NFC South free-agency roundup: Falcons make massive splash, Bucs maintain key defender

The first day of NFL free company meant various things throughout the NFC South, with the Falcons among the many busiest of spenders, the Panthers upgrading their protection and the cap-strapped Saints taking losses from theirs. Even the Bucs received to make a key signing because the division continues to make a splash.

Outside signings cannot happen till Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, however Atlanta received began with a flurry of strikes, touchdown a prime security in Jessie Bates, locking up Pro Bowl guard Chris Lindstrom, buying and selling for Patriots tight finish Jonnu Smith and signing defensive deal with David Onyemata away from the Saints. New Orleans misplaced one other key piece of its defensive entrance when defensive deal with Shy Tuttle signed with the Panthers, who additionally added security Vonn Bell.

Even the Bucs, anticipated to have a quiet day with restricted cap house, had been in a position to maintain their prime free agent, giving cornerback Jamel Dean a four-year, $52 million contract with $26 million assured.

Atlanta owned the day Monday, committing to about $230 million in new contracts, beginning with Lindstrom, the 2019 first-round choose who made his first Pro Bowl final yr and can play the upcoming season on his fifth-year choice. Lindstrom will reportedly get $105 million over 5 years, making him the highest-paid guard within the NFL and protecting him underneath contract by way of the 2028 season.

Bates, 26, was thought-about the highest security on this free-agent class, coming off a season with 4 interceptions, giving him 14 in his 5 years in Cincinnati. He’s getting $64 million over 4 years for a median of $16 million a yr. He was ranked by FOX Sports because the No. 7 out there free agent at any place on this class.

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In buying and selling for Smith, the Falcons reunited the Patriots tight finish with Falcons head coach Arthur Smith, who was his place coach with the Titans in 2017-18 after which his offensive coordinator in 2019-20. Smith had eight landing catches in 2020, touchdown him a giant contract with New England, however he mustered solely 55 catches and one landing in two years with the Patriots. The Falcons are sending a seventh-round choose to amass Smith, who was to make $23 million over the subsequent two years underneath his present contract.

The Falcons additionally received a key defensive piece for brand spanking new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen, signing Onyemata, one of many Saints’ prime free brokers. The 30-year-old began each recreation for New Orleans final yr, ending with 5 sacks to provide him 23 over the previous six years. The deal is reportedly for $35 million over three years, together with $24 million assured. Atlanta additionally re-signed two of its personal free brokers in punter Bradley Pinion and fullback Keith Smith.

The Falcons started the day with $65 million in cap house, second-most of any NFL group, and will nonetheless have about $20 million, relying how their offers are framed.

Carolina, which traded as much as purchase the No. 1 choose in subsequent month’s draft final week, added two items to Ejiro Evero’s new protection, signing Tuttle away from the Saints and likewise getting security Vonn Bell, who had 4 interceptions for the Bengals final yr. The 27-year-old Tuttle, who began 14 video games final season and completed with 49 tackles and two sacks, will reportedly get $19.5 million over three years. Bell, who performed his first 4 NFL seasons within the division with the Saints, provides a veteran presence to the Panthers’ again finish. The Panthers additionally tendered a $2.63-million, one-year deal to restricted free agent Sam Franklin, who led them with 13 special-teams tackles final season.

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Neither the Saints nor the Bucs had any signings within the first 4 hours of free company. New Orleans was nonetheless restructuring contracts to get underneath the cap earlier than Wednesday’s deadline.

Dean was seen as one of many prime free brokers at any place, however the Bucs had been in a position to convey him again to pair with Carlton Davis as anchors of their go protection. If they cannot re-sign linebacker Lavonte David, their subsequent precedence is including a veteran quarterback to compete with Kyle Trask, probably former Browns quarterbacks Baker Mayfield or Jacoby Brissett. The Bucs noticed defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches, a key a part of their rotation for the previous 5 years, signal with the Giants. Nunez-Roches, 29, set profession highs with 33 tackles and two sacks final season.

Greg Auman is FOX Sports’ NFC South reporter, overlaying the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He is in his tenth season overlaying the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having frolicked on the Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic. You can observe him on Twitter at @gregauman.  

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