My Saints Offseason: Defensive Coordinator, Free Agency and my Saints-Only Mock Draft 1.0 (1 Viewer)

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First, let me give some disclaimers:

--I assume that we will hire Ed Donatell as our defensive coordinator.

--This mock assumes that we will have our second rounder returned, and I am of the feeling it will be. This mock also assumes that we still have our sixth round pick since there has not been any clarity on this issue.

Second, we are currently $14.7 million over the cap and will need to cut some players to get under the cap. The good thing is, that with our changing scheme and with their lack of production, it does not hurt us as much as it might have done only three seasons ago.

I expect the following players to be released:

--Will Smith-saves us $11.1 million (cap figure: $14.5 million minus the prorated bonus of $6.8 million split over 2013 and 2014)

--Jonathan Vilma-saves us $6 million (cap figure: $8.6 million minus $2.6 million prorated bonus for 2013)

--Roman Harper-saves us $5.35 million (cap figure: $7.1 million minus the prorated bonus of $3.5 million, which would be split over 2013 and 2014)

--Will Herring-saves us $1.6 million (cap figure: $1.9 million minus prorated bonus)

Total Cap Savings: $24.05 million

Cap Space Generated: $9.35 million

Small caveat: I really love Pierre Thomas, and appreciate what he brings to our offense. He is arguably the best screen-catching RB in the league. I want him back and will not make him part of my expected cuts. But I will say that it will not surprise me if he is released. Releasing him saves the team $2.5 million, and it was rather telling to me that he began to see less time toward the end of the year. What I think will happen is that the team will re-sign Chris Ivory, and may look to Cadet to fill Thomas' role. Or you might even see them draft a RB or find one in FA. I know they are said to like Christine Michael out of Texas A&M. I know this is an unpopular move and given how hard he has worked, it is hard for me to predict. But I am just saying that I would not surprise me.

Small caveat 2: David Hawthorne is an interesting case for 2013. His current cap figure for 2013 is $4.8 million. If he is released, we would be charged $3 million over 2013 and 2014 in prorated bonus. That would free up $3.3 million for this season. Hawthorne was oft-injured in 2012 and struggled a bit early on. Toward the end of the season, he did perform better at SLB. My thinking is that we will probably hold on to him, though it would not surprise me if he is cut. The likely move will be to restructure his contract or even ask him to take a paycut. In either case, the Saints might will likely be able to free up the $3 million or so just as they would by releasing him. The difference is, we would still have a proven player around to compete in the middle with whomever we bring in at the position.

Interestingly enough, if both Thomas and Hawthorne were released, it would give us an additional $5.8 million in cap savings, bringing our available cap space to $15.15 million. Store that away.

The following players are likely to have their contracts restructured:

Drew Brees
Broderick Bunkley
Jahri Evans
David Hawthorne

***Remember, a restructure is not a pay-cut.***

In free agency, I think the Saints should target the following players:

Brandon Albert, OT He's one of the best pass-blocking OTs in the league, and is equally adept at run-blocking. He does have to become more consistent, particularly in his technique. That said, I am of the belief that he will be slightly cheaper than Jermon Bushrod. I am thinking a 5-year, $38 million. $10 million signing bonus and a total of $18 million guaranteed. 2013 cap figure: $4.5 million (base salary of $2.5 million + prorated bonus).

Jairus Byrd, S Solid, ball-hawking safety who would allow us to move Malcolm Jenkins to SS, where I think he might actually be a better player. While Ed Reed is very tempting, I just think that it is important to find a long-term solution to our safety issue. I also considered Dashon Goldson, but Byrd is younger and I think will cost less. I am thinking 4 year $24 million. Bonus of $8 million and $12 million in guarantees. 2013 cap figure: $3.5 million ($1.5 million in base salary plus prorated bonus)

Larry Grant, ILB Call this our Chris Chamberlain signing but I think Grant is a talented player who is scratching the surface. At the very least, he would provide us with depth in the middle and a person who understands Ed Donatell's system. On the other hand, he could emerge as a starter who challenges David Hawthorne for a starting position. He did very well for the Niners when Patrick Willis went down with injury and he's just reaching his prime. I am thinking a contract of 3 years, $5.4 million gets him here. $1.2 million in bonus and a $300, 000 roster bonus for 2014 and 2015. 2013 cap figure: $1.15 million (base salary of $750K plus prorated bonus)

