From rookies to veterans, every NFL player is battling week after week to remain on an active roster. You’re only good as your last performance and, in this tough league, it could be the difference between a contract and free agency. Even some of the higher contract-holding players aren’t safe because teams will still trade or cut a player after repeated unproductive seasons. Here, we’ll take a sneak peek of some NFC South players who may or may not be in the hot seat this season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The defending Super Bowl champs are returning all 22 starters this season, and this team is relatively young and has many of their upcoming stars still on their rookie contracts. That being said, the Bucs did go “all in” last season for Tom Brady, so the cap is somewhat of an issue for the Bucs.
RB Leonard Fournette- After signing a one-year deal worth $4 million this season, Fournette will have to show the Tampa Bay organization that he is here to stay. Even though he was a large piece to the Super Bowl puzzle last season, he is currently sharing the backfield with Ronald Jones II and free-agent signing Giovanni Bernard. As if that weren’t enough, he also has to deal with Brady and the wideouts, which leaves him in a competitive running back room on a top 10 passing team in the NFL.
WR Robby Anderson- Early in his career, Anderson was in New York with the Jets, where he was undoubtedly the best WR on the team, and Sam Darnold was his QB. Fast forward to 2021 and they’ll be teammates yet again. Set to make $10 million this season, the wide receiver is in the last year of his two-year contract. Hopefully, the reunion with Darnold will increase his production, or else he could be looking at possibly a new team next season.
I would put Sam Darnold on this list as well but I see Carolina at least giving him a year to develop in their system. On the contrary, he is expected to come in and be successful with head coach Ron Rivera, so we could see him on this list next year depending on how the season goes.
One player whose job is secured is WR Calvin Ridley. He will be the number one offensive weapon on this team and the team’s success as well, as his QB’s career is possibly riding heavily on his performance this season.
QB Matt Ryan- This leads us to the Falcon great and 2016 MVP, who is under contract until 2024, but this season will be an important one for him. As one of the only two quarterbacks left in the league from the 2008 draft class, it seems like Father Time may finally be catching up to Ryan. After a 4-12 season, the Falcons organization seems to be in the early stages of rebuilding. They replaced fifth-year head coach Dan Quinn, traded away their best player in WR Julio Jones, and drafted the future in TE Kyle Pitts. There were talks during the draft that GM Terry Fontenot wanted to have a succession plan in place at the QB position, even thinking about drafting one at fourth overall. Just how long can Matt Ryan stay in this new regime?
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans QB competition has been the talk of the offseason for Saints fans but what about that defense? The Saints are licking their wounds after free agency, and the defense is going to have to step up this season.
Any CB not named Marshon Lattimore- Towards the end of the 2020 season and in the playoffs, the Saints didn’t look like their record projected them to be. This is because the Saints’ secondary was nowhere to be found in the second half of the season. In the last six games (regular season and playoffs), they allowed an average of almost 200 yards passing a game (minus week 17 against Carolina).
Marshon Lattimore was a Pro Bowl guy last season, which seems like the defense did alright on the surface, but the subpar secondary play was overshadowed by Drew Brees’ retirement last season. If that production drop off continues into this season, New Orleans could be in some trouble.
- Cover Picture: https://www.gwinnettdailypost.com/sports/professional/falcons/patriots-brady-stun-atlanta-falcons-with-biggest-comeback-in-super-bowl-history/article_825652a0-ec0f-11e6-bd4d-affe2d82363e.html
Edited By: Rupayan “Abs” Samanta.