A look at the NFC South's free agency activity

Falcons fans know all about the additions of Kirk Cousins, Darnell Mooney and Rondale Moore. They also know about the departures of Cordarrelle Patterson, Calais Campbell and Desmond Ridder. What is there to know about the Atlanta Falcons division rivals?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Carolina Panthers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Carolina Panthers / Jared C. Tilton/GettyImages

The Atlanta Falcons have had a busy free agency period thus far

Signing Kirk Cousins to a 4-year $180 million contract with $100 Million guaranteed within the first 2 hours of the early tampering period, the Atlanta Falcons under new head coach Raheem Morris made national headlines at the earliest point of free agency. Fixing their biggest need almost instantly, the Falcons looked to the next hole to fill. As it turns out, that hole would end up being wide receiver.

To start, the Falcons retained depth receiver KhaDarel Hodge for another year. Next, they handed former Bears receiver Darnell Mooney a 3-year $39 million contract before trading last year's starting quarterback Desmond Ridder to the Arizona Cardinals for receiver Rondale Moore. Finally, the Falcons finished the receiver room redecorating by signing 49ers receiver Ray-Ray McCloud to a 2-year deal worth up to $6 million.

The Falcons also made a few other smart moves, such as signing one of the best blocking tight ends away from the 49ers in Charlie Woerner as well as re-signing swing tackle Storm Norton, who played at both left and right tackle last season in multiple games due to injuries across the offensive line. The Falcons also re-signed linebacker Nate Landman, defense tackle Kentavius Street, long snapper Liam McCullough, and backup center Ryan Neuzil.

What about the rest of the NFC South?

Falcons fans are familiar with moves that Atlanta has been making, but what has the rest of the NFC South been up to? Did the Buccaneers do anything to find some semblance of a running game? Did the Panthers get Bryce Young some help? Were the Saints able to sign players without necessitating a payment plan?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were focused on keeping the band together in Free Agency

Unlike the Falcons, the NFC South defending champion (for the third year in a row) had a lot of talent they felt they needed to keep this offseason. Longtime Bucs receiver Mike Evans was the top priority. Rather than let him test free agency, the Buccaneers signed him to a 2-year deal worth $52 million. Next, they needed to ensure they had a guy to throw him the ball, resulting in bringing back 2023 Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield on a massive $100 million deal that keeps him in central Florida through 2026.

Once the Bucs got the Evans and Mayfield deals wrapped up, Tampa turned their attention to the defensive side of the ball. Franchise tagging All-Pro safety Antoine Winfield, paying defensive tackle Greg Gaines $3.5 million to stick around one more year, and offering linebacker Lavonte David $9 Million to do the same. Back on offense, the Bucs gave running back Chase Edmonds a 2-year deal to keep the familiarity in Tampa intact.

As for moves, the Buccaneers began by giving safety Jordan Whitehead a 2-year deal worth $9 million. Afterward, they signed corner Bryce Hall, guard Sua Opeta, and center Ben Bredeson. The Buccaneers also traded starting cornerback Carlton Davis to the Detroit Lions for draft picks. As far as losing players, Davis is one of the few notable losses alongside Devin White and Shaq Barret, who signed with the Eagles and Dolphins, respectively.

The Carolina Panthers got Bryce Young (expensive) help

Trading up to 1st overall in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers selected Alabama quarterback Bryce Young. To get the #1 pick, the Panthers decided to trade the one player they had rostered that wasn't a bigger detriment to his quarterback than to the opposing defense in receiver DJ Moore, leaving the Panthers scrambling to sign an aging Adam Thielen to be WR1 for Bryce Young's rookie campaign to painfully obvious results.

With nobody to throw to, nobody consistently blocking for him, and middling at best teammates to hand the ball off to, #1 overall pick Bryce Young had a painful rookie year, being sacked 62 times in 16 games. To combat this, the Panthers traded aging corner Donte Jackson to the Pittsburgh Steelers for receiver Diontae Johnson, in addition to shelling out a combined $153 Million over the next 5 seasons to offensive guards Damien Lewis and Robert Hunt. Carolina also signed offensive tackle Yosh Nijman to a 2-year deal as a swing tackle option.

Another notable move the Panthers made this season was franchise tagging and trading edge rusher Brian Burns to the New York Giants for draft picks. To replace him, the Panthers gave former Jaguars 1st round pick K'Lavon Chaisson a 1-year deal worth up to $5 Million. Also adding to the defense, the Panthers signed defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson, corners Dane Jackson and Troy Hill, linebackers DJ Wonnum and Josey Jewell, and safeties Jordan Fuller and Nick Scott.

The New Orleans Saints made changes

The New Orleans Saints had a lot of work to do in preparation for Free Agency. Scrambling to fit under the salary cap, the Saints restructured, released, or renegotiated player after player. Finally, inexplicably it feels at times, they did it yet again. To begin with, the Saints, like most teams, focused initially on extending or re-signing in-house guys such as safeties Jonathan Abram and Ugo Amadi.

As far as outside free agents go, the Saints brought in a handful of names many NFL fans might have heard. If Bengals receiver Stanley Morgan, Dolphins receiver Cedrick Wilson, Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay Jr, and QB Nathan Peterman were the opening act, the Saints quickly found their headliner in former Commanders and 49ers defensive end Chase Young, giving Young a 1-year deal worth $13 Million. Not even 24 hours after the deal was announced, it was announced Chase Young would undergo neck surgery.