Shaun Phillips, OLB This is an insurance signing. Phillips is not young but has experience in a 3-4. If we are going to make the switch to a 3-4, we will need depth. Right now, we have Martez Wilson and Junior Galette at OLB. By signing Phillips and drafting someone like Mingo or Jordan, we would go into the season with some quality depth at the position. I would expect Mingo/Jordan to start opposite either Wilson or Galette. But Phillips would be there for us in a pinch if necessary. The hope would be that we can find another young player to emerge. But if not, then Phillips is capable. I am a thinking a 1 year deal at $2 million.

Total Costs of Free Agent Signings for 2013: $11.15 million

Small caveat 3: I was tempted to have us target Mike Wallace who I think would give us the deep threat at WR that we missed with the departure of Robert Meachem and the decline of Devery Henderson. The emergence of Joseph Morgan last season is expected to continue. But our offense tends to rely on having two deep threats that help to open things up underneath. I do not think Wallace will get as much money as the Steelers offered him last season (5-year, $50 million). A contract in line with Andre Brown's deal of 5 years, $42.5 million is more reasonable. And seeing as though we might be able to have as much as $15-20 million in cap space, if not much more if the savings from the restructures are significant.

But for now, I chose not to make that move if only because I think it will be important to begin thinking ahead to some of the future contracts we will have to handle such as Jimmy Graham, Malcolm Jenkins, Cameron Jordan, Patrick Robinson, and Mark Ingram. These are all players who have either emerged or are expected to emerge. So, I think it might be smarter to forego a player like Wallace and build through the draft. There are players like Tavon Austin, and especially Markus Wheaton and Quinton Patton who might be able to offer to us what Wallace does at a far cheaper price.

Small caveat 4: There are a ton of tights ends in free agency, including Jared Cook, Brandon Myers, Dustin Keller, Martellus Bennett, Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta, Delanie Walker, and Fred Davis. I really like Cook and think he and Graham would be monsters together. But I am going to hold off on projecting a signing here. We still have to sign Jimmy Graham and I think our attention should be on locking him up. We can always get a TE in the draft where there seems to be some depth at the position.

I expect the following players to be re-signed:

Chris Ivory, RB
Brian de La Puente, OC
Justin Drescher, LS
Rafael Bush, S
Brian Robinson, OT
Eric Olsen, OG
Chase Daniel, OB
Elbert Mack, CB

I am not sure where I stand on Jonathan Casillas and Ramon Humber. A decision has to be made as to whether or not each player fits into the new 3-4 scheme. Casillas played well down the stretch last season but I think it might be time to move on with a player like Larry Grant.

Saints Draft Selections

1. Barkevious Mingo, OLB, Louisiana State University (alternative pick--Dion Jordan, OLB, University of Oregon)

Mingo might not be on the board when we pick though this draft is interesting in that you have a significant group of players projected all over the first round. If Mingo falls, I think he should be the pick. His initial step at the snap of the ball is as quick as I have seen. He is a tad more athlete than football player at this point, but I do not see that as the knock some others see it as. He works hard and should be a very productive player. His ceiling is as high as any player in this draft and I think he could play the Aldon Smith role for us. The same can be said about Dion Jordan in many ways who excels not only as a pass-rusher but also in coverage. Should either of these players fall to us, we have to consider taking one of them.

2. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia University (alternative pick--Jordan Poyer, CB, University of Oregon)

Tantalizing speed, incredible change of direction, soft hands, great return ability...I can go on and on about Tavon Austin. I think he's a first round talent who will fall into the early to middle second round just because of his size. There is also some scuttlebutt that teams were upset that he pulled out of the Senior Bowl. Here's how I see Austin. He is a player who can come in and give us another deep threat though he is equally good in the slot. I also see this pick as thinking ahead a bit. Sproles is entering the third year of his deal and will be 30 at the start of the season. By no means does that mean he is done, but we have to start thinking ahead to his possible replacement should he get a tad too expensive for us.

Austin does have experience lining up in the backfield and doing many of the things that Sproles does for us. For the immediate future, both would cause headaches for defenses and free Jimmy Graham up a bit more as he took on too many double teams this season. Austin would also give us a needed boost in our return game.

