Sunday 25 June 2017 / 12:01 PM

FREE AGENCY GRADES: NFC SOUTH

We’ve almost seen each of the free agents find new homes, and mostly figured out where each team is at going into the NFL Draft. We’ve got a roundup for each division after almost two full weeks (and most of the big signings in the books), and we’ll be putting them out over the next week or so. According to the NFL’s “Top 101 Free Agents” chart, 83% have found new homes, so we’ve got a solid look at who is going where.

Next up we’ve got the NFC South, who just sent a team to the Super Bowl for the second straight year. Now, the Falcons try to hold onto their newfound elite-ness, and the Bucs and Saints try and make the jump. While the Panthers try and get back to where they were a year ago.

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons had some attrition for this year, letting Patrick DiMarco move on due ot he price, and lost Dwight Freeney in another decided departure. Other than that, they added Dontari Poe, which is a big get for a defense that was much improved a year ago.

Other than that, they pretty much doubled down on their past roster, and will take it into next season for the most part. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world, having come within 20 more solid minutes of wining the Super Bowl (sorry, Falcons fans). They could have used a little more beef on the offensive line, but the front office is indicating they’ll target that in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Grade: B-

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers disappointed in a big way in 2016, and took the opportunity to make some serious changes to the roster. They shipped out Kony Ealy to the Patriots to avoid a payday, and saw receivers Philly Brown and Ted Ginn head out somewhere else. Underperforming tackle Mike Remmers is also gone, as well as longtime FB Mike Tolbert.

But they added quite a bit more. They extended the group of Wes Horton, Mario Addison Charles Johnson and Kawann Short on the defensive line, which is big for one of the deeper groups in the NFL. They also brought back franchise favorite Captain Munnerlyn to improve the secondary. Oh, and Julius Peppers, the sack master and franchise leader, is back in the blue and black. On offense, they addressed their offensive line problems by adding Matt Kalil to pair with his brother. There’s reason to be optimistic in Carolina.

Grade: A-

New Orleans Saints

The Saints brought in an influx of talent to a roster that won’t lose nearly anyone. Well, if you don’t count stud receiver Brandin Cooks, who they dealt to the Patriots for picks. Poor Drew Brees. Other than that, they don’t lose much off the roster from a year ago. Ted Ginn comes in to be Brees new deep target, as he excelled in Carolina. And Larry Warford is one of the best guards in free agency from Detroit.

On defense, AJ Klein comes in looking to start from Carolina, and Manti Te’o was solid for the Chargers. But the big move was brining back Nick Fairley, who was great on the line for New Orleans, and could see some better support with the new linebackers in a Saints defense that desperately needs to see some improvement to give Drew Brees a chance.

Grade: C+

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs were one of those teams knocking on the door of the playoffs a year ago, and entered the offseason looking for some upgrades to get them there. And they’ve decided to take some chances. They let go of Mike Glennon (who will now be starting in Chicago) and Bradley McDougald, who started at safety. Other than that, they took some swings on other positions.

They showed signs that they are willing to move on from former first round pick Robert Aguayo by singing Nick Folk, who will compete from day one. They brought in Chris Baker, who should beef up that right side of the D-Line that lacked last year, and JJ Wilcox will be a fine safety after his time in Dallas. But the big addition is DeSean Jackson, who will get big money to come in and be a top target for Jameis Winston. Winston has a big arm, and now has someone who can stretch the field with it.

Grade: B-

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About the author

Austin Albertson

Austin is CBS' senior NFL and NBA analyst, bringing you commentary on everything between the lines and inside the hashes, from the film room to the scoreboard.

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