The NFL is still expected to suspend several New Orleans Saints players for their role in the now highly-publicized bounty system, run under the direction of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams from 2009 to 2011.
Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma, and Roman Harper are all said to be in the cross hairs of the league, with Vilma expecting to receive the brunt of the punishment.
It’s been reported Vilma could receive anywhere from a two game suspension to an eight game suspension.
New Orleans has already prepared for his loss, agreeing to terms with free agent linebacker’s Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne, and Chris Chamberlain.
Lofton should take over for the Saints at middle linebacker while Hawthorne, who also played middle linebacker with the Seahawks, will likely plat at outside linebacker on the strong side.
Chamberlain played weakside linebacker with the Rams last season.
With their “bases” essentially covered at linebacker the Saints needs to look at defensive end in expectation of losing Will Smith.
Smith plays on the right side of the defensive line where he has had some good seasons and bad.
Depth behind him is okay, comprised of Junior Galette and Jeff Charleston if he re-signs, but neither initially invoke confidence to produce consistently for the Saints.
Galette has some serious upside with his excellent speed, but it’s doubtful the Saints would trudge through multiple games with him solely as the starter at right defensive end.
If the Saints don’t address the position in the draft, where they don’t pick until the third round (89), then free agency will be the most logical choice.
Two names immediately jump off the board, James Hall and Andre Carter.
Carter notched ten sacks and 52 tackles for the Patriots last year in fourteen games before a torn quad landed him on injured reserve.
Rumor has it he is still not completely healed from the injury, but if he can get healthy by the regular season then there is no reason why the Saints shouldn’t give him a shot.
He clearly can produce inside a 4-3 defense and it’s no secret New Orleans needs to boost it’s pass rush.
Hall may be the best answer as he played with Steve Spagnuolo during his tenure with the Rams, totaling six sacks and 50 tackles last year.
Familiarity aside, Hall should also be affordable, and with limited cap space that’s exactly what the Saints need is an affordable solution.
Beyond these two players there is not much left on the market. Unless they are indeed looking towards the draft, now is the time to get one of these players signed and into the team’s facility.