3. Brandon Williams, NT, Missouri Southern State University (alternative pick, Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State University)

Very nimble big man, great character, hard worker. He is in a good shape and works very hard. Very nimble for his size and does show the ability to rush the passer. I think he would be the ideal NT for our 3-4 scheme and might emerge as another small school gem. He looked really good this past week at the senior bowl, solidifying a third round grade. With continued progress, he might creep up higher.

Markus Wheaton is a Mike Wallace clone but shows the ability to catch in traffic. He has outstanding speed and is able to adjust to the ball in air. I think this kid will be a very solid player at the next level.

4. Leon McFadden, CB, San Diego State University (alternative pick, Michael Buchanan, OLB)

The Saints showed some interests in McFadden at the Senior Bowl. He responded with a good week of practice and really looked the part. I think he is good prospect for Donatell to develop.

Buchanan may be a smart pick if we do not add Shaun Phillips. He would give us another OLB in our new 3-4 scheme.

5. Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego State University (alternative pick, Kwame Geathers, DT, University of Georgia)

I would love to see us target a TE in free agency but I do like the depth in the draft at the position. Escobar has soft hands and would add a nice wrinkle to our offense. I would prefer Jordan Reed who reminds me a lot of Hernandez with NE and could play that joker role for us, or dare I say the old-Billy Miller role. But with so many critical needs early on, I think it is wiser to address the position in the middle rounds. Escobar is a guy I think many around here will like.

6. JJ Wilcox, SS, Georgia Southern University

Wilcox had a very solid week of practice during the senior bowl and may push himself up into the 3-4 round. For now, I will keep him here. Even if we move Jenkins to SS or nickel CB, we will need quality depth and an injection of young talent to develop. By adding Wilcox and signing Byrd, we would head into the season with Byrd, Jenkins, Abdul-Quddus, Bush and Wilcox as our safeties. To me, that would be an upgrade.

7. Mark Jackson, OG, Glenville State University

With the last pick, I thought, why not take a flyer on an under-the-radar player who might just surprise. Jackson is a HUGE man, standing 6-6, 341. But he has good feet and is more fluid than you might expect for a person of his stature. He will have to improve his technique and be taught not to play so high. But he has raw power and is a great drive blocker. He is also, like Brandon Williams, a tireless worker who plays snap-to-whistle. Any time you have a big man, you want someone who will not take plays off as consistency is more valuable than up-and-down greatness.
 

CitySaint

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So your going with Phillips and Mingo as pass rushing starters? Galette's a goner???
 

meily

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I agree with losing Vilma, Smith, Ellis and Shanle, but this releasing Harper talk is not going to happen, Payton himself Harper is a guy that talents need to be featured in the defense and thats the kind of defense and defensive coordinater he is looking for, a guy who will play to his players strenghts.

In terms of the draft I believe we target a OLB/Pass Rusher a NT, OL, TE...I think we may see multiple picks at the OLB and DL positions because of the scheme change and current players that dont fit that new scheme will be replaced by rookie who do and provide depth behind the projected starters.

The running back position is a trick one, I think the defensive scheme change really makes you think Payton really has put some thought into this, so offensively could he decided to feature a runner? it appears the league has gone back to the feature guy and the back up who spells him...will we stop rotating them and feature one? if so would that mean letting Ivory walk and using Pierre as we are paying him...like a glorified backup running back...a jack of all trades master of none player while Mark Ingram the talented youngster gets handed the keys...we dont know what changes Payton has for the offense as of yet.
 
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So your going with Phillips and Mingo as pass rushing starters? Galette's a goner???
No, I do not think Galette would be gone. I would go with Mingo as the starter on one side and Wilson or Galette on the other. Phillips is there as an insurance policy and to provide us with depth.
 

JackDiesel

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Great mock and it shows a good representation of how much room in FA we will actually have.

Originally I thought the obvious move with Wilson would be to move him to OLB but the more I think about it he might be a better fit at SILB. He never really showed much as a pass rusher last year so I don't know how wise it would be to keep him in a main pass rushing role. At SILB he would still be able to blitz but since he wouldn't be the main pass rusher he can shoot gaps instead of having to beat his man one-on-one. He would also cover TE's from this position where his size and speed can be an advantage and take away some of the receiving TE's we are seeing everywhere in this league.

