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Free agency grades: NFC South

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After more than a week of free-agency action, it's time to take stock of what teams have accomplished thus far. We'll assign highly scientific and inarguable grades for each NFL team's free-agent haul thus far, noting their additions and subtractions. The NFC South is below.


Atlanta Falcons

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The Falcons have been on the hunt for a top-tier center since Peter Konz went bust as Todd McClure's replacement in 2013. They landed the best available one in Alex Mack, who solidifies an offensive line with two up-and-coming tackles in Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder. The contract for new No. 2 receiver Mohamed Sanu has been heavily criticized, but the former Bengals wideout will prove to be a marked upgrade over a declining Roddy White. Even if we'd love to see an athletic tight end to pair with Jacob Tamme, this offense is on the upswing.

Bringing back Adrian Clayborn didn't generate headlines, but he was an effective interior pass rusher after moving from defensive end last season. That wasn't even our favorite signing on Atlanta's defense. Former Dolphins defensive end Derrick Shelby was a force down the stretch as Cameron Wake's replacement. A strong run defender, he will team with Clayborn as an interior pocket pusher on obvious passing downs. Grade: A-

Carolina Panthers

Dave Gettleman remains one of the NFL's shrewdest general managers, convincing pass rusher Charles Johnson to return on a one-year, $3 million contract while Olivier Vernon coaxed more than $50 million guaranteed out of the Giants. Are we sure Vernon is a better player than a healthy Johnson? The Panthers also re-signed All-Pro fullback Mike Tolbert and added run-stuffer Paul Soliai to the menacing defensive tackle duo of Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei. This roster remains the class of the NFC South. Grade: B+

New Orleans Saints

How are the salary-cap strapped Saints going to fix a defense that earned the worst grade ever recorded by the metrics site Football Outsiders in 2015? To this point, linebacker James Laurinaitis -- cut by the Rams last month after forcing just one fumble in seven years -- is the only noteworthy addition.

We were surprised to see Coby Fleener, one of the softest tight ends in the league, land $36 million over five years in New Orleans while the Saints watched Ben Watson walk out the door on a much cheaper contract in Baltimore. Grade: D+

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs got off to a quick start, re-signing tackle-breaking All-Pro tailback Doug Martin to keep the game's best backfield tandem in place. Martin teamed with passing-down specialist Charles Sims for 2,763 yards from scrimmage last season. With veteran guard Logan Mankins retiring, general manager Jason Licht imported J.R. Sweezy from Seattle. The offense should only improve as Jameis Winston continues to develop.

Although we appreciate the under-the-radar addition of Robert Ayers at defensive end, we're not convinced the patchwork secondary is any better with Brent Grimes and Josh Robinson in town. Grimes was picked on at times last season, having lost a step from his Pro Bowl prime in Miami. Grade: B

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