The Atlanta Falcons were expected to be quiet at the start of free agency, and so far, there have been no surprises. But what have their rivals across the NFC South been doing.
The Atlanta Falcons began free agency over the salary cap, so it’s no surprise that there was little action for the birds on day one. A look around the division, and it’s been most of the work has been internal like the Falcons were last week signing four of their own free agents.
New Orleans Saints
One of the teams with a worse cap situation than the Falcons, the Saints made some internal made moves to lock up some of their own free agents, but lost a key pass rusher.
Safety Marcus Williams was hit with the franchise tag. Williams tied for the team lead with three interceptions in 2020 and posted 59 tackles.
26 year old defensive end Trey Hendrickson accepted a four-year deal with the Cincinnati Bengals. Hendrickson had 25 tackles and 13.5 sacks for the Saints in 2020. The next closest Saint in sacks was Cam Jordan with 7.5, so his loss will be felt on the Saints defensive line.
Quarterback Jameis Winston looks to return to New Orleans on a one-year deal. He provides insurance on the huge contract given to relatively unproven Taysom Hill.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The reigning Super Bowl champs put a franchise tag on receiver Chris Godwin. Godwin was second on the team in catches and yards with 65 and 840 respectively. He also added seven touchdowns.
Godwin’s case is interesting to watch as the Falcons Calvin Ridley heads towards the end of his contract. By all accounts Ridley has been the better, more productive player, and Godwin will earn $16.4M in 2021. Ridley is scheduled to make roughly $3.5M in 2021.
Tight End Rob Gronkowski made headlines yesterday when it was announced he’d give it another run with Tom Brady. Gronk signed a one year deal worth roughly $10M. Gronkowski had another productive season with 45 catches and seven touchdowns. While it seems he’s been around as long as Brady, Gronkowski is still just 31 years old.
Defensive end Shaq Barrett resigned with the Bucs on a four year deal. Barrett had 57 tackles and was third on the team with eight sacks.
Linebacker Lavonte David signed two-year deal to remain in Tampa. David was second on the team with 117 tackles in 2021. David also had an interception and two fumble recoveries.
Tampa has a number of key free agents remaining in running back Leonard Fournette, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, and tight end Jared Cook.
The Panthers have the best cap situation in the NFC South, but arguably the worst team situation. Carolina has money to spend, but it’s going to take a good recruiting job to convince a top tier free agent to come to the Panthers.
So far, they haven’t been successful on that pitch.
The Panthers put a franchise tag on offensive tackle Taylor Moton.
Wide receiver Curtis Samuel and offensive tackle Russell Okung remain free agents.