Saints TEAM NEEDS prior to free agency (1 Viewer)

Finalfive24

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The Saints have restructured quite a few veterans’ contracts in order to free up cap space for this coming free agency. Currently, the Saints are just more than $1 million over the salary cap of $123 million. Our free agents that we are NOT expected to resign include big names like WR Devery Henderson, WR Sedrick Ellis. But the reality is that Henderson was one of the least effective starting wide receivers last season, and he’s lost some speed, which was the only thing keeping him relevant, as he isn’t physical enough to get off the line of scrimmage consistently, has suspect hands and doesn’t separate like he used to. Ellis hasn’t ever lived up to his first round billing, being “just another guy” in the interior rotation last season.

There are also lot of players that could have their high salaries slashed or they could be released as cap casualties. These players include: Will Smith ($10 million), Roman Harper ($5.2 million) and possibly Jon Vilma ($4.8 million). Forcing pay cuts or releasing these players could allow the Saints to save up to $19 million, thus allowing the team to improve itself by adding more effective players in free agency.

Until decisions are made, however, don’t expect the Saints to be very active in free agency. Sean Payton is known to be very stubborn when it comes to releasing players, especially ones that have been a part of his Super Bowl team. Even if it’s obvious that Will Smith should be cut (it is), that doesn’t mean Payton will pull the trigger.

For the record, I’m in favor of letting Devery Henderson, Scott Shanle and Sedrick Ellis walk. I’m also in favor of cutting Roman Harper and Will Smith outright. However, I think the Saints should and will keep Vilma, asking him to take a pay cut (about half his salary). Vilma has lost his edge on the field in recent years. Basically, it can be summed up to the fact that he is too small to shed blocks in the running game, so he’s often manhandled by blockers and forced away the position he’s supposed to be in. However, Vilma is an extremely essential locker room leader. Payton loves Vilma, and even though he may lose his starting spot to David Hawthorne, the Saints don’t have many outspoken leaders on the defensive side of the ball other than Vilma. So I think retaining him on a team-friendlier salary would be ideal.

There are a few glaring needs the Saints need to address this offseason. Considering our defense was downright atrocious and we are switching to a 3-4 alignment (which means we need new personnel to fit the scheme), one would presume that our greatest needs are on the defensive side of the ball. Most of them are, but our biggest hole actually is on offense…

PRIMARY TEAM NEEDS

1. Offensive Tackle – LT Jermon Bushrod is a free agent. Although he had a down season in 2012, Bushrod is one of about 18 players in this league that can play left tackle effectively. A capable left tackle is an extremely rare commodity in the modern pass-happy NFL. It’s the second most important position on offense after the quarterback. Bushrod isn’t a premier tackle, but he has been solid for years, and he’s just entering his prime in terms of age. He was a low draft pick that came out of nowhere, so he’s yet to hit it big on a multi-million dollar deal, which implies money will be the primary enticer. However, Bushrod has stated he loves New Orleans, and if the Saints offer him a relatively fair deal, he should accept. The problem is that the Saints are low on dough, and other teams (with a lot more money) desperately need left tackles. Without Bushrod, though, few teams need a left tackle as much as the Saints do. Drew Brees is our franchise, and in the Saints pass-based approach, Bushrod is the key to protecting Brees (and thus, our franchise).

Not only that, without Bushrod the Saints are EXTREMELY thin at tackle. Zach Strief played well last season at right tackle when he was healthy, but he’s not nearly talented or athletic enough to switch to left tackle. His backup, Charles Brown, has been plagued by injuries throughout his short NFL career. Although he has more athleticism than Strief, he is extremely raw in terms of technique, and he hasn’t evenly remotely showed promise at right tackle, so there’s little to no chance he can develop into a left tackle. Behind them, the Saints have no one worth mentioning. Because it’s such an important position, especially for the Saints, and because there are no viable options behind Bushrod, this is without question the Saints’ biggest need. This year’s draft class is tackle-heavy, which is nice. But the Saints need to win NOW, so I expect them to toy with the cap a little more with the sole purpose of resigning Bushrod.

