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Free Agent Friday: NFC South

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By: Matt Morrison (@dynastyjerk)

The opening of free agency and the start of the new NFL league year are quickly approaching. To be specific, it is 12 days away. Today, I will present to you the final division in my Free Agent Friday series. Next week, I’ll recap some of the most important free agents who I’ve talked about in the past two months. After free agency opens, I’ll have a (likely) very long article that recaps all of the players who have been signed to that point. I’ll also talk about some of the rumors that surround unsigned players. But for now, let’s finish the divisional component to this series.

NFC South

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

PlayerAgeStatusCurrent SalaryEstimated Value
Chris Godwin26UFA$15,983,000$18,000,000
Rob Gronkowski32UFA$8,000,000$10,000,000
Leonard Fournette27UFA$3,250,000$7,000,000
Ronald Jones24UFA$1,767,977$4,000,000
Giovani Bernard30UFA$1,212,500$2,000,000

There are an abundance of pivotal free agents for the Bucs this year. The retirement of Tom Brady makes all of their situations dubious to say the least. However, there is still plenty of potential for this team, and I don’t think a full rebuild is part of the plan this year. Given that idea, I think that three of these five players will resign with the Bucs.

This may not be a popular opinion, but I actually think Godwin re-signs with Tampa Bay. It will cost them roughly 18 million dollars per year, and it will cost Dynasty Owners close to the same amount no matter where he lands. Godwin has shown he’s able to be a Top 10 wide receiver throughout his career. He finished WR16 in 2021, but he also missed the final three games.

Gronk is unlikely to retire this late into the off-season, but I also don’t think he will play for the Bucs in 2022. Rumors of the Bills being interested is a very intriguing idea. I’m not sure that makes much sense with a top level tight end (Dawson Knox) already on the roster. Regardless, it will cost about 10 million dollars per year to roster Gronk assuming he doesn’t retire.

Leonard Fournette has been one of the biggest surprise players for Dynasty Owners over the past two seasons. Ever since he was waived by the Jaguars, he has seemingly resurrected his career. That being said, I think the Bucs allow him to “walk.”  Fournette is an older running back, but he is likely to receive the biggest contract of his career. The going rate will be roughly $7,000,000 per year.

I see no reason why Ronald Jones and Giovani Bernard shouldn’t both be re-signed by Tampa Bay. They are both well above average, and they will not be expected to accept a high-tier contract. Bernard is probably getting close to the final deal of his career. He has shown to be a reliable pass catching option especially on third down. Whoever the quarterback is for Tampa Bay in 2022, they will likely need a reliable checkdown option. Bernard fits that description.

New Orleans Saints

PlayerAgeStatusCurrent SalaryEstimated Value
Jameis Winston28UFA$5,500,000$8,000,000

Jameis Winston is the sole player for the Saints who I want to talk about today. I don’t think he is the quarterback that can or will take them to the playoffs over the next few years. Winston has always been a solid quarterback option for fantasy players. This is especially true when he played in games against opposing offenses that were above average.  Unfortunately, his fantasy points have not really translated into real world success. Winston’s propensity to turn the ball over has made it a shaky move to start the upcoming season with him as the starter.  Regardless, someone will take a chance on Winston, and it will cost that team between 8 and 10 million dollars per year.

Atlanta Falcons

PlayerAgeStatusCurrent SalaryEstimated Value
Cordarrelle Patterson30UFA$3,000,000$8,000,000
Hayden Hurst28UFA$2,759,007$5,000,000
Russell Gage26UFA$654,049$6,000,000

Cordarrelle Patterson was one of the honorable mentions for my Value of the Year players for the 2021 season. Ultimately, his salary of $3,000,000 was too much to overcome his dominant fantasy year. Well, his 2022 value is not going to get better. Not only will his salary more than double, I find it hard to believe that he will have as many fantasy points as last year. Continue to roster him, but be advised of the contract increase.

Hayden Hurst lost a lot of value as soon as Kyle Pitts was drafted last year. I would consider Hurst one of the better blocking tight ends in the league. For this reason, he will make close to $5,000,000 next season. Don’t expect a big fantasy season from Hurst, and he may even be a player you consider dropping after his contract is made known.

Russell Gage’s salary will 10x this offseason. There are plenty of contending teams that are looking for a WR2 or WR3 like Gage. Expect him to make over $5,000,000 per year, and I anticipate the competition will force him from the Falcons.

Carolina Panthers

PlayerAgeStatusCurrent SalaryEstimated Value
Cam Newton32UFA$6,000,000$4,000,000
Ian Thomas25Signed$5,500,000N/A

I asked myself a few questions while I started to think about Cam Newton.

  • “Will he get a new contract?”
  • “Should he get a new contract?”

The answer to the second question depends on who you ask, but I believe the answer is yes to both. Yes, I know that he had a very poor last couple of seasons, but he would still be one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL. I don’t think he could offensively be trusted to lead a team for the entire season, but he could be a fine fill-in quarterback due to injury for a few weeks. I like Cam to make $4,000,000.

Ian Thomas is one of the first new signings of the 2022 off-season. Thomas signed a 3-year contract worth a total of $16,500,000. That is good for $5,500,000 per year. His 2021 salary was only $801,999. I dislike this number from a value standpoint, but I would also have predicted a little more. In the end, this contract won’t be manageable for most Dynasty Owners, and I’m not sure it would be worth rostering him. He totaled less than 40.0 Dynasty Owner fantasy points in each of his last two seasons.

That wraps up my 8-part divisional series on the notable free agents. I will talk about every one of these free agents at least one more time throughout the off-season. Thank you for reading. Take care and be safe.


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