Grading the Saints and the Other NFC South Teams in Free Agency

Saints: Franklin, Rogers

New Orleans Saints

Unsigned players: RB Ladell Betts (UFA), FB Heath Evans (UFA), RB Julius Jones (UFA), MLB Kawika Mitchell (UFA), ILB Marvin Mitchell (UFA), S Darren Sharper (UFA), OLB Anthony Waters (UFA), RB DeShawn Wynn (UFA).

Key arrivals: Ex-Bears C Olin Kreutz, Aug. 5; Ex-Cardinals RFA CB Trumaine McBride, Aug. 4; Ex-Cowboys OT Alex Barron, Aug. 3; Ex-Chargers S Paul Oliver, Aug. 2; Ex-49ers UFA DT Aubrayo Franklin, Aug. 2; Ex-Lions UFA DE Turk McBride, Aug. 1; Ex-Ravens UFA CB Fabian Washington, July 31 (one year); Ex-Packers UFA FB Korey Hall, July 29; Ex-Seahawks UFA LB Will Herring, July 29 (three years); Ex-Chargers UFA RB Darren Sproles (four years, $14 million, $6 million guaranteed), July 29; Ex-Rams LB Curtis Johnson, July 29; Ex-Browns DT Shaun Rogers, March 2 (one year).

Key departures: Released RB Lynell Hamilton, Aug. 4; UFA C Jonathan Goodwin, Aug. 3 (to 49ers); UFA DE Anthony Hargrove, Aug. 3 (to Eagles); UFA DE Jimmy Wilkerson, Aug. 2 (to Seahawks); Released LS Jason Kyle, July 29; Waived LB Stanley Arnoux, July 29; Traded RB Reggie Bush, July 29 (to Dolphins); UFA S Usama Young, July 29 (to Browns); UFA DT Remi Ayodele, July 29 (to Vikings); UFA S Matt Giordano, August 15 (to Raiders).

Key re-signings: UFA TE David Thomas, Aug. 2; UFA TE Tory Humphrey, Aug. 2; UFA OT Zach Strief, Aug. 1; UFA WR Courtney Roby, July 31 (one year); RFA OG Carl Nicks, Aug. 1 (one year); UFA S Roman Harper, July 29 (four years, $28.5 million, $16 million guaranteed); UFA S Chris Reis, July 29; UFA OLB Danny Clark, July 29; UFA S Pierson Prioleau, July 29; UFA OLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar, July 29; UFA OT Jermon Bushrod, July 29 (two years); UFA WR Lance Moore, July 29 (five years); UFA CB Leigh Torrence, July 29; UFA OLB Scott Shanle, July 29; UFA DE Jeff Charleston, Aug 6.

Grade: A+

Comment: Two of the best run-stopping defensive tackles, a fiery starting center, a pair of quality defensive backs to add secondary depth, a competent replacement for Reggie Bush, and a former first-round right tackle receiving a third chance to prove his worth.  Overall, the Saints vastly upgraded their biggest weakness (run defense) with the powerful 1-2 punch of Aubrayo Franklin and Shaun Rogers, while improving the offensive line with a former Pro-Bowler in ex-Bear Olin Kreutz.  Darren Sproles will fit in perfectly, and will reach his full potential on the fast surface of the Superdome turf.  Fabian Washington gives the club another viable option at corner.  Lastly, it doesn’t hurt to retain the top guard (Carl Nicks) in the Big Easy.

Carolina Panthers

Unsigned players: S Gerald Alexander (UFA), WR David Clowney (RFA), MLB Abdul Hodge (UFA), S Marcus Hudson (UFA), LS J.J. Jansen (RFA), PK Rhys Lloyd (UFA), OG Chris Morris (UFA), OT Rob Petitti (UFA), OLB Jordan Senn (RFA), QB Brian St. Pierre (UFA), OLB Jamar Williams (UFA).

Key arrivals: Ex-Jaguars UFA S Sean Considine, July 30; Ex-Chiefs UFA DT Ron Edwards, July 29 (three years, $8.25 million); Ex-Eagles LB Omar Gaither, July 29; Ex-Seahawks UFA PK Olindo Mare, July 29 (four years, up to $12 million); Ex-Jets UFA TE Ben Hartsock, July 29 (two years); Ex-Rams S Kevin Payne, July 29. Traded for ex-Bears TE Greg Olsen, July 28 (four years, $24 million, $10 million guaranteed); ex-Broncos CB Chevis Jackson, August 6.

Key departures: UFA DT Derek Landri (to Eagles); UFA TE Dante Rosario, July 31 (to Broncos); UFA CB Richard Marshall, July 30 (to Cardinals); UFA QB Matt Moore, July 29 (to Dolphins); UFA TE Jeff King, July 29 (to Cardinals).

