Steve Spagnuolo, the Saints, and three key defensive free agents

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All reports seem to indicate that Nicks will not be a Saint and that they’ll choose to resign Marques Colston, their top flight wide receiver, instead.

There are plenty of hidden gems in the draft at the guard position. The Saints know this after finding Pro Bowlers Jahri Evans. and Jermon Bushrod, both in the forth round of the draft.

Receivers, however, will more likely than not, be a bust.

The Saints will likely pay Colston, signing him to a long term contract, or place the franchise tag on him.

By the Saints allowing Carl Nicks to become a free agent, that frees up the cap room to make a push to sign Routt, who could potentially prefer to land in a place like New Orleans, who are Super Bowl contenders.

It would also allow the Saints to re-sign key players like Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Robert Meachem, and others.

Jonathan Vilma, who missed five games this past season due to injury, seemed to shown his age a bit more this year.

His productivity has fallen off each year since he arrived in New Orleans in 2008.

In 2008 Vilma recorded 98 tackles along with one interception and six passes deflected.

In the Saints Super Bowl year, even though he had less tackles than the previous year with 87, he recorded eight pass deflections and three interceptions.

The Saints were second in the league in turnovers with 35 in the 2009 season. Vilma had 71 tackles in 2010 along with one interception.

With Vilma missing the five games this season, he ended with only 35 tackles.

Jo-Lonn Dunbar started 14 games, including five at middle linebacker for Vilma, recording 57 tackles in his fourth season.

The Saints were a better team with Vilma ou,t and Dunbar stepping in.

Scott Shanle may not return to the Saints next year, which means Jonathan Casillas could become a starter if he can remain healthy.

The New Orleans Saints are also showing interest in middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson of the Cleveland Browns, who is an unrestricted free agent.

Jackson lead the NFL in tackles in his third season in 2008 with 154.

In 2009, coming off his phenomenal season, he injured his shoulder in the sixth game of the year against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He was leading the team with 57 tackles at the time of his injury.

After missing more than half the 2009 season and all of the 2010 season, he returned in 2011 and finished second in the NFL in tackles with 158, almost 10 tackles a game.

On top of that, he added 3.5 sacks, one interception and one forced fumble to his stat total. London Fletcher led the league in tackles with 166.

Since Jackson missed all of the 2010 season due to the injury, he will come at an affordable cost for a player with his talent.

The Saints could use him to fill Jonathan Vilma’s spot at middle linebacker, and play Casillas and Dunbar at the outside linebacker positions

New Orleans would instantly become one of the best linebacker groups in the NFL, that is if they all perform up to par and remain healthy.

Another person the Saints are looking at is defensive end Cliff Avril of the Detroit Lions.

He’s a bit undersized, but he has great upper body strength and great closing speed. He has good coverage skills so he would fit in perfectly in the Saints defense should Spagnuolo decided to blitz.

He lacks moves to become an effective pass rusher in regards to generating sacks, but he does get enough pressure on the quarterback to cause early throws or force them to scramble.

The only pressure the Saints have been able to get under Gregg William’s aggressive 4-3 defense was due to blitzing, which they did more than any other team in the league.

They desperately need new young, quick talent on the offensive line. Cliff Avril is the type of player that Steve Spagnuolo would typically go after.

The Detroit Lions have invested a ton of money into their defensive line and they have very little cap space.

Avril is the Lions’ top off season priority, but unless he is willing to take a pay cut or work with them due to cap space, he should hit the market as a free agent March 13th.

Avril made less than a half million dollars last season and if the Lions should in fact franchise tag him, it would be at a price a little over $10.5 million dollars.

He has reportedly told the Lions that he would not give them a hometown discount or take anything less than market value.

Cliff Avril has said he does not want to be franchise tagged and he would prefer to test the market or become a free agent if a long term deal is not done.

As of this moment, the Detroit Lions are $2.5 million dollars over the projected salary cap of $120 million dollars.

Expect the New Orleans Saints to make a play on the free agent should the Detroit Lions not be able to resign him.