It’s no hidden fact that the New Orleans Saints need to improve on defense next season after finishing the season ranked 23rd in overall defense.
The Saints did manage to improve on their run defense finishing 12th in the league. Their real weak spot however was defending the pass where they were second worst in the NFL at 30th.
The Saints secondary flat out under performed in the passing game. Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper had difficulty defending tight ends this season. Ultimately, that inability would cost the Saints a shot in the NFC Championship against the New York Giants which would have taken place at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Jabari Greer who is arguably the best cornerback in the NFC South had another solid year and was the one bright spot on defense.
Greer shut down almost every receiver he covered, recording 71 tackles, 18 deflections and one interception in his third year with the Saints.
Tracy Porter had an average year again even though he was played more in nickel back situations, allowing second year cornerback Patrick Robinson to get some quality playing time.
With Tracy Porter and Leigh Torrence becoming unrestricted free agents this year the Saints may need to replace them through the NFL draft, free agency, or trade.
With Porter being only 25 years old, he would step into almost any team and be their best cornerback.
He doesn’t have the best ability when it comes to generating interceptions, but he has solid coverage skills.
In fact, he had more interceptions in the 2009 season than in his other three seasons combined, when he recorded four. He only had one interception in each of his three other seasons.
With teams like the Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, and Dallas Cowboys all looking for cornerbacks, someone could potentially make an offer the Saints just can’t match because of their cap situation and numerous free agents.
If Porter does in fact leave New Orleans, the Saints will be eying the developments with former Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt and current Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel.
Cornerback Asante Samuel’s future is up in the air after this past season.
Last year, the Eagles traded for Arizona Cardinals CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and signed former Oakland Raider free agent CB Nnamdi Asomugha.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie replaced Samuel as a starter in the final two games of the season when Samuel went out with a hamstring injury.
The problem is Samuel is 31 years old and due $8.4 million in 2012. He just isn’t that valuable to Philadelphia.
With youth and two solid cornerbacks on the Eagles’ roster, Samuel is likely to be the odd man out unless he restructures his contract.
He would improve the Saints defense tremendously in the turnover department giving them a much needed upgrade. Samuel has had 39 interceptions in his past six seasons including three this past year to go along with his 34 tackles.
The Saints managed only nine interceptions and recovered only seven fumbles on 17 opportunities in 2011.
Prior to Nnamdi Asomugha joining the Eagles, teams wouldn’t throw regularly at Samuel. He would compliment CB Jabari Greer well on the opposite side of the field if the Saints can’t land shutdown cornerback Stanford Routt.
However, Asante Samuel offers nothing against the run and is among the worst tackling corners in the league. Tackling is something the Saints have had an issue with and one of the reasons the Saints were knocked out of the playoffs in the 2010 season against the Seattle Seahawks.
With changes coming at the linebacker and defensive line positions and with new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnulo arriving, only time will tell if their tackling will improve.
Samuel has declared that returning to Philadelphia for the 2012 season is his first and preferred option though.
Would Philadelphia be willing to keep him?
That’s debatable. They don’t really need to keep Samuel. The Eagles are already set with Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Prior to the 2011 season the Eagles reportedly shopped Samuel for a pair of second round draft picks.
The Saints could potentially offer the Eagles a second round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft along with a third or forth pick this year or a second round pick this year and next year.
If Asante Samuel doesn’t remain a Philadelphia Eagle expect General Manager Mickey Loomis to possibly make a move to acquire the veteran.