2014 NFL free agency: Falcons, Buccaneers shop, Panthers lose three wide receivers

Kevin C. Cox

The NFC South has had two teams spend on new players and two teams drop talent from their roster. While the division has a reputation of having squads go from worst to first, the spenders may regret those signings in short order.

The NFC South seems to be split in two when it comes to offseason philosophy. The Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints have let go of a lot of their talent this offseason, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons have opened up their checkbooks. Both spenders are coming off terrible seasons, while the savers are fresh off playoff runs. Will either side of the coin come to regret their decisions? We will find out this upcoming season.

This is how SB Nation see the division stacking up after a week of free agency:

New Orleans Saints

Moves: Released LB Jonathan Vilma, released DE/OLB Will Smith, traded RB Darren Sproles, released S Roman Harper, released S Jabari Greer, released WR Lance Moore, re-signed OL Zach Strief, signed S Jairus Byrd, franchise tagged TE Jimmy Graham

The Saints were forced to unload veterans Smith, Moore, Vilma, Harper and Greer due to salary cap issues. Most of those players dropped off in performance due to age and a scheme change last season. The deductions from the roster are not likely to impact the team in the negative way, however. Those players were not producing at a high level. The departure of Moore and Sproles from the team may cause some minor hiccups on offense, and the Saints are in a heated debate with Graham over the designation of his franchise tag. The Saints did upgrade at the safety position by offering a massive contract to Byrd.

Atlanta Falcons

Moves: Re-signed DT Jonathan Babineaux, re-signed DT Corey Peters, released CB Asante Samuel, released LB Stephen Nicholas, signed DE Tyson Jackson, signed DT Paul Soliai, signed OG Jon Asamoah

The Falcons have made an effort to upgrade the talent in the trenches. The team re-signed defensive tackles Peters and Babineaux, while also adding Jackson and Soliai to the mix. The team also spent big dollars on Asamoah, who will likely start right away at one of the team's guard spots. The front office also let go of eroding talent like Samuel and Nicholas. This will likely make the Atlanta search for other options at linebacker and in the secondary.

Carolina Panthers

Moves: Released WR Steve Smith, re-signed CB James Dockery, re-signed LB Jason Williams, signed Anderson Russell, re-signed QB Derek Anderson, lost WRs Ted Ginn Jr., Domenik Hixon and Brandon LaFell in free agency, OT Jordan Gross retired, re-signed DE Greg Hardy (franchise tag), signed S Roman Harper

The Panthers have received nothing but bad news it seems this offseason. They have lost their three top wide receivers, with Smith being traded, as well as Ginn and LaFell being lost in free agency. On top of that, Newton will be rehabbing all summer after ankle surgery and long-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jordan Gross has retired. The team seems to be regressing, following their best season under Ron Rivera. However, the team was able to franchise tag and keep Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Moves: Signed OT Anthony Collins, signed CB Alterraun Verner, signed DE Michael Johnson, signed QB Josh McCown, released OT Donald Penn, released OG Davin Joseph, released Darrelle Revis

The Buccaneers have reworked plenty of their roster with comings and goings of several big name players. The team let go of Revis, Joseph and Penn, which allowed them to build on their cap space. The team also added the likes of McCown, Collins, Verner and Johnson to match their new schemes on offense and defense. Lovie Smith has already said that McCown will be his starting quarterback. Collins will likely be the Buccaneers' new left tackle, while Johnson and Verner will start on defense at their respective positions.

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