loss of guard Andrew Norwell to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Norwell was the top unrestricted free agent along the offensive line this offseason. To help compensate the Panthers signed Jeremiah Sirles, from Minnesota, but without a doubt this is a major downgrade for the offensive line. At the skill positions the Panthers traded for receiver Torrey Smith from the Philadelphia Eagles, and signed free agent receiver Jarius Wright from the Vikings and running back C.J. Anderson from the Denver Broncos to replace long time Panther running back Jonathan Stewart who is now with the Giants. It remains to be seen how the Panthers will use these new players, but Torrey Smith or draft pick D.J. Moore will likely play at one receiver spot while Devin Funchess starts at the other. Jarius Wright could be used in the slot if 2017 draft pick Curtis Samuel continues to be injury prone. At running back, Christian McCaffrey, will continue to be a big part of the offense and we will have to wait and see how C.J. Anderson will be used. If he takes the Jonathan Stewart roll he is probably a depth running back on fantasy rosters.
New Orleans Saints (11-5)
The Saints offense lost guard Senio Kelemete to the Houston Texans, but brought back a former player in guard Jermon Bushrod. Bushrod is five years older than Kelemete, but plays at a similar level at this point in their careers. The Saints also brought back tight end Benjamin Watson, who had his best season in 2015 with the Saints. He is thirty seven years old now, but is a veteran and still has some speed to help this offense. Of course the big signing was the re-signing of Drew Brees to a two year contract which could take Brees to his retirement. Another piece who could payoff is receiver Cameron Meredith, signed as a restricted free agent and not matched by his form team the Chicago Bears. Meredith has shown he is a talented receiver and at times shown he can even be a number one receiver, but has struggled to stay healthy and is coming off another knee injury that caused him to miss the 2017 season. He will likely start the season behind Michael Thomas and possibly work his way into more playing time in three receiver sets. In another late move the Saints have signed free agent running back Terrance West. He will compete for some of the carries vacated by suspended running back Mark Ingram, but we will have to wait for preseason games to see which of the Saints running backs other than Alvin Kamara is likely to be involved.
On defense the Saints have elected to not re-sign safety Kenny Vaccaro, but have instead brought in Kurt Coleman, from the rival Panthers. Coleman is likely to be a depth piece behind Von Bell and playoff goat Marcus Williams. At linebacker the Saints have brought in Demario Davis, formerly an unwanted linebacker of the New York Jets and then the Cleveland Browns, before being brought back by the Jets and having a career year in 2017. The career year has paid off in the form of a three year, 24 million dollar contract from the Saints, who have been searching for a middle linebacker themselves for several years. The other key free agency signing on defense is cornerback Patrick Robinson, also a former Saint. Robinson had a solid year for the Philadelphia Eagles last season and should step into a starting role for the Saints defense this season. If Demario Davis plays like he did in 2017 and if the Saints get anything out of first round pick Marcus Davenport, who they gave up two first round draft picks for, the Saints will have an excellent defense this season.
As our free agency articles end we will turn our focus to positional rankings at Major League Fantasy Sports. Check back in early July as we begin to rank our top Fantasy Players including all IDP positions.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday June 17th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #125 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Major League Fantasy Football Radio Show: Join host Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live June 21st, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #83 of Major League Fantasy Football Radio. Call in number is 323-870-4395 press 1 to speak with the host. We will hit free agents, rookies, and fantasy football as a whole for each team for 2018. This week we will discuss everything AFC North!
Kyle is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com going on his 5 th year. He focuses primarily on baseball, but is a fantasy football fan and analyst as well.