This would give us Galette, Mingo/Jordan, and Phillips on the outside and Lofton, Wilson, and Hawthorne on the inside.
 
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I agree with losing Vilma, Smith, Ellis and Shanle, but this releasing Harper talk is not going to happen, Payton himself Harper is a guy that talents need to be featured in the defense and thats the kind of defense and defensive coordinater he is looking for, a guy who will play to his players strenghts.

In terms of the draft I believe we target a OLB/Pass Rusher a NT, OL, TE...I think we may see multiple picks at the OLB and DL positions because of the scheme change and current players that dont fit that new scheme will be replaced by rookie who do and provide depth behind the projected starters.

The running back position is a trick one, I think the defensive scheme change really makes you think Payton really has put some thought into this, so offensively could he decided to feature a runner? it appears the league has gone back to the feature guy and the back up who spells him...will we stop rotating them and feature one? if so would that mean letting Ivory walk and using Pierre as we are paying him...like a glorified backup running back...a jack of all trades master of none player while Mark Ingram the talented youngster gets handed the keys...we dont know what changes Payton has for the offense as of yet.
I see your point on Harper, and I thought about it as I made my projections. But I also heard Payton said he misses talking to a guy like Will Smith and I think he is good as gone. I think it is one of those situations where we might need to get younger and faster on the backend. I actually believe that Jenkins can be a solid SS and I think the money that Harper would save us, moving ahead, could be a better option than keeping him.

You are right about drafting multiple positions. I previewed that possibility with listing Michael Buchanan as an alternative pick.

I think Payton will go back to featuring a RB. He was adamant that we will fix our running game and take pressure off Drew. We saw Ingram starting to get more touches toward the end of the year, and I think Payton will give him every opportunity to be the bellcow. I think Ingram will get featured and I can see us doing something similar to what the Niners do where Sproles and Thomas or Ivory and whomever else we keep are brought in as a change of pace.

Hmm, here is something to consider with Ivory and Thomas. I like Thomas as the jack-of-all-trades back. But what I like about Ivory is that he might be a better fit as a featured back running the ball than Thomas. Problem is, Ivory is oft-injured. And Thomas is not capable of being a 20 carry-a-game guy. It's a tricky situation that might compel us to draft a guy who can carry the load in case Ingram gets nicked up for a few games.
 
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Great mock and it shows a good representation of how much room in FA we will actually have.

Originally I thought the obvious move with Wilson would be to move him to OLB but the more I think about it he might be a better fit at SILB. He never really showed much as a pass rusher last year so I don't know how wise it would be to keep him in a main pass rushing role. At SILB he would still be able to blitz but since he wouldn't be the main pass rusher he can shoot gaps instead of having to beat his man one-on-one. He would also cover TE's from this position where his size and speed can be an advantage and take away some of the receiving TE's we are seeing everywhere in this league.

This would give us Galette, Mingo/Jordan, and Phillips on the outside and Lofton, Wilson, and Hawthorne on the inside.
Good point! I know you and a few others have mentioned Wilson moving to SILB. It is a possibility and he does have experience playing inside. Payton seems keen on putting players in the best position to be successful; if that is at SILB for Wilson, I am all for it.
 

Saint of Killers

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Great mock and it shows a good representation of how much room in FA we will actually have.

Originally I thought the obvious move with Wilson would be to move him to OLB but the more I think about it he might be a better fit at SILB. He never really showed much as a pass rusher last year so I don't know how wise it would be to keep him in a main pass rushing role. At SILB he would still be able to blitz but since he wouldn't be the main pass rusher he can shoot gaps instead of having to beat his man one-on-one. He would also cover TE's from this position where his size and speed can be an advantage and take away some of the receiving TE's we are seeing everywhere in this league.

This would give us Galette, Mingo/Jordan, and Phillips on the outside and Lofton, Wilson, and Hawthorne on the inside.
I could see him being successful at either. I've always thought he would be best in a 3-4. I just hope this is the year he moves into a starter role, whether it be OLB or ILB. He makes big plays and is a freak athlete. He's the kind of player we've been needing.
 

chad_moore

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Thanks for the effort that you put into your post, 60Minutes! I like you put all the cavaets in there. I think Payton has so much on his plate right now with handling the defensive side of the ball.

