The New Orleans Saints started Week Two of the free agency signing period by addressing their most distressing question. Quarterback Jameis Winston was signed to a two-year contract extension worth a reported $ 28M dollars and $ 21M guaranteed.
Now that the quarterback issue has been resolved, the Saints can get back to addressing their other team needs. They’ve already re-signed several key contributors like WR Deonte Harty, DE Carl Granderson, and DT Shy Tuttle. Three notable players in LT Terron Armstead, LB Kwon Alexander, and S PJ Williams remain unsigned.
New Orleans did lose a major contributor when FS Marcus Williams signed with Baltimore. They responded by adding former Jets S Marcus Maye. They also signed former 49ers DT Kentavius Street to add depth up front.
The Saints have plenty of salary cap space. They took care of that by restructuring several veteran contracts, avoiding the release of a single player. Will they use that money to go after any of the remaining free-agent players.
Here are some of the best available free agents at positions of need.
(* age and previous team in parentheses)
- Kyle Rudolph (32 – Giants)
- Eric Ebron (28 – Steelers)
- Anthony Firkser (27 – Titans)
Nineteen NFL tight ends had better production than the combined statistics from the Saints trio of Juwan Johnson, Adam Trautman, and Nick Vannett in 2021. New Orleans sat and watched while several talented tight ends flew off the market. There are still some left that would provide an upgrade.
Eleven-year vet Kyle Rudolph caused nightmares for Saints defenders and fans alike while with Minnesota. Rudolph looked well past his prime last year with the Giants, but is still an accomplished receiver that would upgrade the position.
Eric Ebron is a very similar player to Jared Cook, also a free-agent. Both are athletic mismatches as receivers, but are extremely inconsistent in production and effort. Firkser developed into a productive complementary target in Tennessee, but didn’t live up to expectations when given a bigger role in 2021.
Given the inflated cost of free-agent wideouts, I felt sure that the Saints would target a top-tier tight end and address receiver in the draft. That didn’t happen, but New Orleans could still bring in Rudolph or Firkser on a one-year deal to provide competition at the position.
- Marquez Valdes-Scantling (27 – Packers)
- DeMarcus Robinson (27 – Chiefs)
- Jarvis Landry (29 – Browns)
- AJ Green (34 – Cardinals)
- Emmanuel Sanders (35 – Bills)
Receiver was another position that caused a usually prolific New Orleans passing attack to plummet to dead last in the NFL.
The return of All-Pro WR Michael Thomas will bolster the entire offense and make Deonte Harty and Marquez Callaway more effective. This unit still needs another proven point guard.
Valdes-Scantling would be a spectacular fit alongside Thomas. He’s a big target with proven downfield ability. Robinson is a speedy playmaker from a loaded Kansas City offense best used as a complementary weapon.
Landry continues to be a consistent possession receiver who runs sharp routes. Green is at the tail-end of a great career, but showed last year that he can still be an effective weapon.
Forget OBJ, Saints fans. Michael Thomas is the alpha of this group and anyone added is just to strengthen the unit around him. I never expected New Orleans to sign a big name here; instead addressing the position with a long overdue high draft choice.
- Marlon Mack (25 – Colts)
- Ronald Jones (24 – Buccaneers)
- Melvin Gordon (29 – Broncos)
- JD McKissic (28 – Washington)
- Jerick McKinnon (29 – Chiefs)
- Darrel Williams (26 – Chiefs)
- Wayne Gallman (27 – Vikings)
On paper, the New Orleans running back unit looks strong. Alvin Kamara is one of the league’s best players at any position. Mark Ingram showed he could still be effective after 11 NFL seasons. However, a knee injury to Kamara last season brought the offense to a grinding halt.
Ingram dealt with his own knee issues, but is best used on a limited snap count at 32-years-old. Kamara also has legal issues stemming from a February arrest in Las Vegas. The infraction could lead to Kamara receiving a suspension from the league.
Mack, Jones, and Gordon have all been highly productive feature backs. They’ve also shown the willingness to share time in a backfield and be effective with limited touches. All three are physical runners between the tackles with the athleticism to create plays in space.
McKissic, McKinnon, Williams, and Gallman have never been featured backs in their careers. However, all four are effective receivers and have shown that they can be productive rushers when given the opportunity.
Kamara’s legal issues are troublesome for a Saints team that’s already had a tumultuous offseason. It’s also possible that the team drafts a back with a Day 2 or early Day 3 selection, but bringing in a proven veteran seems most likely.
