The name of the game? Defense. The Saints added six total free agents during the peak of the offseason (seven if you count Erik Harris), and four of them were brought in to help the front seven. Here’s a look at some grades for the moves the Saints made.
Details: 1-year, $985K contract (March 4)
While this is now one big moot point, it just further goes to show you how the New Orleans Saints kicking game has been one giant roller coaster, with it being more disappointing than thrilling. Josh Scobee had a 2015 season that he’d soon like to forget, finishing 6-for-10 for Mike Tomlin’s Pittsburgh Steelers.
Details: 5-year, $36 million contract (March 9)
Analysts were pretty clear on their stance of the Saints bringing in Coby Fleener, as they either loved or hated it. Most of it centered around the theme of the team overpaying, which is obviously a huge misconception. Despite a poor grade, the move for Fleener was necessary with the loss of Benjamin Watson. Fleener offers the ability to be a versatile weapon in the team’s offense.
Like many free agents the New Orleans Saints have acquired this offseason, the contract is back-loaded to help with the 2016 salary cap. Fleener’s guaranteed half of his 5-year, $36 million contract, and his signing bonus is spread out over the duration of his deal with $1.6 million hits each season. Fleener is fairly certain to flourish with Drew Brees at the helm, and should see career highs in receiving yards, touchdowns, and receptions.
Details: 3-year, $5 million contract (March 16)
Nathan Stupar is a fairly intriguing addition for the New Orleans Saints defense. Primarily known as a special teamer and role player with the Atlanta Falcons, Stupar had some memorable moments in his career. I talked with Stupar in an exclusive interview for WDSU, and he was overjoyed at the opportunity to play for the Saints. His comments in regards to the passionate fan base of the black and gold won’t be forgotten in a very storied rivalry, and should contribute more for the Saints than just special teams in 2016.
Details: 3-year, $9.75 million contract (March 16)
If you haven’t noticed, James Laurinaitis is extremely excited at the new opportunity he has with the Saints. After he first joined the team, there were a lot of theories on where Laurinaitis would go. Was he going to play alongside Stephone Anthony, or was he going to anchor the middle? Laurinaitis was brought in to quarterback the Saints defense, and it’s evident that he has the ability to still be effective.
Laurinaitis has keen recognition, and can wrap up defenders with ease. The Saints are banking on him to be the next coming of Jonathan Vilma, and they may just get their wish.
Details: 3-year, $5 million contract (March 22)
Perhaps one of the most underrated moves the team made in March was adding Craig Robertson to the mix. At first, it wasn’t clear where Robertson would factor in with such a crowded linebacking corps. Now that some time has passed, we know Robertson can be an effective coverage linebacker, and is working on the weak side. Having insurance for Dannell Ellerbe is something the Saints must have, and they look to have the answer.
Details: 1-year, $3 million contract (March 28)
Claims of laziness and work ethic have followed Nick Fairley, but he’s out to prove that it was just fluff. Fairley’s deal with the Saints was an interesting tactic used by general manager Mickey Loomis in itself, as the contract was a ‘shell deal’ for the Saints. Fairley’s deal is technically 3 years (dummy years, if you will) to help spread the value of his signing bonus to help with the salary cap, but still gets him paid.
Fairley grew up a Saints fan, and wanted to play for his team all along. At a trimmed down weight hovering around 281 pounds, Fairley looks to be a key piece of Dennis Allen’s defense. If he can prove to eat the space on the front line, then the Saints run defense can improve exponentially.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the draft class, and I already graded and weighed in on the team’s five picks. Also, the other moves that have unfolded like the return of Roman Harper, signing of Connor Barth, and a host of undrafted rookie free agents can’t be overlooked.
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