First, we are switching to the 3-4 and still have to determine if we're going 1 or 2 gap. I think Payton's comment about taking his time is finding someone who can utilize as many of the current players and put them in a position to succeed....something GW did and Spags didn't do.

Second, he's got to figure out if the new D-Coordinator is going to want to bring in his crew or use some or all of the existing ones. I really think Payton is of the mindset that he wants a completely FRESH look on Defense and wouldn't be surprised if the entire defense (minus Vitt) were put up for a re-interview of their jobs when the new DefCo is selected.

Third, Player evaluation of the current team and who needs to stay and who needs to go. I find it hard to believe Payton (offensive minded) knows which players on D are going to get walking papers at this point. I really think so much relies on the new DefCo and his staff. One a side note...I have yet to see any threads comparing the top 5 3-4 defenses in the league and how are current players compare to those defenses at their respective or potential new spots, to help figure out (or atleast talk about) who stays and who goes.

Fourth, we still need to find other coaches to fill the other holes in the organization

Fifth, our draft is so up in the air right now with that second rounder in an unknown state. I'm with you in that I "think" we'll get it back....and dear Lord how I hope I'm right!

Sixth...I do like your draft, but just don't see much of a chance of us selecting anything beyond Tackle on the offensive side of the ball. Payton has a way with UDFA and I could see him adding depth to groom on the cheap. We are really set with the offensive side of the ball aside from Tackle. Unless Graham holds out and our center isn't re-signed...we should be good to go. We've got a stock pile of WR's and RB's, QB is set, so I see Payton enticing the new DefCo by saying..."give me one pick after the second round unless a great tackle is available and the rest is yours."

Now, call me crazy but I think we are going to see a flurry of "good news" coming from the Saints organization over the next 45 days. I look for things like:

-New Def Coordinator and staff hired in NO
-New ST coach hired in NO
-Brees agrees to re-structure contract to help our organization
-Harper agrees to re-structure contract
-Greer agrees to re-structure contract
-Bushrod takes hometown discount for 3yr deal
-Graham doesn't hold out and is promised a rework of his deal prior to season starting
-Graham ahead of schedule after wrist surgery
-PT re-structures deal


As much as I love to hear some of these other headlines, I doubt they happen:
-Vilma restructures. I believe he will be cut to save on the cap, he doesn't fit well in the 3-4, he's older now, and worst of all (and I know I've heard some say it) he is NOT asked to be the LB'ers coach...again, 3-4 is not is forte.
-Jenkins moves to SS or CB...I really think they are going to push hard to make him the player he and the team hopes to be at the FS position. I'm not for it, but that's my thought
-W. Smith restructures...he played his worst when he added weight in the Haslett era and now that's he's older, there are just much cheaper alternatives than the salary he's carrying.


I can't give an accurate take on the draft, because I really think a lot depends on the darn second rounder. We get it...we stay pat and pick players. We don't get it back and I wouldn't be surprised to see us shop our first around for a second and third and/or fourth. When you have cap issues and make drastic changes, you need youth, multiple picks and most of all...talent at the lowest price possible.

So, I see us going this route:
1. We get our second pick back...BPA on defense (DE to replace Smith or NT)
2. BPA on defense (whichever of the ones we didn't get in the first round)
3. OT (bushrod re-signs, brown and strief are injury prone, little to no depth)
4. CB (we always seem to need help here with our injuries)...4 and 5 are interchangeable...BPA at thoe to positions
5. S (Harper's replacement)
5...I think we pick up a compensatory pick here....we go LB here
6. Can't make heads or tails of the Rudd situation, so I'm going with got this pic...TE or LB. If we go TE it's because Payton got antsy and has to have a certain guy.
7. I see this one going the way of another LB. we need depth that isn't costing us veteran prices. New system and fresh blood...I could see the DefCo loading up here and of course...LB make great ST guys too...fast and fearless...anything for a roster spot!

Flame away!
 

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I like it, except for 2 things... I don't like Mingo as a 3-4 OLB because I'm very concerned about his coverage ability. I also don't think there's a snowball's chance in Hades that Byrd gets away from Buffalo... They will make sure they keep him one way or another.
 

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First, let me give some disclaimers:

--I assume that we will hire Ed Donatell as our defensive coordinator.

