Free Agency  

 

NFC South free agency needs: Falcons must retain Brent Grimes

With free agency set to kick off at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 12, Elliot Harrison identifies needs for all 32 teams over eight divisional primers. You'll find the outlook for each NFC South team below, but click here to examine other divisions.

Send your own thoughts on free agency to Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.

Atlanta Falcons

Top priority in free agency: Cornerback.
Other areas of interest: Left tackle, defensive end, linebacker.
Potential fits: CB Brent Grimes, LT Sam Baker, DE/OLB Paul Kruger, DE Dwight Freeney, DE Osi Umenyiora, LB Daryl Smith.

Brent Grimes is set to hit the marketplace, and the Falcons need to re-sign him. It really is that simple. How much better would this team have been with a healthy Grimes for the postseason? As it stands right now, Robert McClain will be starting alongside Asante Samuel. Adding Grimes back in the mix will give the Falcons three capable players (with Dunta Robinson gone). More importantly, with the franchise's best pass rusher in John Abraham now on the street and safety William Moore hitting the open market, the need for Grimes becomes even more apparent. Head coach Mike Smith mentioned at the NFL Scouting Combine that Grimes' rehab has been "outstanding." Coupled with Robinson's release, that should tell you something.

Carolina Panthers

Top priority in free agency: Cornerback.
Other areas of interest: Defensive tackle, wide receiver, offensive line.
Potential fits: CB Captain Munnerlyn, CB Derek Cox, CB Cary Williams, DT Dwan Edwards, DL Chris Canty.

Like the Falcons, Carolina must address cornerback. Unfortunately, the reality here is that the Panthers just don't have any money to spend. Carolina was seriously over the cap, and thus, released Ron Edwards and restructured Greg Olsen's deal. Chris Gamble is expected to be let go. Jon Beason and DeAngelo Williams could be released, as well. If you're wondering about Jonathan Stewart, the veteran tailback was one of several players to restructure their deals recently. After all of that, the Panthers must attempt to re-sign guys they are familiar with on the cheap. Basically, we're saying Captain Munnerlyn. He played 936 snaps last season, knows the Panthers' scheme/personnel and is probably more viable than anyone Carolina could get at a similar price on the open market. Other available corners might be a pipe dream cost-wise.

New Orleans Saints

Top priority in free agency: Safety.
Other areas of interest: Defensive line, offensive tackle, linebacker.
Potential fits: A new salary cap with an additional $10 million. Just kidding. S Rashad Johnson, DL Cullen Jenkins, LB Victor Butler.

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The Saints are over the cap. And they're probably completely over Accounting 101. We all hated that class, let's be honest. You could teach an entire college course on accounting with the Saints' 2013 offseason as a semester-long case study. The front office has worked overtime trying to pare down a cap number that was more than $20 million too high just a few weeks ago. They've cut players, restructured several deals and are trying to get Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma to essentially cost the club less money. Safety is the biggest positional issue. Roman Harper often found himself out of position in 2012, and his cap figure is out of kilter in 2013. At seven million bucks (base plus prorated signing bonus), that's just too much for a guy north of 30 and perhaps headed south in terms of effectiveness. He's been a solid player mostly, but the Saints just can't afford the cost per production.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Top priority in free agency: Cornerback.
Other areas of interest: Defensive line, right tackle, wide receiver.
Potential fits: CB Brent Grimes, CB Keenan Lewis, CB Sean Smith, DE Michael Bennett, DE Cliff Avril, OT Sebastian Vollmer, OT Phil Loadholt, OT Gosder Cherilus.

Tampa Bay is one of those dudes at da club with a couple 100-dollar bills sticking out of a George Costanza wallet. With over $30 million in cap space, the Bucs are in a position that, frankly, the Falcons, Panthers and Saints are not. Tampa can do some damage in the free-agent marketplace. And while it's no sure bet, getting a corner who can play would be awesome. We're not talking about an Eric Wright part deux here; rather, a marquee name. In fact, the Bucs could be a major player in the Darrelle Revis sweepstakes. If not, there are several corners out there worth bringing in the building. One move that would make a bunch of sense: Poaching Brent Grimes from the Falcons. The bottom line is something must be done about a secondary that played a large part in the Bucs having the worst pass defense in the NFL. Tampa Bay allowed opposing offenses 66 more passing yards than the league average (297.4-231.3). Eww.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.

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