2. Pass Rushers (rush linebackers) – I’ve said many times that there are three things teams MUST have/do in today’s NFL to WIN a Super Bowl: In order of importance, they must have quarterback, they must be able to get to (pressure) the opposing quarterback, and they must be able to protect their quarterback. Based on that logic alone, developing a good pass rush is the second most important thing in the NFL (in my opinion). The good news is that the Saints’ switch to the 3-4 front places Junior Galette, who was too small to play 4-3 end because he would have been swallowed in the running game, in a position to succeed. Galette will likely be a much more natural and effective pass rusher standing up at a 3-4 OLB position. The Saints know this, and that’s why they just locked him up to a 3-year, relatively cheap contract, before he has the chance to have a breakout season. Smart. As of now, our other starting OLB is Martez Wilson. Wilson is kind of a developmental project; the team is unsure whether he can be a capable starter right. However, it’s assumed he’ll be better as a stand-up linebacker. But the Saints would be much more comfortable if Wilson was coming off the bench, and the team needs pass rushing depth. If the season began today, the Saints would be in a lot of trouble if Galette or Wilson got hurt.

Texans’ defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ caused a lot of league observers and draftniks to scratch their heads when he selected OLB Whitney Mercilus in the first round of last year’s draft despite having two quality, proven starters at OLB already. When asked why he felt the need to draft Mercilus, he said “You can never have too many pass rushers in today’s game.” After working for the Texans last summer, I was fortunate to find out another reason Phillips sought Mercilus; he wanted an extra, pure pass rusher to employ when the Texans’ had leads late in games. Basically, Phillips was smart enough to realize the loaded Texans weren’t projected to have much competition in a weak AFC South, and he wanted a fresh pass rusher to sub in with the sole purpose of pressuring the quarterback (he doesn’t have to worry about run support because of their lead) late in games. Mistakes that are forced by a good pass rush when a team already has a lead is what closes out games.

The Saints did this extremely well in 2009, when the prolific offense constantly gave the Saints two-possession leads late in games. The lead allowed our less talented pass rushers like Will Smith to only focus on pressuring the quarterback. It allowed pass-rushing specialist Bobby McCray to enter the game and wreck havoc. It allowed FS Darren Sharper to sit back and make plays on the ball as a center fielder without being concerned about the running game. This is the kind of opportunitistic defense the Saints are aspiring to possess. The unit doesn’t need to be great. With our offense, the unit needs to be able to close out games when we have a lead. As Wade Phillips and New York Giants have pointed out, you can never have too many pass rushers to do that. With our free agency money likely to be spent on resigning Jermon Bushrod, the Saints could look to a strong draft class of pass rushers with their first round pick.

3. Safeties - A few seasons ago, the Saints (and myself) thought it was a great idea to move nickel cornerback Malcolm Jenkins to free safety. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out. Jenkins has nice speed for a safety, and tackling isn’t a major issue. But he doesn’t have safety instincts, and he’s often a step or two late to either the ball or the position he needs to be in to make a play in run support. Last season was a new low for Jenkins, as his absolutely abysmal 2012 leaves too much to be desired to give anyone within the organization a glimmer of hope.

This is partly why I think the Saints should move Malcolm Jenkins back to nickel corner. The other reasons are just as logical. First, nickel corners need to be physical because they often line up closer (tighter) to the slot receivers, so they can’t afford to be beaten with a simple jam at the line of scrimmage. Also, they play closer to the LOS because since they line up inside, they are more likely to have be involved with run support. Jenkins is an outstanding tackler for a cornerback, and I think he would fit in well there. Unfortunately, he never really had enough to time to get used to the position since we moved him to safety in his second season. But I have a hunch he can be a nice nickel corner.

Many will point out that the problem with my theory is that the potential move will leave free safety wide open. It may, but Isa Abdul Quddus has actually showed a lot of promise as a reserve. I’m not saying he can step in right away as a starting free safety, but I am saying that quarterbacks only had a 21.6 QB rating when throwing in his direction last season. That’s not a typo; Quddus was awesome in coverage last year. His issue is that he struggles with tackling, and he’ll need to refine that area of his game. I think Quddus could be a future starter, which is why the Saints may look at a stop-gap safety in free agency. There are a lot of older names out there, like Ronde Barber, Charles Woodson, and Ed Reed, that have had excellent careers and could help start for the Saints for a year or two (similar to Darren Sharper), while assisting in Quddus’ development.