--This mock assumes that we will have our second rounder returned, and I am of the feeling it will be. This mock also assumes that we still have our sixth round pick since there has not been any clarity on this issue.

Second, we are currently $14.7 million over the cap and will need to cut some players to get under the cap. The good thing is, that with our changing scheme and with their lack of production, it does not hurt us as much as it might have done only three seasons ago.

I expect the following players to be released:

--Will Smith-saves us $11.1 million (cap figure: $14.5 million minus the prorated bonus of $6.8 million split over 2013 and 2014)

--Jonathan Vilma-saves us $6 million (cap figure: $8.6 million minus $2.6 million prorated bonus for 2013)

--Roman Harper-saves us $5.35 million (cap figure: $7.1 million minus the prorated bonus of $3.5 million, which would be split over 2013 and 2014)

--Will Herring-saves us $1.6 million (cap figure: $1.9 million minus prorated bonus)

Total Cap Savings: $24.05 million

Cap Space Generated: $9.35 million

Small caveat: I really love Pierre Thomas, and appreciate what he brings to our offense. He is arguably the best screen-catching RB in the league. I want him back and will not make him part of my expected cuts. But I will say that it will not surprise me if he is released. Releasing him saves the team $2.5 million, and it was rather telling to me that he began to see less time toward the end of the year. What I think will happen is that the team will re-sign Chris Ivory, and may look to Cadet to fill Thomas' role. Or you might even see them draft a RB or find one in FA. I know they are said to like Christine Michael out of Texas A&M. I know this is an unpopular move and given how hard he has worked, it is hard for me to predict. But I am just saying that I would not surprise me.

Small caveat 2: David Hawthorne is an interesting case for 2013. His current cap figure for 2013 is $4.8 million. If he is released, we would be charged $3 million over 2013 and 2014 in prorated bonus. That would free up $3.3 million for this season. Hawthorne was oft-injured in 2012 and struggled a bit early on. Toward the end of the season, he did perform better at SLB. My thinking is that we will probably hold on to him, though it would not surprise me if he is cut. The likely move will be to restructure his contract or even ask him to take a paycut. In either case, the Saints might will likely be able to free up the $3 million or so just as they would by releasing him. The difference is, we would still have a proven player around to compete in the middle with whomever we bring in at the position.

Interestingly enough, if both Thomas and Hawthorne were released, it would give us an additional $5.8 million in cap savings, bringing our available cap space to $15.15 million. Store that away.

The following players are likely to have their contracts restructured:

Drew Brees
Broderick Bunkley
Jahri Evans
David Hawthorne

***Remember, a restructure is not a pay-cut.***

In free agency, I think the Saints should target the following players:

Brandon Albert, OT He's one of the best pass-blocking OTs in the league, and is equally adept at run-blocking. He does have to become more consistent, particularly in his technique. That said, I am of the belief that he will be slightly cheaper than Jermon Bushrod. I am thinking a 5-year, $38 million. $10 million signing bonus and a total of $18 million guaranteed. 2013 cap figure: $4.5 million (base salary of $2.5 million + prorated bonus).

Jairus Byrd, S Solid, ball-hawking safety who would allow us to move Malcolm Jenkins to SS, where I think he might actually be a better player. While Ed Reed is very tempting, I just think that it is important to find a long-term solution to our safety issue. I also considered Dashon Goldson, but Byrd is younger and I think will cost less. I am thinking 4 year $24 million. Bonus of $8 million and $12 million in guarantees. 2013 cap figure: $3.5 million ($1.5 million in base salary plus prorated bonus)

Larry Grant, ILB Call this our Chris Chamberlain signing but I think Grant is a talented player who is scratching the surface. At the very least, he would provide us with depth in the middle and a person who understands Ed Donatell's system. On the other hand, he could emerge as a starter who challenges David Hawthorne for a starting position. He did very well for the Niners when Patrick Willis went down with injury and he's just reaching his prime. I am thinking a contract of 3 years, $5.4 million gets him here. $1.2 million in bonus and a $300, 000 roster bonus for 2014 and 2015. 2013 cap figure: $1.15 million (base salary of $750K plus prorated bonus)

Shaun Phillips, OLB This is an insurance signing. Phillips is not young but has experience in a 3-4. If we are going to make the switch to a 3-4, we will need depth. Right now, we have Martez Wilson and Junior Galette at OLB. By signing Phillips and drafting someone like Mingo or Jordan, we would go into the season with some quality depth at the position. I would expect Mingo/Jordan to start opposite either Wilson or Galette. But Phillips would be there for us in a pinch if necessary. The hope would be that we can find another young player to emerge. But if not, then Phillips is capable. I am a thinking a 1 year deal at $2 million.

