With the start of a new league year only a few weeks away, the Ninety Nine Yards crew look ahead at what each team needs to do in the off-season, whether acquiring talent in free agency or via the draft. Next up is the NFC South team needs.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Tom Brady has now ridden off into the sunset (for the 2nd time). Bucs fans should not be sad that it’s over, but be glad that it happened. Brady’s successful three-year stint in Tampa brought about their 2nd ever Super Bowl in a run that will live long in the memory of Bucs fans.
However, a new era is upon us. We have to start with the obvious need at Quarterback now that the GOAT has left. Kyle Trask is the only remaining QB on the Bucs’ roster. Whilst the Bucs have publicly stated they are happily moving forward with Trask, surely another option in the QB room is also required. The Bucs however are up against it – both in free agency and the draft. They are currently $57m over the cap, according to Spotrac. Pick number 19 in the upcoming draft also leaves them out of reach of the top signal callers in the 2023 draft. Cheaper veterans, along the likes of Baker Mayfield, Jacoby Brissett and Carson Wentz, would seem to be in the bargain bucket level that the Bucs will be shopping in.
Beyond the QB
However, it is not only at the Quarterback position that the Bucs will be looking to strengthen this offseason. Long-time linebacker Lavonte David will be hitting free agency, and it will require some flash financial work to get him back under contract next year. This would leave a gaping hole in Tampa’s second level defence
The offensive line also could use some work, as the unit last year was certainly below par. Ryan Jensen returns at centre. However, there are still question marks over who will start at left guard. Donovan Smith is not getting any younger and has never been truly convincing at the left tackle spot – this is an area that may require attention.
In a draft chock full of corner prospects, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Buccaneers looked this way either in round 1 or on day 2, of the upcoming draft. Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting are both due to hit the open market and the Bucs’ cap space means retaining both is unlikely.
Surely (surely!) the Carolina Panthers have to address the Quarterback position this offseason. Since Cam Newton left, the Panthers have tried various veterans including Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater, Cam Newton again, and Baker Mayfield at the most important position in sport. None have been a resounding success. Whilst free agents like Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo are likely upgrades, I think the Panthers need to swing big this time. Whether this is a fanciful attempt at trading for the like of Lamar Jackson, or trading up for their preferred rookie, they need to do something at the position to whet the appetite of their fan base.
Out with the obvious, the Panthers have a relatively solid looking roster. They are not losing any vital cogs via free agency, and have a young developing roster. They could look to upgrade their tight end room with one of the better tight end classes in recent years. Running back may also be a target, with Chuba Hubbard needing a running mate to lighten the load. Laviska Shenault has never truly blossomed and an alternative to him in the slot position could become somewhere their target.
If, and it’s a big if, The Panthers hit it correctly at the Quarterback position their roster is in pretty good shape, with solid pieces spread out amongst all the position groups. They could be in line to make a run to snatch the NFC South crown and make the post-season.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Let’s start with the defensive line. On the interior, current incumbents David Onyemata and Shy Tuttle are both out of contract. At the edge, Cameron Jordan, whilst still top-drawer, will be 34 by the time the season starts. Marcus Davenport is an expiring contract who is also unlikely to be brought back into the fold. I expect the Saints to attack the defensive line help early. That may be through free-agent signings such as Javon Hargrave and Dre’Mont Jones. The back end of round 1 may also offer some options for the Saints with their 29th overall pick where the likes of Keion White, Calijah Kancey and Nolan Smith may be available
Chris Olave was an excellent pick-up by the Saints in the 2022 draft and should be their main man at wide receiver in 2023. However, he is going to need some help with the likes of Jarvis Landry and Michael Thomas no longer expected to be in New Orleans come the 2023 season. A bigger outside receiver, to compliment Olave’s elusive route-running ability certainly helps the Saints’ offence.
Lastly, we get to the Atlanta Falcons. Pass rush helps certainly sticks out as a need for the Atlanta Falcons. Only the ‘worst team in the NFL’ Chicago Bears managed less than the Falcons’ paltry 21 in the 2022 season. Improving their pass rush ability will also help a secondary that ranked 8th worst in the league in air yards allowed. Holding the number 8 overall pick in the draft means the Falcons are in with a shot of drafting one of the better pass rushers in this year’s draft – however, with no surefire hit, the Falcons may go down the ‘best player available route’ as they have done in previous years.
Pressure on the quarterback does not always need to come from the edge position. Grady Jarrett has ploughed a lone furrow at times on the interior of the Falcons’ defence for some time now. By targetting someone to play alongside him at the defensive tackle spot, Jarrett could be freed up from frequent double teams. I think addressing this spot certainly could benefit the Falcons moving forward.
After a breakout 2021 season, AJ Terrell was not quite at the same level in 2022. There is a plethora of corner talent available in this year’s draft and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Falcons seek some help for Terrell with their 2nd round pick at number 45
Finally, a sneak need for the Falcons might come at the linebacker position. With the likes of Lorenzo Carter, Nick Kwiatkoski and Rashaan Evans all on expiring contracts, they may wish to explore the value of resigning any of those players versus what is available on the open market and in the draft.
So where does your team need to improve? Have we got it right or are there other more pressing team needs? Let us know at @ninetynineyards or hit me up @stuie17 on Twitter! Look out for the rest of the team needs series coming soon