Atlanta Falcons appear to be in the driver's seat in NFC South race

Atlanta Falcons Introduce Raheem Morris as Head Coach
Atlanta Falcons Introduce Raheem Morris as Head Coach / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

The dust hasn't completely settled on free agency, and the NFL Draft is still to come, but after the flurry of moves that has kicked off the new league year, there is now a clear favorite in the NFC South.

Clearly, the signing of Kirk Cousins has elevated Atlanta to the top of a division that has been subpar in recent seasons. In the last two years, Tampa Bay has won the NFC South with records of 9-8 in 2023 and 8-9 in 2022. In '23, the Falcons finished 2 wins behind the Bucs, and just 1 behind in '22. Considering the numerous games in those two seasons that turned sour on late mistakes from Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder, you have to imagine even competent quarterback play could have won the division in both years.

The other big factor in this shift is that, while Atlanta has been upgrading, Tampa has maintained their status quo. The Falcons have brought in Cousins and wide receiver Darnell Mooney, and meanwhile, the Bucs have yet to make a major free agent signing.

It hasn't been a poor start to free agency for the Bucs. They've made several key re-signings in the likes of Baker Mayfield, Mike Evans, Lavonte David, Antoine Winfield Jr., and Greg Gaines, but they've also lost Ryan Jensen, Carlton Davis, and Shaq Barrett.

There is also the Draft, but Tampa has the same amount of of Top 100 picks (4) as the Falcons. The potential to add instant-impact rookies is equal between the two franchises.

New Orleans doesn't sit far behind Tampa in those odds, but of the three competitive teams in the division, they're the least inspiring. They've added Willie Gay Jr. and re-signed Demario Davis and Tyrann Mathieu, but they aren't in a cap situation that allows them to make any especially significant moves going forward. They are restructuring veteran contract after veteran contract to find cap space, especially Ryan Ramczyk's, but at the moment, they'd done little in the way of personnel to get ahead of Tampa or stave off Atlanta in the coming season.

There is still a long way to go in the offseason, and plenty of moves are yet to be made, but right now, Atlanta has high expectations in a division that is completely up for grabs.