Strong safety is a mess for the Saints as well. ProFootballFocus graded Malcolm Jenkins as the second worst starting safety in the NFL last season…only ahead of Roman Harper. Yeah, safety play was that brutal last season. Harper is a nice tackler, and he is often serviceable in run support. He has even shown ability to blitz effectively. However, he’s a mistake waiting to happen in coverage. He’s a huge liability in the passing game. And with a $5.2 million cap number next season, he may be a cap casualty. Behind him, the Saints don’t have much. Rafael Bush has shown ability in limited snaps, but he’s not starting-material. If Harper doesn’t take a drastic pay cut, the Saints would likely have to look to free agency or the draft to fill the need. In this year’s free agency class, there are more options at free safety than strong safety. And not having a second round pick really hurts the Saints in this department.

SECONDARY TEAM NEEDS

1. Nose Tackle - Arguably the most important position in the 3-4 front is the nose tackle, a huge space filler that can occupy two or more interior blockers at the 0-technique, freeing up space for the inside linebackers behind him to fit the gaps and make plays. The Saints reportedly are trying Brodrick Bunkley there. Although he has no experience in the 3-4, he is one of the league’s best run defenders, and he could fit in nicely. At the very least, the Saints could use another nose tackle with experience.

2. Cornerback - If Malcolm Jenkins doesn’t move to nickel corner, the Saints have a huge hole here. This is because Elbert Mack, who made a name for himself late last season, is a free agent. And the Saints recently cut Johnny Patrick. This could be a much bigger need if Jenkins doesn’t move or if Mack doesn’t resign, but I’m hoping for the best here.

3. Tight End - After releasing David Thomas, who wasn’t that good of a #2 TE anymore anyway, the Saints are blank at tight end after Jimmy Graham. Graham takes a beating during games, and the Saints will need a serviceable backup to start if Graham goes on. Looking ahead, Graham will likely hold out for a major deal next season. The team needs to be prepared for that. There are a lot of nice, cheap and decent options in free agency this offseason.

4. Backup Quarterback - Longtime backup Chase Daniel is a free agent. There’s a lot of buzz going around that he can compete for a starting job to very QB-needy team. Needless to say, we won’t be able to resign him for a 1-year, $2 million deal again like last offseason. It’s obvious that if Drew Brees goes down for an extended period of time, the Saints would be screwed. I think we’d go 3-13 without Brees. But in case Brees only misses a game or two, we could use a backup can step in and have a chance to win games with the nice offense around him.

...
This is part of my post on the Saints' free agency forecast. The second half of the column, which includes POSSIBLE FREE AGENT TARGETS, can be found here: [mod edit]

Let me know what ya'll think!
 
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nsingh93

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Well to start off, saints are 6m over after tendering Ivory and DLP and resigning Gallette
 

CoolBrees1

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Good write up and well thought out.....I believe we bave the answers already at OLB in Galette and Wilson...time for an upgrade at DE...Smiths tenure here has been memorable...but it's time to move on....this could be addfessed either through the draft or free agency....and frees up some much need cap space....same can be said for Vilma...his time here brought us some joy...but we may wanna seperate ourselves from this shawdow cast on him with BG...on the thoughts of Harper...he has his pros and cons about him...could fit well in Ryans defense....much like be did in Williams....lots to think of with fdee agency looming....gonna be interesting for sure....
 

jhill

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For everyone that is calling for Harper to be cut, no one ever suggest who we will get to replace him for cheaper ? Can one of the " Harper must be cut people" please enlighten me ?
 

TruSaint

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For everyone that is calling for Harper to be cut, no one ever suggest who we will get to replace him for cheaper ? Can one of the " Harper must be cut people" please enlighten me ?
Quddus, would u rather roman at 6.5 million or Quddus who is better at 500k?
 

TruSaint

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I would rather Harper, I would prefer he takes a pay cut. But either way Harper
I like harper but his contract is not worth a safety who has trouble tackling and covering, sure he forces the occasional fumble or gets a sack when he comes through unblocked but his salary is rediculous.
 

BIG DAWG

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Our biggest needs. Im assuming Bushrod will be signed. Have a feeling Harper, Vilma, and Smith will be cut unless they restructure. For it to be this long to restructure i think all three will be cut to free up cap space. There time have come. Thank you guys for the memories and who dat!!!

1. DE
2. OLB
3. CB
4. TE
5. SS
6. C
7. WR
 

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