For every team, in every season, there’s a new guy that can make a huge difference. Here are my picks to change the fortunes of all thirty-two teams.
Today, we talk about the NFC South
Impact Addition: Defensive End Dante Fowler Jr.
Atlanta Arrival: Free Agency-Los Angeles
This is simple plug and play addition here. The Falcons just couldn’t get to opposing quarterbacks in 2019, sacking the passer only 28 times all season. Only Miami was worse by that metric. Dante Fowler Jr. is a sack specialist who makes his living in the backfield. He’s coming off a brilliant season in Los Angeles, where he recorded a career-high 11.5 sacks and 6 pass deflections, with two forced fumbles. Atlanta is paying the price at around $15 million per year, but he’ll bring instant impact to a defense that lacked punch in 2019. Running back Todd Gurley is new in town, as is TE Hayden Hurst, but for my money, it’s Fowler that can do the most to help get the Falcons back above .500.
Impact Addition: Defensive Tackle Derrick Brown
Carolina Arrival: Draft, 1st round, 7th pick from Auburn
Plenty of people would put Teddy Bridgewater here, and I was tempted as well. Carolina lacked offensive consistency last season, and Bridgewater should help with that. That being said, Derrick Brown is a defensive monster that eats offensive play callers for breakfast. Honestly, I can’t believe that he was still available to Carolina at 7th overall.
The interior defensive lineman from Auburn was among the five best available players at any position, and he’s a foundational type guy you can build a defense around. He was chalked up as a first round talent back in 2019, but he stayed in school (hear that? Stay in school, kids) and just got better and better. The SEC defensive player of the year is 6’4” 325 lbs. of surprisingly fast twitchiness. He routinely went around, over, or through opposing centers as a nose tackle but could be deployed successfully in a variety of looks. He reminds me A LOT of Aaron Donald. Yeah. I said it.
New Orleans Saints
Impact Addition: Wide Receiver Emmanuel Sanders
New Orleans Arrival: Free Agency- 49ers
New Orleans didn’t need a lot. Teams that go 13-3 aren’t exactly needy. So, New Orleans played it smart, drafting for depth and minimizing free agency losses.
Among the Saints new talent, the player who stands to make the biggest impact is wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who will force opposing defenses to play Michael Thomas honestly. Drew Brees’ favorite receiver recorded over a thousand more yards than the Saints number two target, TE Jared Cook, while catching over one hundred more passes. Sanders will balance the offense nicely, forcing safeties to play centerfield instead of doubling down or cheating towards the league’s leading receiver.
Sanders is a veteran pass catcher who has excelled at being a dangerous second option in Pittsburgh, Denver and San Francisco. There’s no reason to believe that he won’t be similarly impactful in New Orleans.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Impact Addition: Quarterback Tom Brady
Tampa Bay Arrival: Free Agency- New England
I mean, for all the hullabaloo surrounding Tom Brady’s free agency and the super high stakes of the transaction, the GOAT had better bring a Lombardi Trophy to Tampa Bay. He’ll replace Jameis Winston under center, who famously led the league in interceptions last season with thirty picks.
What’s being lost in all this is that even WITH all of those interceptions, Winston still led the league in passing yards and trailed only Lamar Jackson in TD passes. Tampa Bay scored more points than all but two teams in the league last season, so frankly, the offense wasn’t the problem.
Brady needs to somehow improve the DEFENSE of this Buccaneer team by bringing some locker room magic to Florida. Brady is a locker room legend who demands excellence from even practice squad players but coaching up a secondary that allowed the third-most passing yards in the league might be a stretch. But if he can somehow do THAT, there’s no doubt whatsoever that he’s the greatest to ever lace them up.
For more thoughts and opinions from Tom, check out his author page.
Image Source: AP Images