Free Agency Needs: NFC South
With the 2020 NFL season finally over, the preparation for the 2021 season has finally begun. The 2021 NFL salary cap will be at $182.5 million, and teams will need to be smart with how they spend their money. The Tactician analyzes which positions each team should target and what free agents are affordable and can fit that role. We will cover the NFC South in this article. Atlanta Falcons: Offensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.042 (16th) Defensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.071 (20th) Draft Position: 5th Team Needs: CB, Edge, RB Owner Arthur Blank has said that he expects Matt Ryan to be on the team in 2021, so finding a CB opposite of AJ Terrell should be what the Falcons prioritize this offseason 2020 FA signing Dante Fowler did not play well at all this past season (3 sacks and 23 pressures), and so finding players who can consistently generate pressure is a must for the Falcons. Todd Gurley is a FA and I do not expect him to be back. The Falcons need to find a cheap young RB that fits the wide zone scheme that Arthur Smith will be running in Atlanta. Cap-Friendly FA: Desmond King, Markus Golden, Jamaal Williams Carolina Panthers: Offensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.019 (19th) Defensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.087 (24th) Draft Position: 9th Team Needs: QB, TE, CB Teddy Bridgewater showed that he isn’t the type of QB to win a team a Super Bowl at his stage in his career. He can be a solid bridge QB for the Panthers should they choose to use the eighth overall pick on a QB like Trey Lance or Justin Fields One of the most intriguing possibilities in the draft could be the Panthers selecting Kyle Pitts at pick eight. Imagine the offense that OC Joe Brady could run with a supporting cast of PItts, McCaffery, DJ Moore, and Robby Anderson Given the zone-heavy scheme that DC Phil Snow likes to run, the Panthers could look to upgrade over Troy Pride Jr. via a cheap option in FA or through the draft by using their first round pick on Caleb Farley who played a lot of zone in college. New Orleans Saints: Offensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.073 (12th) Defensive EPA/Play (Rank): -0.047 (4th) Draft Position: 29th Team Needs: QB, TE, S Drew Brees is likely to retire, and Jameis Winston is a FA as well. Bringing Jameis back on a cheap 1 year deal may be their best option given that the Saints are $69,010,461 over the cap this year. Michael Thomas was injured for most of the year last year, and the Saints weren’t able to pass the ball as well as they could in recent years finishing 16th in EPA/pass. They need to find a secondary option to Thomas for the future and to help whoever their new QB is since they recently cut Jared Cook and Josh Hill to free up cap space. Marcus Williams is a FA and will likely command big money in this loaded safety class. Given that the Saints have very little money to spend, they need to find a cheap veteran or look to the draft to find a FS to replace him. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Offensive EPA/Play (Rank): 0.150 (5th) Defensive EPA/Play (Rank): -0.043 (5th) Draft Position: 29th Team Needs: IOL, Edge, IDL Depth is badly needed on the offensive line. Donovan Smith and Ryan Jenson are going to be on the final year of their contract along with the issue that Alex Cappa can’t stay healthy. Shaq Barret is up for a new contract this season and he was a main contributor to the team’s defensive success this year. Tampa’s defense was one of the best all season and his ability to get pressure on the quarterback was critical. Ideally they would try to resign him, but a team with cap space might be looking to swoop him away. Another key contributor along that defensive line was Ndamukong Suh, who is set to be a free agent this spring as well. Suh is reaching the end of his professional career, so it wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see him willing to resign on a team friendly contract. Contributors: Arjun Menon, Ray Matera, Anthony Molina, and Sam Mattson.