• Offseason additions: ILB Lofa Tatupu, CB Asante Samuel.
• Key draft picks: C Peter Konz, OT Lamar Holmes, FB Bradie Ewing, DE Jonathan Massaquoi.
• Offseason losses: FB Ovie Mughelli, OLB Mike Peterson, ILB Curtis Lofton, SS James Sanders, KR Eric Weems.
• Outlook: The Falcons are in playoff limbo. They are a team that is always in the hunt for a spot in the playoffs, but can’t seem to make the jump to Super Bowl contender. Those hopes could rely on second-year receiver Julio Jones. Jones’ development means opponents can’t double-team him, Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White at the same time and give Michael Turner running room. Also, don’t underestimate the trade for Asante Samuel. He could solidify the entire defense.
• Offseason additions: RB Mike Tolbert, OL Bruce Campbell, OL Mike Pollak, OLB Kenny Onatolu, S Haruki Nakamura, S Reggie Smith.
• Key draft picks: LB Luke Kuechly, OT/G Amini Silatolu, DE Frank Alexander, WR Joe Adams, CB Josh Norman, P Brad Nortman.
• Offseason losses: RB Mike Goodson, WR Legedu Naanee, TE Jeremy Shockey, OT/G Geoff Schwartz, G Travelle Wharton, G Mackenzy Bernadeau, OLB Thomas Williams, ILB Dan Connor.
• Outlook: What will quarterback Cam Newton do for an encore in his second year? He threw for 4,000 yards and set a rookie record for rushing touchdowns with 14. It’s defense where the Panthers can make the biggest jump. With the return of former Hurricane Jon Beason along with rookie Luke Kuechly, the linebacking corps should make a huge leap.
New Orleans Saints
• Offseason additions: G Ben Grubbs, DT Brodrick Bunkley, OLB David Hawthorne, OLB Chris Chamberlain, ILB Curtis Lofton.
• Key draft picks: WR Nick Toon, DT Akiem Hicks.
• Offseason losses: WR Robert Meachem, G Carl Nicks, NT Shaun Rogers, NT Aubrayo Franklin, OLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar, CB Tracy Porter.
• Outlook: After a difficult and controversy-filled offseason, the Saints should be happy to simply get back on the field. It took most of the offseason to re-sign record-setting quarterback Drew Brees, and thanks to ‘Bountygate,’ the Saints will play without their head coach all season and their assistant for half the season. On the field, the Saints might have to play without linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who is appealing his one-year suspension for his role in the scandal.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
• Offseason additions: QB Dan Orlovsky, WR Vincent Jackson, TE Dallas Clark, G Carl Nicks, DE Wallace Gilberry, DE Jayme Mitchell, DT Amobi Okoye, DT Gary Gibson, CB Eric Wright.
• Key draft picks: SS Mark Barron, RB Doug Martin, OLB Lavonte David, ILB Najee Goode, CB Keith Tandy.
• Offseason losses: QB Josh Johnson, RB Kregg Lumpkin, FB Earnest Graham, TE Kellen Winslow Jr., C Jeff Faine, DT Albert Haynesworth, OLB Geno Hayes, CB Elbert Mack, S Tanard Jackson, SS Sean Jones, S Corey Lynch, KR Micheal Spurlock.
• Outlook: The Bucs took a giant step back last year, going from 10-6 to 4-12. Coach Raheem Morris was fired as a result and replaced by former University of Miami assistant Greg Schiano. Schiano is a disciplinarian who will push quarterback Josh Freeman.