Jan 1, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson (83) lines up for a play against the Oakland Raiders during the first quarter at O.co Coliseum. San Diego defeated Oakland 38-26. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

Changing of the Guard could be in store for NFC South

January 1, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) meet on the field after their game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-US PRESSWIRE

The last couple seasons in the NFC South have been dominated by the Saints and Falcons. However, this year it might not be so easy for the Saints and Falcons. The Bucs had a ton of free cap space after last season and they have already put that money to good use. Yesterday they signed Vincent Jackson, who was regarded as the best free agent receiver available this offseason. Then they proceeded to sign top free agent gaurd, Carl Nicks, and later added cornerback Eric Wright. It is also expected that the Bucs will use their 1st round draft pick on Alabama running back Trent Richardson. You put all those guys together and add Josh Freeman, Mike Williams, and Legeratte Blount, and you got one hell of an offense. Not to mention all the young talent the Bucs have on the defensive line, and they could also add a couple defensive players through the draft. The Bucs have put together a very balanced team with a good combination of veteran free agents and young players that were added through recent drafts.

But that’s not the only team in the NFC South that is poised to make run for a division title. The Panthers have a good core group of players and I believe they have the talent to make a playoff push this year. But unlike the Bucs, the Panthers did not make a huge splash in free agency this year due to the fact they just simply did not have the cap room to make any big moves. However, the Panthers have a franchise quarterback in Cam Newton, and an elite receiver in Steve Smith. They also have one of the best backfield tandems in the league with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. I expect the Panthers to add two defensive starters through this year’s draft as well, presumably DT Dantari Poe, and CB Alfonzo Denard or CB Trumaine Johnson. You add those players to a defense that already has guys like Jon Beason, Thomas Davis (hopefully he’ll be healthy this year), Charles Johnson, and Chris Gamble then you have a complete team on both sides of the bowl that can easily contend for a division title.

Who knows, this could be the year where the Bucs and Panthers flip the script on the Falcons and Saints, and end up at the top of the division. Either way this season is setting up to be an exciting year in the NFC South.

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Tags: Cam Newton Carl Nick DeAngelo Williams Drew Brees Eric Wright Jonathan Stewart Josh Freeman Steve Smith Trent Richardson Vincent Jackson

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