Keep: Adrian Clayborne DE
- The Falcons have a bunch of defensive linemen headed to free agency. Not that any of them are true game changers, but it is always tough losing that much depth. One player that seemed to come into his own this past year was Adrian Clayborne who is slowly becoming one of the more consistent ends in the league. He will probably never turn into a true game changer on the edge due to his limited pass rushing repertoire, but he is a steady bull rusher. Clayborne was always a solid run stuffer and only continues to get better there. The Falcons have limited cap space, but they could maybe convince Clayborne to return on a team friendly deal.
- The Falcons only have about $10 million in cap space. However, none of that used money is in any shape or form being wasted really. They could cut some other depth options to scrape away some cap space. Other than that there really is not any outstanding contract or player they need to get out from under.
Sign: Josh Kline OG Tennessee Titans
- The Falcons could use some more strength on the interior of their line next to Alex Mack. Wes Schweitzer was a turnstile on the line last season and was consistently pushed back into Matt Ryan's lap. Dabbling in the guard pool at the mid to lower end is not a bad idea. Kline is not a high profile blocker, but he was consistent for the Titans opening holes consistently in the run game. He will not be a true stud, but he will provide nice steady work at a reasonable price tag.
Ideal Draft Pick: Da'Ron Payne DT Alabama
- The Falcons as mentioned have a ton of defensive linemen hitting the open market. They already expressed interest in the top two interior linemen in this draft Vita Vea and Da'Ron Payne. I doubt they have a shot at Vea unless they trade up. They could however, get lucky if Payne slides to them a bit if teams are worried about Alabama's shaky track record in the NFL. Me personally I think he is one of the best prospects in this draft, but others are still not sure about it. If they do land Payne he could continue to flash in Atlanta like he did there during the Championship game.
Keep: Andrew Norwell OG
- Norwell is one of the top free agents in general in this draft. Not only is he one of the top guards in the league, but if he hits the open market he will be highly sought after. The Panthers were finally able to put a good line together in front of Cam Newton and with Ryan Kalil retiring it would be best not to lose two key blockers in one off season. He most likely will not be coming cheap, but they could franchise tag him allowing them to be the only ones negotiating with him for a long term deal.
Cut: Mike Adams S and Charles Johnson DE
- You have to give it up to Steve Wilks and how well this defense played last year. They only have two true studs in Luke Kuechly and Kawann Short, but the rest of the defense is just okay. After how many times Mike Adams was blown by last year I think it's about time to cut bait on the veteran who will be 36 next year. Letting him go clears out just $2 million, but it could be used to be put towards Norwell. Another defender they should finally give up on is Charles Johnson. After his breakout year long ago that landed him a nice sized contract he never really fulfilled his end of the bargain. He should be let go freeing up another $3 million. That will give them a cool $17 million to use elsewhere.
Sign: Alex Okafor DE New Orlean Saints
- It's common for divisional foes to prey players from each other. Partly from stealing ideas and game plans. The other side of the coin is familiarity with the player and what they can do. The Panthers need to bring in new talent on the edge so they are not forced to bring back Julius Peppers again or rely on Mario Addison so heavily again. Okafor was a bit of a lost player for a while in the league before steadily improving for the Saints this past season. He flashed good versatility from being able to stick as a base end in a 4-3 front or at the five-technique. His all around play is also very useful and should come at a reasonable price tag for the Panthers.
Ideal Draft Pick: Marcus Davenport DE UTSA
- A common theme here for the Panthers is improving their defensive line to have more real talent outside of Kawann Short who is their only defender of note. Davenport is a small school stud rising up draft boards thanks to his size, athleticism, and ability to bend around the edge. He has more girth than Leonard Floyd did, but has similar bend. Most have compared him to Ziggy Ansah who was extremely raw coming into the NFL. If anything Davenport should be more prepared for the next level. I could see him being pushed into the top 15 due to this shallow edge rushing class. However, being a small school player could have him fall into the Panthers lap. He would fit perfectly in their system that values speed off the edge.
