The Bucs didn’t make any big moves on the edges here, and with the potential sitting within their starters already, it wasn’t a surprise either.
Perhaps the biggest acquisition at the defensive end position came when the Panthers brought franchise legend Julius Peppers back into the fold.
Of course, this addition is more sentimental at this point, and how much production he brings to the team is not predicted to be as high as he once brought.
Still, it’s nice from a football purist standpoint to see Peppers back in silver, black, and teal.
Let’s see where he gets them ranked though.
4. Cameron Jordan and Alex Okafor, New Orleans Saints
The Saints needed help on defense, and they got some. How effective it will be will be measured throughout the year, and Alex Okafor is going to be big part of the measurements.
Okafor played his first four seasons for the Arizona Cardinals and was dropped into a supporting cast role when the team acquired Chandler Jones last year.
He played in 15 games as a backup in 2016, and it’s the closest he’s ever gotten to a full season.
Bottom line, he’s got injury problems.
There’s definite potential there, but adding a young player with a not-so-good medical file to go with Cameron Jordan means yet another year where the reliable one may become the only one on the Saints’ edge.
3. Brooks Reed and Ra’Shede Hageman, Atlanta Falcons
Ok, truth time. The only reason the Falcons have a better ranked edge pairing on this list is because I think it’s disgusting the Saints didn’t go harder to help out Cameron Jordan.
Truth is, Jordan is better by himself than this duo is for Atlanta, and it isn’t all that close.
Sure, Takkarist McKinley may be one of the actual starters here when all is said and done, but if coaches haven’t plugged in a rookie as a starter then I’m not doing it for them.
Atlanta will have to rely on their interior line and the fast defense behind them to make up for weak edge play, but McKinley may be signs of better things to come.
2. Charles Johnson and Julius Peppers, Carolina Panthers
The elder statesmen of this position group are the Panthers’ duo. Both of these guys are over 30 years old, but both still have some fire in them.
Health is going to be the biggest question here.
Johnson has played in 22 games over the past two seasons, and while Peppers hasn’t missed a game since 2007, how long can his nearly 40-year old body hold up?
The Carolina homecoming will be a good one for him if he can stay healthy and bring forth seven or more sacks from the edge.
It’ll be a bit nostalgic to see him run out onto the Panthers’ home field again, but nostalgia doesn’t win games.
1. Robert Ayers and William Gholston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Potential outweighs injury concern on this one, simply because the potential here for the Bucs is so good.
William Gholston was a bit of a question mark entering the off-season as a fairly impressive rookie campaign by Noah Spence had some wondering if the team would let the former Spartan move on.
Thankfully for all Buc-fandom, Gholston is back and Ayers has been making some buzz-worthy comments about bringing intensity and strength to the field this year.
Ayers, unfortunately, is the source of our injury concerns too. Having played in 16 games just once in his career, the 31-year old also hasn’t seen more than 12 games since 2013 with Denver.
There’s no doubt how talented the veteran is, and here’s hoping the blend of 4-3 and 3-4 fronts we’re expecting this season helps him stay on the field when the home stretch comes in 2017.
The Bucs take this one, and the theme with the defensive ends in the NFC South is injury concerns.
All things being equal though, Tampa’s duo edges out Carolina’s while the Saints and Falcons continue to look for the right pairing themselves.