Total Costs of Free Agent Signings for 2013: $11.15 million

Small caveat 3: I was tempted to have us target Mike Wallace who I think would give us the deep threat at WR that we missed with the departure of Robert Meachem and the decline of Devery Henderson. The emergence of Joseph Morgan last season is expected to continue. But our offense tends to rely on having two deep threats that help to open things up underneath. I do not think Wallace will get as much money as the Steelers offered him last season (5-year, $50 million). A contract in line with Andre Brown's deal of 5 years, $42.5 million is more reasonable. And seeing as though we might be able to have as much as $15-20 million in cap space, if not much more if the savings from the restructures are significant.

But for now, I chose not to make that move if only because I think it will be important to begin thinking ahead to some of the future contracts we will have to handle such as Jimmy Graham, Malcolm Jenkins, Cameron Jordan, Patrick Robinson, and Mark Ingram. These are all players who have either emerged or are expected to emerge. So, I think it might be smarter to forego a player like Wallace and build through the draft. There are players like Tavon Austin, and especially Markus Wheaton and Quinton Patton who might be able to offer to us what Wallace does at a far cheaper price.

Small caveat 4: There are a ton of tights ends in free agency, including Jared Cook, Brandon Myers, Dustin Keller, Martellus Bennett, Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta, Delanie Walker, and Fred Davis. I really like Cook and think he and Graham would be monsters together. But I am going to hold off on projecting a signing here. We still have to sign Jimmy Graham and I think our attention should be on locking him up. We can always get a TE in the draft where there seems to be some depth at the position.

I expect the following players to be re-signed:

Chris Ivory, RB
Brian de La Puente, OC
Justin Drescher, LS
Rafael Bush, S
Brian Robinson, OT
Eric Olsen, OG
Chase Daniel, OB
Elbert Mack, CB

I am not sure where I stand on Jonathan Casillas and Ramon Humber. A decision has to be made as to whether or not each player fits into the new 3-4 scheme. Casillas played well down the stretch last season but I think it might be time to move on with a player like Larry Grant.

Saints Draft Selections

1. Barkevious Mingo, OLB, Louisiana State University (alternative pick--Dion Jordan, OLB, University of Oregon)

Mingo might not be on the board when we pick though this draft is interesting in that you have a significant group of players projected all over the first round. If Mingo falls, I think he should be the pick. His initial step at the snap of the ball is as quick as I have seen. He is a tad more athlete than football player at this point, but I do not see that as the knock some others see it as. He works hard and should be a very productive player. His ceiling is as high as any player in this draft and I think he could play the Aldon Smith role for us. The same can be said about Dion Jordan in many ways who excels not only as a pass-rusher but also in coverage. Should either of these players fall to us, we have to consider taking one of them.

2. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia University (alternative pick--Jordan Poyer, CB, University of Oregon)

Tantalizing speed, incredible change of direction, soft hands, great return ability...I can go on and on about Tavon Austin. I think he's a first round talent who will fall into the early to middle second round just because of his size. There is also some scuttlebutt that teams were upset that he pulled out of the Senior Bowl. Here's how I see Austin. He is a player who can come in and give us another deep threat though he is equally good in the slot. I also see this pick as thinking ahead a bit. Sproles is entering the third year of his deal and will be 30 at the start of the season. By no means does that mean he is done, but we have to start thinking ahead to his possible replacement should he get a tad too expensive for us.

Austin does have experience lining up in the backfield and doing many of the things that Sproles does for us. For the immediate future, both would cause headaches for defenses and free Jimmy Graham up a bit more as he took on too many double teams this season. Austin would also give us a needed boost in our return game.

3. Brandon Williams, NT, Missouri Southern State University (alternative pick, Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State University)

Very nimble big man, great character, hard worker. He is in a good shape and works very hard. Very nimble for his size and does show the ability to rush the passer. I think he would be the ideal NT for our 3-4 scheme and might emerge as another small school gem. He looked really good this past week at the senior bowl, solidifying a third round grade. With continued progress, he might creep up higher.