New Orleans Saints:
Keep: Drew Brees QB
- Obviously, at the top of their to do list is to lock up Brees for another season or two. They currently have no sort of secession plan in place and without him go from a Super Bowl contender to contending for the top draft pick. If I were Brees I would look around a bit to make sure New Orleans is where you would want to stay. The roster is much better in either Minnesota or Jacksonville that could possibly entice him. However, Brees is much to loyal to go else where and seems to love New Orleans and will most likely stick it out with an increasingly immature head coach and a defense that could go cold after a peak year.
Cut: Coby Fleener TE, Nick Fairley DT, and Zach Strief OT
- Fleener has been a tease since he entered the league and continues to be a tease in New Orleans. He shows sparks of greatness on occasion, but is far too often a non factor. Cutting him only saves #3 million, but it could be put towards some more useful players. Unfortunetly, for Nick Fairley he will need to be cut due to the nature of his injuries that may cause him to retire. If he could remain healthy he would be a nice depth option, but he has far too often been on the IR to be reliable. He only takes $1 million off the books, but it could go to a player who can actually play. Lastly, it seems one of the longest tenured Saints has been essentially been Wallie Pipped by Ryan Ramczyk who took his spot while he was out with an injury. He is another player considering retirement anyways. With him gone it clears another $2 million. In the end, they should have a nice $34 million to use this off season.
Sign: Navorro Bowman LB Oakland Raiders
- The duo of Manti Te'o and Craig Robertson in the middle of the defense are an okay duo. However, this defense needs to continue to bring in talent to sustain the success they had from this past season. One way to do it is to bring in some quality veteran leadership that can still be an upgrade over Te'o or Robertson. Bowman certainly is not the player he once was after two unfortunate knee injuries. However, when healthy he is a terrific interior defender with good instincts and ability to stuff the run. His most valuable attribute will be his leadership and ability to elevate those around him on a young defense. He should come somewhat cheap and on a short term deal as he tries to seek another run at the Lombardi Trophy.
Ideal Draft Pick: Rashaan Evans LB Alabama
- More linebacking help for a team that could use it. Evans is not your prototypical linebacker who sticks to just the interior, but he showed good versatility with the ability to rush off the edge as well. They truly still have one steady pass rusher of note in Cam Jordan. Bringing in Evans to pair with him could create a good duo on an improving defense. However, they could sneakily get him in the second round by trading back up. Though with limited picks in the first few rounds they should just take their guy when they can get him. If he turns out to be a great player like I suspect then they will be just fine where they take him.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
- They really have no one of note that they should retain and with so much cap space at $64 million they should look elsewhere for improvements. Rather than keep players that led them to a disappointing season.
- Again with $64 million to their name they really do not need to cut anyone to make space. There are a few candidates that could be cut, but none are really pressing.
Sign: Malcolm Butler CB New England Patriots and DeMarcus Lawrence DE Dallas Cowboys
- The Bucs have been known to go spend happy via free agency and with so much space they could do so again this off season. They do have a bunch of needs on defense though. One spot they desperately need help in is corner where former first rounder Vernon Hargreaves has been a big disappointment thus far. Butler is an upcoming free agent and has turned himself into one of the top corners in the league. They should have enough space and the willingness to give him a huge contract. Another less likely target would be Lawrence who most likely will not hit the open market if the Cowboys were to franchise tag him. However, if he were to hit the open market the Bucs should jump all over him.
Ideal Draft Pick: Bradley Chubb DE N.C. State
- There is so many moving parts in this draft with the top quarterbacks and teams who need them to allow the Bucs to snatch Chubb if he falls through the cracks. He is by far the best pass rusher in this draft with a high motor, great athleticism, and an ability to be a true game wrecker. Putting him in the Bucs defensive system would be a perfect match for him in my opinion and could really help out Gerald McCoy by not putting a lot on his plate. He could also put pressure on opposing quarterbacks and help their maligned secondary look better.