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- Feb 3, 2010
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Breaking down the New Orleans Saints defensive talent | NOLA.com
The article covers pretty much everyone.The New Orleans Saints likely will release one or more veteran defensive players before the start of the NFL's free-agent signing period March 12. And they must add at least two or three impact players in free agency and the draft.
But before that makeover begins, here is my assessment of the players on the current roster. Players are listed in order of their talent level heading into the 2013 season:
1. DE CAMERON JORDAN
Age: 23. Years left on contract: 2. 2013 salary-plus-bonuses: $1.1 million.
Jordan would be the Saints' top defensive player in any system, but he will be especially helpful in the 3-4 since he played it in college and has the versatility to stand out against the run and the pass. Jordan himself would probably prefer to be a 4-3 end after showing flashes as an edge rusher last year, but he knows this role is a great fit for him.
2. LB CURTIS LOFTON
Age: 26. Years left on contract: 4. 2013 salary-plus-bonuses: $6.1 million.
Lofton was the Saints' best free agent pickup last year, fitting nicely as a player and team leader. He has only played in 4-3 defenses in five NFL seasons, but the transition should be a smooth one for the physical inside linebacker.
3. CB JABARI GREER
Age: 31. Years left on contract: 3. 2013 salary-plus-bonuses: $4.1 million.
I'm still high on Greer, who was playing at a Pro Bowl level in 2009, 2010 and parts of 2011 before battling injuries and inconsistency last year. I think Greer is still a No. 1 corner in the NFL, and the Saints' return to a more aggressive, attacking defense and less zone coverage will help everyone in the secondary.
4. S MALCOLM JENKINS
Age: 25. Years left on contract: 1. 2013 salary-plus-bonuses: $2.75 million.
I'm even more of a Jenkins apologist than I am a Harper apologist. I still see a lot of talent and potential, and nobody on the Saints' defense made more big plays than Jenkins in 2012. The problem is, he probably missed more plays than anyone on the team, too. He obviously needs to harness his talent and play more sound football with more consistency.
5. S ROMAN HARPER
Age: 30. Years left on contract: 2. 2013 salary-plus-bonuses: $5.35 million.
The thing I've always like about Harper is that he is an attacking, disruptive player who hits hard and creates turnovers and sacks. That's the type of player the Saints need more of. However, Harper obviously struggles in pass coverage, he misses too many tackles, and he was much less effective last year when he blitzed less under coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. If the Saints keep Harper, I would expect new coordinator Rob Ryan to use him more to his strengths. And I do think he can still be an asset, even though the price tag is hard to justify.
If the Saints release Harper, his 2013 salary-cap number will drop from $7.1 million to $1.75 million (a pro-rated portion of his signing bonus), with another $1.75 million still on the books next year.