Nov 30, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson (21) commits a penalty on Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) during the fourth quarter against at Heinz Field. The Saints won 35-32. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Time is running out for the New Orleans Saints to make championship runs. For those who aren’t already aware, the bulk of many player contracts are up after the 2016 season. As of now, it’s hard to imagine what the team will look like when 2017 starts. Players like Drew Brees, Marques Colston, and Pierre Thomas will be gone. In fact, there’s only twelve players on contract in 2017 as of right now.
So, where do you start in 2015? We all know there’s a laundry list of positional needs that grow by the day for the team. We also know that we face a salary cap crisis currently, but can feel easier about the situation with general manager Mickey Loomis at the helm. Sean Payton has hinted that major changes are on the horizon for the team in 2015, and the lack of maturity seems to be a common prevailing theme from 2014.
What’s more important? Is it defense? Is it offense? Will one player through a Top 15 draft pick in April really make the difference for this team? Do we look at free agency to make a big splash again, or do we focus on lesser players that don’t command as much monetarily?
Today, I start a mini-series of articles that focus on the top glaring needs for the Saints heading into 2015, and we start with a position that almost anyone can agree is in their top three.
Saints Free Agents: Patrick Robinson (UFA), Terrence Frederick (RFA), Adrian Davis (RFA)
As great as Keenan Lewis has been for the Saints, he simply cannot do things by himself. Corey White looks to move to the free safety position in 2015, but nothing about that seems set in stone at this point. Week in and week out, we sat wondering why we weren’t seeing SJB suit up. We asked ourselves, ‘Is he really that bad for him to not even play once during the season?’. What you need to know about him is that he’s a true project, and we hope that we see him on the field in 2015.
It would hurt to have secondary coach Wesley McGriff depart for Vanderbilt (see latest rumors), because it could mean SJB has to start all over. While that isn’t the case (yet), the evident truth is that the Saints need a shutdown corner opposite Keenan Lewis to truly compete and return to their 2013 form when they allowed less than 200 yards passing/game.
Seasoned Veterans of Interest Available: Darrelle Revis (29), Brandon Flowers (28), Tramon Williams (31), Antonio Cromartie (30), Charles Tillman (33), Alan Ball (29), Bradley Fletcher (28), Darius Butler (28),
Younger Experience Well Worth a Look: Buster Skrine (25), Brandon Harris (24), Walter Thurmond (26), Byron Maxwell (26), Kyle Wilson (27), Javier Arenas (27), Kareem Jackson (26), Josh Gordy (27), Perrish Cox (27)
Draft Prospects: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (Oregon), Trae Waynes (Michigan State), Ronald Darby (Florida State), Jalen Collins (LSU), Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest),
Revis figures to be too expensive for the Saints pockets in 2015, but would be the absolutely best option for the team. Tillman could also be another great option, as his track record speaks to the upside he brings to a team. What’s not so appealing is the fact that he’s coming off of a torn triceps injury. He fits into the Champ Bailey type equation, so perhaps this could be a relatively good option for the Saints secondary.
In my opinion, two of the best options for the Saints at an appealing price would be Maxwell and Cox. Both come from very respected secondaries (Seahawks and 49ers), and have proven their abilities as cover corners. Maxwell gets my personal vote, but only slightly. I like his press-man coverage skills much better. However, it’s very close.
Naturally, it’s all a puzzle piece when you talk about free agency. Rest assured that Seattle will likely do anything and everything they can to keep Byron Maxwell on the Legion of Boom, and they have more than enough money ($119 million) to lock him up. The same can’t be said with Perrish Cox and San Francisco, as the 49ers cap figure is currently at $148 million for 2015. Both will command a lot of attention on the open market when Free Agency starts in March.
We also can’t rule out a return of Patrick Robinson, although many would gladly have other options instead. Robinson showed flashes and promise throughout his tenure with the Saints, but was inconsistent overall. His best role is in the slot as a nickel corner, and he’d have to be willing to accept that type of money to return.
Drafting a cornerback very early is a giant risk/reward these days. The Saints would likely benefit more from taking a pass rusher or offensive lineman. However, that’s suited for another article.
What do you see the Saints best course of action for the cornerback position? Should the team look to lock up a big name, young up and comer, or turn to the draft? Sound off below!