The NFC South isn't going to be mistaken as one of the juggernaut divisions in the NFL. Every team was below .500 in 2022, so we're not exactly looking at Super Bowl contenders in this bunch. That said, there are intriguing aspects to all four of these clubs. The Buccaneers are now trying to fill a GOAT-sized hole following the retirement of Tom Brady, the Saints signed Derek Carr as their next QB, while the Panthers traded up to No. 1 overall to select Bryce Young. With all that quarterback turnover in the division, Atlanta's Desmond Ridder has the most games started (four) with their current team in the NFC South, and he's entering his first season as the full-time starter.
Needless to say, there's a lot of uncertainty within this division. So, how about we dive into some burning questions surrounding each club?
Buccaneers: Will Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask be QB1?
The Buccaneers will not be able to truly replace Tom Brady, but someone will need to line up under center for them in 2023. As things stand currently, Tampa Bay is looking at two options -- Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask. The club signed Mayfield to a one-year deal in mid-March after the former No. 1 overall pick spend the back half of the 2022 season with the Rams after a failed tenure in Carolina. Mayfield went 1-3 in his four games starting for Los Angeles and completed 63.8% of his passes while registering an 84.5 passer rating. The 28-year-old provides experience at the position with 72 regular-season games under his belt. Meanwhile, he's thrown just nine passes in the NFL since the Bucs took him in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. One would imagine that Trask is the preferred choice here given his age and upside, but these quarterbacks will likely duke it out all through training camp.
Panthers: What is the wide receiver pecking order?
The Panthers have turned their wide receiver room upside down this offseason as they usher in a new head coach and rookie quarterback. As part of the deal to trade up to No. 1 overall to select Bryce Young, Carolina shipped away D.J. Moore, who led the team in every meaningful receiving category in 2022. Now, the Panthers have newcomers like veterans Adam Thielen and D.J. Chark along with rookie Jonathan Mingo entering the fray that also consists of 2022 carryovers Terrace Marshall Jr. Laviska Shenault and Shi Smith. That list grows even more when accounting for tight end Hayden Hurst, who was also signed in free agency. Over the next few months, figuring out who Young has the most chemistry with and which pass catchers are clicking within the offense will be a fascinating exercise to help the offense -- and their rookie quarterback -- start strong out of the gate.
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Saints: What will the backfield look like?
Derek Carr should be able to assimilate into the Saints culture rather easily thanks to his history with head coach Dennis Allen, so we won't put the spotlight on him. Instead, we'll look at Carr's backfield as the Saints have quietly overhauled the running back position. The club signed Jamaal Williams in free agency and used a third-round pick on TCU running back Kendre Miller. Those moves come in the backdrop of Pro Bowl running back Alvin Kamara possibly facing a suspension from the NFL after he was indicted on two criminal charges stemming from an alleged incident in Las Vegas in 2022. If Kamara is sidelined for any amount of time, Williams and Miller would be asked to carry the load. If he escapes a suspension, this running game will have a lot of cooks in the kitchen.
Falcons: Is Desmond Ridder a franchise QB?
The Falcons didn't seem too interested in entering some of the more high-profile quarterback sweepstakes this offseason, nor did they decide to trade up or select one with the No. 8 overall pick at the NFL Draft. The club did bring in Taylor Heinicke, but it looks like he'll merely be a veteran backup to 2022 third-round pick Desmond Ridder. The Cincinnati product is in line to be the team's full-time starter in 2023 after getting four starting nods to end the regular season last year. Ridder improved in each of those four games and finished with a Week 18 performance against Tampa Bay where he threw for 224 yards, two touchdowns and had a 108.2 passer rating.
With explosive weapons all across the offense, the 23-year-old has the opportunity to put up numbers in Arthur Smith's offense. If he can prove he can be a franchise QB worth building around, the Falcons will have an extremely budget-friendly player for the next few years. If he doesn't live up to those hopes, the franchise will certainly be back in the market next offseason.