November 11, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Atlanta Falcons guard Mike Johnson (79) celebrates his touchdown reception against the New Orleans Saints during the first quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
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Saints Top 5 Free Agents They Should Consider
The New Orleans Saints, for all intents and purposes, had a pretty successful 2013 season. They got head coach Sean Payton back after a one-year absence, vastly improved what was arguably the worst defense of all-time, and got back to the playoffs.
That’s a lot of good after what can be classified as a fairly dreadful 2012 season. In fact, the Saints even proved they can go outdoors on the road and get a playoff win, as they marched into Philadelphia and stole a close win. They couldn’t get past the eventual Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, but actually played a lot better than many expected.
It didn’t end like New Orleans fans had hoped, but it was definitely a season that headed in the right direction. While a solid 2013 offers optimism for 2014 in general, there is still some work that needs to be done for the Saints to take it up a notch next season. The first thing probably has to be locking up star tight end Jimmy Graham to a long-term deal, followed by a solid showing in the 2014 NFL Draft.
But before we can even get to the draft, we need to ponder what the Saints may want to do in free agency. More importantly, what top-level free agents out there could make a real difference if they called New Orleans their new home in 2014?
Let’s take a look at five quality free agents that fit the Saints’ team needs and could be ideal fits to help New Orleans get even better going into 2014:
Donald Butler, ILB, San Diego Chargers
Jonathan Vilma is a free agent and David Hawthorne has been a bust free agent signing. The Saints might go after an inside linebacker in the draft, but either way, they may want to consider an upgrade via free agency again. Seasoned vets like Daryl Smith and Karlos Dansby may feel like bigger splashes, but I’d prefer Butler. Butler is much younger (25) and can play all three downs. He’d give the Saints a steady tackler in run support and solid help in coverage, as well. The only real concern is the cost, as he has a lot of untapped potential and may be a bit too expensive for the Saints to reel in.
Louis Delmas, S, Detroit Lions
Delmas was a cap casualty and is currently free to sign wherever he wants to. Kenny Vaccaro was awesome as a rookie and should be even better going forward. However, Malcolm Jenkins is a free agent and played out of position at safety and the team just let Roman Harper go, as well. Delmas has had some issues staying healthy, so the hope here is that he’d be a bit of a bargain buy. That may be easier said than done, though, as a ton of teams have big safety needs. Delmas is a solid all-around safety and would be a terrific addition. The Saints will just have to make sure the price is right. If Delmas is too expensive, New Orleans could bring in a cheaper rental like Charles Woodson or Ryan Clark. It’s not crazy to envision them bringing back Malcolm Jenkins, either, although that’s not ideal.
Jason Worilds, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
I’m sure Saints fans would prefer a mammoth-sized splash in someone like Brian Orakpo, but with Graham on the docket, New Orleans will be looking to make mostly financially sound decisions. Taking a nose dive with an injury-prone Orakpo might not be the best idea, despite the insane upside. With that said, the Saints do need more bodies to toss on the outside of their 3-4 scheme on defense. Worilds is expendable in Pittsburgh thanks to the drafting of Jarvis Jones last year, but he was actually pretty solid in 2013. It’s possible the Saints could get him for a bit of a bargain. He’s still just 26, too, so there is some untapped potential to be had here.
Mike Johnson, OT, Atlanta Falcons
Had it not been for a broken leg, Johnson would have started at right tackle in 2013 and probably would have done a pretty good job. He’s a free agent now, though, so he’ll have to sign a relatively cheap deal somewhere and prove he’s still got it. Why not the Saints? Zach Strief was inconsistent on the right side in 2013 and is also a free agent, so the Saints need to make a decision on their o-line. They could always bring back Strief, but if Johnson can be had for cheaper, he’d make a lot of sense. He’s much younger and he should be hungry to prove he can get the job done. Sticking with the offensive line, the Saints also need to make a call on center. They should probably just bring back Brian De La Puente, but if not they’ll need to grab one in free agency or pick one up in the draft. Nobody wants to see two offensive linemen in a “top-five” list, though, so let’s switch gears for the final player on our list.
Asante Samuel, CB, Atlanta Falcons
I know, who wants a 33-year old corner who battled injury issues in 2013? No one, probably. However, the Saints cut Jabari Greer and at the very least need more bodies at corner for depth. I’m sure they’ll go after more help in the draft, too, but they could use the veteran presence. Samuel isn’t done playing and the last time he was healthy and playing he still looked solid. As long as he’s willing to sign on at the right price, he could be a bit of a steal and help round out the Saints’ pass defense.
These are just a few options the Saints may consider in free agency this year. Truth be told, they need to just make sure they secure Graham and also keep the blood from going bad. If they can make a few key signings beyond that, terrific, but it doesn’t feel like they’ll be major players with their current situation.