It's been a wild first day of NFL free agency, with some teams making every big signing in the world, while others remained relatively quiet. Regardless of who actually makes the smart signings, the team that makes the biggest splash will no doubt receive the most press hype.
So, as we begin to recap all things NFC South from the first day of the offseason, the team that made their presence known absolutely has to be...
For starters, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been extremely aggressive in the opening stages of free agency, signing just about everyone in sight.
They began by signing WR Vincent Jackson to a 5-year deal worth $55.5M in total money. With almost no one of note to speak of in Tampa's receiving corps last season (no, Mike Williams doesn't count), their offense instantly became better.
But hold up, that's not all: reports are now surfacing that the Bucs have signed prized guard Carl Nicks to a 5-year, $47.5M deal on Wednesday morning. Tack on the Tampa signing CB Eric Wright to another expensive 5-year deal- this one worth $37.5M- and you have yourself a pretty intimidating free agent class.
Given how much money the Bucs had at their disposal this offseason, it's almost unfair. After signing only ex-Falcons punter Michael Koenen last year, Tampa Bay appears ready and willing to help new head coach Greg Schiano adjust easily in his first season. Folks, this is all of a sudden a very dangerous Bucs team in our division.
Spreadsheet update for your viewing pleasure:
Obviously, the Falcons haven't been very active in signing outside free agents, but Thomas Dimitroff has been quite successful in keeping his own players around. Last night, the team announced that journeyman wideout Harry Douglas would be back on a very reasonable four-year / $10.5M deal.
In addition, the team re-signed backup QB Chris Redman for one more year and tendered restricted free agent DT Vance Walker. All three of those signings are perfectly sensible, and while not exciting still keep solid players in Falcons uniforms. Despite the Redman signing being a little disappointing (Atlanta needs a better backup soon), I think it's very reasonable to believe that Dirk Koetter can utilize Douglas much more effectively than Mularkey.
The only free agency loss so far has been WR/KR Eric Weems, who very recently signed a three-year deal with the Chicago Bears. But all that signing does is open the door for the Falcons to find a return man who actually knows when to signal for a fair catch on punts. There are plenty of guys already on the roster (see: Jacquizz Rodgers) who could be up to the task anyways.
Going forward, the only name that has been directly linked to the Falcons is 3-4 DE Kendall Langford, but the latest reports have Langford visiting with the Bengals on Thursday.
Of course, I couldn't forget Mario Williams. I'm well aware loads of fans have been clamoring for one of the best defensive players in the NFL (or at least some signing), but I'm inclined to believe Williams is out of our price range. Rumor has it that the Bills are attempting to make him the highest paid defensive player anywhere, and other teams will do the same. Sigh...
The New Orleans Saints have had a rough offseason. So far, they've lost the aforementioned Carl Nicks to the Bucs along with WR Robert Meachem, who signed a four-year deal with the Chargers on Tuesday.
But much to the chagrin of Falcons fans, they've managed to salvage at least one player in Marques Colston, who was brought back on a five-year / $42.5M deal (over $20M of it guaranteed). In addition, reports are surfacing that free agent OG Ben Grubbs plans to visit with the team on Thursday (he would be a more than viable replacement for Nicks). All bounty-gates asides, free agency could be worse for the Saints.
The quietest of the four teams because of some almost non-existent cap room, Carolina has made only two moves of note thus far: the release of OG Travelle Wharton, and the re-signing of guard Geoff Hangarter. Party central!
Like New Orleans, the Panthers also stand to lose a few free agents this offseason (though not Meachem or Nicks-caliber at all), including TE Jeremy Shockey and LB Dan Connor.
For more on the Falcons check out The Falcoholic; for the Bucs, head over to Bucs Nation; for the Saints, it's Canal Street Chronicles; for the Panthers, read Cat Scratch Reader. For everything else free agency-related, check out SB Nation's NFL hub page.