Key re-signings: UFA CB C.J. Wilson, July 31; UFA RB DeAngelo Williams, July 29 (five years, up to $32 million, $21 million guaranteed); UFA DE Charles Johnson, July 29 (six years, up to $76 million, $32 million guaranteed); UFA OLB James Anderson, July 29 (five years); UFA OLB Thomas Davis, July 29 (five years); MLB Jon Beason, July 28 (new contract: five years, $50 million, $25 million guaranteed).

Grade: A

Comment: Electrifying Steve Smith was kept.  Sensational DeAngelo Williams is back.  The defense retained its two most important players; Jon Beason and Charles Johnson.  Actually, the whole linebacking core is in Carolina for another run; much to the pleasure of new head coach (former Bears linebacker) Ron Rivera.  The trade for tight end Greg Olsen gives rookie Cam Newton a second consistent target over the middle of the field.  Unfortunately, defensive tackle Ron Edwards suffered a torn triceps muscle.  Overall, the Panthers were on the clear-cut winners this free agency.

Atlanta Falcons

Unsigned players: WR Brian Finneran (UFA), DT Thomas Johnson (UFA), CB Brian Williams (UFA).

Key arrivals: Ex-Vikings UFA DE Ray Edwards, July 29 (five years, $30 million, $11 million guaranteed).

Key departures: UFA RB Jerious Norwood, Aug. 2 (to Rams); Released DE Jamaal Anderson, July 29 (to Colts); Released WR Michael Jenkins, July 29 (to Vikings); UFA OG Harvey Dahl, July 29 (to Rams); UFA P Michael Koenen, July 29 (to Buccaneers).

Key re-signings: UFA RB Jason Snelling, Aug. 7 (one year); RFA CB Brent Grimes, Aug. 4 (one year); UFA OG Justin Blalock, July 31 (six years); UFA OLB Mike Peterson, July 29; UFA LB Stephen Nicholas, July 29 (five years, up to $17.5 million); UFA OT Tyson Clabo, July 29 (five years, $25 million, $11.5 million, maximum value of deal $27 million); UFA PK Matt Bryant (four years); RFA WR Eric Weems (one year).

Grade: B+

Comment: The recent re-signing of Jason Snelling was an underrated move by the Falcons.  He is an excellent all-around back who helps Michael Turner carry the workload at running back.  Terrific check down option (44 catches in ’10) for Matt Ryan.  Brent Grimes was another good under-the-radar keeping for the Dirty Birds.  He makes his fair share of plays (five interceptions in ’10) in the defensive backfield.  The combos of Nicholas and Peterson and Blalock and Clabo; were important to retain – especially the latter.  Despite keeping the two gritty linemen, the team lost tough guy Harvey Dahl to St. Louis.  He was a key part of an above-average five-man group in front of Matt Ryan.  In the end, the club did itself well by going out and getting Ray Edwards, an edge-rusher who fits in nicely with a fast and aggressive defense.  I liked the way the Falcons went about attacking free agency: keep key pieces, don’t lose anyone too significant (except Dahl), while going for one homerun in Edwards.  Overall, the approach was executed quite well.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Unsigned players: RB Kareem Huggins (UFA), MLB Niko Koutouvides (UFA), DE Stylez G. White (UFA).

Key arrivals: Ex-Falcons UFA P Michael Koenen, July 29.

Key departures: UFA RB Cadillac Williams, Aug. 3 (to Rams); UFA TE John Gilmore, Aug. 2 (to Steelers); WR Maurice Stovall, Aug. 2 (to Lions); MLB Barrett Ruud, July 30 (to Titans).

Key re-signings: UFA DE Tim Crowder, Aug. 5 (two years); UFA OLB Adam Hayward, Aug. 1 (three years); RFA DT Frank Okam, July 30; RFA PK Connor Barth, July 29; RFA OT James Lee, July 29; RFA S Corey Lynch, July 29; RFA CB Elbert Mack, July 29; RFA WR Micheal Spurlock, July 29; UFA OLB Quincy Black, July 29 (five years); UFA OG Davin Joseph, July 29 (seven years, $53 million with $19 million guaranteed); UFA OT Jeremy Trueblood, July 29 (two years).

Grade: C

Comment: Sound of crickets.  One of the NFL’s best interior linemen, a rising linebacker, serviceable defensive end and budding receiver/returner were re-signed in Tampa.  The Cadillac has a new parking spot, and so does last season’s starting middle linebacker.  Overall, it was a very quiet free agency headlined by a punter stolen from division rival Atlanta.  Hopefully, one of the re-signed offensive tackles (James Lee and Jeremy Trueblood), locks down the right side of the line for Josh Freeman.


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3 Responses to “Grading the Saints and the Other NFC South Teams in Free Agency”

  1. George Seymour says:

    Jeff Charleston was signed to a free agent deal the other day.

  2. realheavyd says:

    DE Jeff Charleston 97 was re-signed by the Saints, by the way.

  3. realheavyd says:

    Good article, by the way!

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