Markus Wheaton is a Mike Wallace clone but shows the ability to catch in traffic. He has outstanding speed and is able to adjust to the ball in air. I think this kid will be a very solid player at the next level.

4. Leon McFadden, CB, San Diego State University (alternative pick, Michael Buchanan, OLB)

The Saints showed some interests in McFadden at the Senior Bowl. He responded with a good week of practice and really looked the part. I think he is good prospect for Donatell to develop.

Buchanan may be a smart pick if we do not add Shaun Phillips. He would give us another OLB in our new 3-4 scheme.

5. Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego State University (alternative pick, Kwame Geathers, DT, University of Georgia)

I would love to see us target a TE in free agency but I do like the depth in the draft at the position. Escobar has soft hands and would add a nice wrinkle to our offense. I would prefer Jordan Reed who reminds me a lot of Hernandez with NE and could play that joker role for us, or dare I say the old-Billy Miller role. But with so many critical needs early on, I think it is wiser to address the position in the middle rounds. Escobar is a guy I think many around here will like.

6. JJ Wilcox, SS, Georgia Southern University

Wilcox had a very solid week of practice during the senior bowl and may push himself up into the 3-4 round. For now, I will keep him here. Even if we move Jenkins to SS or nickel CB, we will need quality depth and an injection of young talent to develop. By adding Wilcox and signing Byrd, we would head into the season with Byrd, Jenkins, Abdul-Quddus, Bush and Wilcox as our safeties. To me, that would be an upgrade.

7. Mark Jackson, OG, Glenville State University

With the last pick, I thought, why not take a flyer on an under-the-radar player who might just surprise. Jackson is a HUGE man, standing 6-6, 341. But he has good feet and is more fluid than you might expect for a person of his stature. He will have to improve his technique and be taught not to play so high. But he has raw power and is a great drive blocker. He is also, like Brandon Williams, a tireless worker who plays snap-to-whistle. Any time you have a big man, you want someone who will not take plays off as consistency is more valuable than up-and-down greatness.
I like alot of this. I agree with you about us cutting Harper, I think it depends what the new DC wants, but I see alot of big changes coming and cutting him will be part of it. I also think this will be the year we let go of Devery Henderson. I think Joe Morgan showed last year he can be our deep target/big play guy. He had more TD's than Henderson last year if i'm remembering correctly. Idk how much this saves us. What do you think?
 

Ti Rider

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Donatell isn't a good fit for the following reasons -

In his two prior DC stints (2000-2003 Green Bay, 2004-2006 Atlanta) he ran a 4-3. He has never coordinated a 3-4.

He has only been a position coach in 3-4 D's.

He's never overseen the transition from the 4-3 to a 3-4 and then built a Defense. He'd be starting from scratch with the Saints.

Because of these reasons Donatell would be an experiment. With Brees window closing the Saints don't have time for experiments. They need someone who can quickly assemble then coordinate a 3-4 Defense. Someone like Todd Grantham.
 

Euphonetiks

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Bills don't let Byrd get away and we could not afford him if they do. We also cannot afford Albert. I really do not think he will be cheaper than Bushrod. All teams know Brees makes Bushrod look better than he is, while Cassel has made Albert look worse.

I also think Brandon Williams and McFadden will be gone by our 3rd and 4th pick.
 

JackDiesel

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I agree with losing Vilma, Smith, Ellis and Shanle, but this releasing Harper talk is not going to happen, Payton himself Harper is a guy that talents need to be featured in the defense and thats the kind of defense and defensive coordinater he is looking for, a guy who will play to his players strenghts.
The problem with Harper is that for every play you feature him in, you have to cover up his weaknesses on another play. For as much as he's making that shouldn't be the case. Although I'm a whole lot less worried about him starting than Jenkins.
 

Marlboro Man

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I wouldn't mind seeing Wilson playing Pat Swilling's old LB spot. I think that's his best position he reminds me a lot of Swilling and Turnbull with his size and speed. I could also see Galette playing Ricky Jackson's old spot too.
 

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Where did you get your cap figures and information like that, 60Minutes?
 

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