(* UNSIGNED = LT Terron Armstead)
- Billy Turner, G / T (30 – Packers)
- Ereck Flowers, G / T (28 – Washington)
- Mark Glowinski, G (29 – Colts)
- Eric Fisher, LT (31 – Colts)
- Nate Solder, T (33 – Giants)
- Max Garcia, G (30 – Cardinals)
An uncharacteristically uneven performance by a usually dominant Saints line was mainly caused by an astounding amount of injuries up front. New Orleans played only five snaps in 2021 with their starting offensive line intact.
The Saints value versatility in their linemen. Turner and Flowers have played every spot but center in their careers. Fisher and Solder are veteran blindside pass protectors. Garcia is probably not an upgrade to what the team already has, but would provide experienced depth.
There’s still a possibility that the Saints re-sign Armstead, who’s shown interest in returning. Armstead met with the Dolphins on Monday.
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If they keep the three-time Pro Bowl tackle, that keeps together one of the best lines in football. Even if they lose him, the situation isn’t nearly as dire as some Saints fans believe.
Ryan Ramczyk would likely move to left tackle, with the right side manned by reliable vet James Hurst or promising second-year T Landon Young. Hurst and Calvin Throckmorton can also easily fill in at either guard spot for the disappointing Cesar Ruiz or injury-prone Andrus Peat.
- Jarran Reed (29 – Chiefs)
- Eddie Goldman (28 – Bears)
- Akiem Hicks (32 – Bears)
- Sheldon Richardson (31 – Vikings)
- Antwaun Woods (29 – Colts)
- Taylor Stallworth (28 – Colts)
A six-game suspension to David Onyemata affected this unit’s productivity last year. Onyemata wound up being the team’s only listed defensive tackle to register a sack in 2021.
The position still played well enough to help the Saints rank fourth against the run, but provided little disruption as pass rushers.
Reed has had inconsistent production over his six-year career, but has disruptive potential. Goldman is a space-eater in the middle, but explosive enough to beat double teams.
Hicks started his career with the Saints, but flourished the last six years in Chicago. His best days di lui are behind him, but he’d still be a valuable part of a rotation.
Richardson is another player past his prime who would still be an effective pass rusher on limited snaps. Woods is an underrated run defender, but he doesn’t add much as a pass rusher. Stallworth is another former Saint coming off a career-high 3 sacks and 13 QB pressures.
The Saints have a solid rotation here with Onyemata, Shy Tuttle, Jalen Dalton, Albert Huggins, and newly signed Kentavius Street but need more disruption.
Don’t be surprised to see them spend one of their first four draft picks on an interior lineman. If they sign a free agent, it’ll only be at a reasonable cost or after the draft.
(* UNSIGNED = LB Kwon Alexander)
- Anthony Barr (29 – Vikings)
- KJ Wright (32 – Raiders)
- Anthony Hitchens (29 – Chiefs)
- Joe Schobert (29 – Steelers)
- Jarrad Davis (27 – Jets)
- AJ Klein (30 – Bills)
The skills of All-Pro LB Demario Davis are the key to the entire defense. Second-round draft choice Pete Werner had a nice rookie campaign and looks like a potential star. Kwon Alexander helped form arguably the best crew of New Orleans linebackers since the Dome Patrol.
The presence of Davis and Werner probably rules out the possibility of adding Bobby Wagner. An eight-time Pro Bowler with Seattle, Wagner will likely command big money.
If Alexander isn’t re-signed, Barr or Wright are nice additions who can stay on the field in any situation. Hitchens and Davis are athletic defenders. Schobert is a heady run-stopper, and Klein knows the scheme from three years of experience in New Orleans.
Alexander is an underrated priority because of his athleticism, versatility, and chemistry with Demario Davis. If he’s not back, Werner will see much heavier responsibility in his second year.
(* UNSIGNED = S / CB PJ Williams)
- Jaquiski Tartt (30 – 49ers)
- Tashaun Gipson (31-Bears)
- Juston Burris (28 – Panthers)
- Duron Jarmon (31 – Falcons)
New Orleans has had one of the best defensive backfields in the league over the last two seasons. A versatile group of safeties made plays all over the field. The range of those safeties allowed their corners to play more aggressively underneath.
Tartt has been a steady performer for one of the league’s better defenses in San Francisco. Gipson has been a versatile playmaker for 10 seasons. Burris was an underrated piece on a physical Carolina defense. Harmon brings the experience of three Super Bowl championship teams in New England.
The signing of Maye allows the Saints to employ three talented safeties in him, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, and Jenkins. Malcolm Jenkins is the oldest player on the team whose coverage skills have slipped.
PJ Williams knows the defense and can play multiple positions. Look for the Saints to add another versatile player for their secondary, either through the draft or an inexpensive free-agent signing.
New Orleans has had great fortune with signing free agents after the first wave of the signing period. Marcus Maye and Kentavius Street both check off needs. Expect more activity from the Saints before next month’s NFL Draft.
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