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2012 NFL Team Needs: NFC South

By: Roshan Bhagat

Atlanta Falcons: DE, CB, OT, TE, C, DT
With John Abraham set to become a free agent, the Falcons pass defense will get even worse next year unless they find a way to address it this offseason. So far, that's been their biggest deterrence from moving forward in the postseason. Re-signing Kroy Biermann suggests the team is his on his prospects, but bringing in another defensive end is very likely. Likewise, tagging Brent Grimes express the Falcons' interest in him, but that's another position where depth will need to continue to be addressed. Up front, defensive line depth is a minor need. On offense, the Falcons took a step back in the trenches. Sam Baker regressed—predominantly due to health—to a point where the Falcons had to bring in back-up Will Svitek to take his place. When healthy, the Falcons still like Baker's odds at left tackle, but it is a concern. At the very least, Atlanta should look into acquiring an alternative in case he doesn't work out this season. Inside, 35 year-old center Todd McClure will need a replacement in the near future. His current back-up Brett Romberg is 33 and also a free agent. Alternatively, the great Tony Gonzalez will require a replacement in the near future. At the very worst, bringing in another tight end could help them expand upon their 2-tight end sets, which would bring great balance and versatility to this offense.

Carolina Panthers: CB, DT, WR, OL, DE depth, OL depth
One draft pick turned around the Panthers fortune into a competing football team. For now, the Panthers will only go as far as Cam Newton can carry them. It's important on offense for them to continue to surround him with talent, while continuing to stack talent on defense with every opportunity available. Defensively, it begins with improving against the pass. At corner, they got a nice year of play out of Chris Gamble, but behind him there was little else as the unit finished bottom of the pack in allowed yards per attempt. On the flipside, the team must also get more productivity out of the defensive line who finished tied for 25th in sacks. Charles Johnson is a stud at one end position, but at the other end and particularly inside at tackle, the defense must get more pressure on the quarterback to help the secondary. On offense, the Panthers need to make investments to help boost the passing game. At wide receiver, Steve Smith looked rejuvenated with a live arm throwing him the ball, but right now it's a one-man receiving crew. The Panthers won't want to stunt Newton's development getting him too reliant on Smith. On the offensive line, the Panthers could make further investments with Jordan Gross heading on 32 and Jeff Otah's inability to remain healthy. Inside, they have adequate play at guard, but also some expiring contracts at the position. Carolina doesn't have to commit themselves to a certain position or mold of player in the draft as any investment up front could prove to be valuable.

New Orleans Saints: OG, DE, DT, LB, WR, OL depth, CB depth
This is turning out to be a tumultuous offseason for the Saints with their involvement in bounties and the number of key free agents set to hit the market. As free agency begins, the priorities could quickly change for the team depending on what their guys decide to do and the sanctions the league puts on the organization. After giving Drew Brees the exclusive franchise tag, a quicker long-term extension with him could help the Saints free up cap space to retain more of their own; however, a quick negotiation doesn't appear likely. Still, with Brees, the offensive should still be potent even if they can't return Marques Colston and Robert Meachem to New Orleans. Replacing Carl Nicks may be their biggest priority after re-signing Brees. A clean pocket allows him more space to step up and see the passing lanes. Receiver and depth at tackles are slightly lesser needs. Defensively, the team will need pass rushers up front to execute new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's scheme to perfection. He will push the front office to bring in the talent at defensive end and defensive tackle to do so. At linebacker, the Saints could look to get younger and more athletic. Starting weakside linebacker Scott Shanle will turn 33 next season while middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma was slowed down by injury and turned in one of his worst seasons to date. In the secondary, depth at corner could become a concern if the Saints can't re-sign Tracy Porter.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB, WR, C, LB, S, RB
After falling just a tiebreak away from the postseason two years ago, the Buccaneers regressed as a team in 201, managing to win just 4 games all year. That fall was steep enough for the organization to remove the coaching staff in place and go to the collegiate level to hire Greg Schiano from Rutgers. Well under the cap, Schiano, one of the top recruiters in college, will now have the job of trying to make Tampa a place that sparks interest from free agents. The Buccaneers would be well-served trying to get the offense back on track after a season in which all of their young stars regressed together. At wide receiver, Mike Williams didn't take the next step into a Pro Bowl caliber receiver and Arrelious Benn played too inconsistently to be handed a starting job again. Blount had another solid season, but is not quick enough to turn the corner, nor effective enough in the pass game to be a feature back in this offense. On the offense line, improvements could begin at center. The talent level on defense, particularly the secondary, will have to improve as they look to improve from the 8.2 yards per attempted allowed, which ranked 31st in the league last year. Ronde Barber will turn 37 before next season and Aqib Talib's trail may leave him suspended for at least a portion of next season, which will increase their need. Safety looks slightly stronger, but Sean Jones is a free agent. While Mason Foster had a strong year, he may be a better fit at weakside linebacker allowing the middle to be bolstered.

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