New Orleans Saints mailbag: Free agency approaches, who do you take at No. 12?

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Oct 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; San Francisco 49ers guard Alex Boone (75) during the game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; San Francisco 49ers guard Alex Boone (75) during the game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports /

If you’re talking about the open market, then I’m looking at what’s available. You’re going to get a lot of antsy teams over the next couple of weeks who feel they have to make the biggest and best splashes in free agency. I think the biggest thing we’ll hear for the Saints and free agency is ‘value’ and ‘depth’, and they’ll go find the right guys that gel with what they’ve tried to do after the huge debacle of 2014 with the locker room and character issues.

If I’m Mickey Loomis, I’m staring at a huge hole with my interior offensive guard spot with only Cyril Lemon on the roster right now. You have to go get a veteran or two to protect the quarterback you may be extending and counting on to be your leader for the next several years. There are some good free agents out there like Kelechi OsemeleAlex BooneRamon Foster and my personal favorite Jeff Allen.

Robert F. – What 6 positions would be ideal picks in the draft. I know we go BPA. Ideally though is we could find the right player in each position. What order do you rank those needs?

As far as positions of importance, I’d tell you (in order) that it’s weak side linebacker, defensive end, defensive tackle, offensive lineman, cornerback, and kicker.

I absolutely believe that there are gems throughout the draft that I’ve been high on. For instance, weak side linebacker finds like LSU’s Deion Jones, USC’s Su’a Cravens, and Rutgers’ Steve Longa would be some names to start familiarizing yourself with if you haven’t already. Jones and Cravens could be Day 2 selections, while a player like Longa could be a Day 3 or priority undrafted rookie free agent.

The same applies for a pass rusher. One name you should keep on the radar is Matt Judon out of Grand Valley State University. I highlighted him and selected him as the Saints’ 7th Round draft choice in my last mock, and he had a strong Combine performance. He’ll have his Pro Day on March 15.

I’ve tackled something to this effect in my 5 New Orleans Saints who could be a big team boost article in January. Both Davis Tull and P.J. Williams figure to have larger roles in 2016, but I’d have to give the edge to Williams. He has the chance to make a bigger impact, in my opinion. A lot of the attention will go on how Keenan Lewis has recovered from his several surgeries, and how durable Damian Swann can be given his concussion history. I’m very interested to see what Tull brings to the table as a pass rushing presence, but Williams was projected a first round pick.

Matthew S. – My soapbox for a minute. Seriously why are the Saints jerking around with Brees and an extension ? They know to have any type of FA it has to get done before March 7

I think having the cap space is a very common myth, and the New Orleans Saints have proven this year after year. Just because we don’t think a player is in the price range ‘because the salary cap says so’, there are plenty of ways to get someone without having to slaughter your salary cap. Now, that’s obviously hurt the Saints in the past, which may cause them to err on the side of caution.

It’s pretty clear that there is no rush to get this deal done, and we’ve heard that from General Manager Mickey Loomis and Head Coach Sean Payton multiple times. If it’s done before March 9, then you’ll see the Saints play a little more in free agency. However, the good news is that the team is making space without touching Brees’ contract. By my calculations, the Saints will sit around $143.95 million by the time they release Brandon Browner with a post-June 1 designation. This would give them an estimated $12.4 million in salary cap space. There’s also more money to be gained with players like Zach StriefMax Unger, and Thomas Morstead.

The bottom line is that the Brees’ extension will happen. There are other moves to be made that will generate other savings.

As appealing as it would be to gain a dominant veteran defensive lineman, I can’t see the Saints losing draft picks. Sean Payton talked about acquiring the right players that are team guys, and he also said that last year’s draft class had the makeup that the Saints were looking for. You never say never, and I’d be more inclined to have the team trade back several spots to gain an extra pick or two. However, the idea of having Muhammad Wilkerson or Olivier Vernon as a pass rushing presence in addition to Cameron Jordan is quite appealing.

John P. – Seeing Payton has no patience for kicker’s John. Do you think he will draft one or sign a veteran free agent?

This seems to be a very cloudy scenario. On one hand, the Saints have expressed interest in kicker prospects Roberto Aguayo (Florida State) and Ross Martin (Duke). On the other hand, there are rumors floating out there that the team has interest in bringing back Kai Forbath. From my perspective, I see this as another battle brewing for the kicking job in 2016 that we’ve seen over the past couple of seasons.

My best guess is that Forbath gets re-signed on a one-year deal to give competition to the kicker the Saints are targeting in the draft. They could land Ross Martin in the 7th Round or as an undrafted rookie free agent, but Aguayo would command a 4th Round selection at the very least.

I think the Saints can get away with not looking at a defensive tackle until the 2nd Round, so my top targets at No. 12 would be DeForest Buckner, Myles Jack, and Shaq Lawson. I believe Lawson becomes the most realistic target at that spot, but we’ve witnessed crazy things that happen in the draft over the past decade. However, Emmanuel Ogbah is an intriguing prospect with his size and speed. Oklahoma State’s Pro Day is on March 8, so I’m sure teams will have another look.

Dale G. – How is Mark Ingram’s rehab coming along? Will he be ready for camp?

All signs point to Mark Ingram being on track from his torn rotator cuff surgery. There’s no reason that he shouldn’t be ready for OTAs (organized team activities). He was seen with his sling on during the National Championship game, but it appeared to be off nearly three weeks later.