You could almost hear the collective “AW!” from the Saints’ fanbase after news broke that Nnamdi Asomugha signed with the 49ers.
For many, Asomugha represented hope that New Orleans could have a wall of impenetrability in the secondary, a position that was frequently dissected by opponents last season. Also upsetting for Saints fans was that the team also missed out on Tracy Porter, their consolation prize for failing to land Asomugha, after he signed with Oakland. So, for the Saints it’s back to the drawing board with a slew of different free agents. Some are familiar with Rob Ryan’s defense while others are seasoned veterans. Ultimately they all have question marks.
Ryan has worked with Sheldon Brown, Stanford Routt and Mike Jenkins, all who are available right now. These guys are familiar with his system and Ryan has familiarity with these players. They are each interesting prospects that have had success in this league. The biggest problem with these guys is that they have under-performed while Ryan was their coach. Still, their presence on the free agent market is intriguing for the Saints.
There are some interesting options with great experience, such as Antoine Winfield, Rashean Mathis, Terrence McGee, Marcus Trufant, Cedric Griffin and Nate Clements. All of these guys have had starting experience, have been to the Pro Bowl or were once considered top corners, and may have something left to give a team. The problem is, most of these guys are declining quickly, have “disappeared” or are injury prone. The Saints have to ask themselves, “Do we need a veteran presence to mold guys like Patrick Robinson, Corey White and Kennan Lewis?” And “are any of these guys better than Jabari Greer?” Tough questions, for sure.
Then there is Quentin Jammer and Sam Shields. Jammer was a great corner who has started to decline over the past two years but has measurables similar to Lewis. He also is considered a great tackler. If the Saints are looking for a corner to help teach the ropes to their defensive backfield while also giving possible competition for Roman Harper, Jammer might just be a name to remember.
Shields is a RFA so signing him would require the Saints to give up a precious first round pick (the Saints lost their second round pick from the bounty penalties). So the cost may not be worth the reward. But, if Shields doesn’t sign by two days before the draft, and the Saints give him an offer, they would be able to offer their second-rounder next year, which is a much smaller pill to swallow for getting a player of Shields’s caliber. He is more of a long shot for the Saints but, then again, it wouldn’t be so out of character for the Saints to pull the trigger on a deal like this.
Any way you look at it, the Saints lost out on two guys they were very high on. The rest of the market has shallowed out quickly but value can be found if the Saints know exactly what they are looking for. If the Saints decide against these options, they will either have to stick with what they have, which is not a bad option with a healthy Jabari Greer and Corey White, or focus on the position, yet again, in the draft.