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2017 free agency: Saints primed for big offseason

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Aug 30, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis before a preseason game against the Houston Texans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 30, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis before a preseason game against the Houston Texans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports /
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Oct 2, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; New Orleans Saints nose tackle Nick Fairley (90) hydrates during the first quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 2, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; New Orleans Saints nose tackle Nick Fairley (90) hydrates during the first quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

The Saints have 18 URFs in 2017, and if they’re going to spend money, it’s going to be here. The good news is that almost none of these players will earn any huge contracts, with one possible exception.

That exception is Nick Fairley.

I’ll be doing a post later in the week about the details of Nick Fairley’s free agency. By that time, I may have a new opinion on the matter. But as of now, I think the Saints should try to sign him to somewhere around a $8 million per year contract. It’s a pretty penny for Fairley, for sure. I’m just not sure they can afford to let him walk. They do have David Onyemata waiting in the wings, and Tyeler Davison has been solid all year. But Fairley is 6th in sacks among DTs, and has played some very good games recently.

Beyond Fairley, the Saints have a number of player’s they’d no doubt like to resign.

Among them, Sterling Moore probably leads the bunch. He’s been excellent after his last minute signing. He may not be a starter in 2017, but the Saints would be foolish to let him walk. He won’t garner any huge money.

I’d also like to see them resign John Kuhn, Tim Lelito, Jamarca Sanford, Justin Drescher, Kyle Wilson, and Tim Hightower. Again, none of these guys will earn more than $1 million per year contracts. The Saints could easily replace any of these guys with cheaper deals if any want more money.

I’m not sure how the Saints feel about some of their more aged veterans. Jahri Evans, Roman Harper, Darryl Tapp, all of these guys played important roles in 2016. If the Saints feel they have more left in the tank, I’d expect them back as well. If not, the only player that really needs replacing is Evans.

That leaves a number of players unsigned.

Seven players, to be exact. And some of them may very well return.

Michael Mauti’s IBS surgery is a mystery to me. I have no idea how well he’ll recover, or if he’ll be readily available next year.

Travaris Cadet played an important role in the offense as the satellite back, and he may return just for that. But I would absolutely love to see the Saints replace him in the offseason. They need a more talented player in that role.

Paul Kruger started the entire season at DE, but almost never had a positive impact. At such a thin position, he may also return. But I hope not. The Saints can spend their money more effectively on a better, up and coming DE.

Finally, Sam Barrington, Shiloh Keo, and John Phillips round out the bottom end of this list. They’re all solid special teams contributors, and the Saints may sign them back. If so, it’ll be for chump change.

So that leaves the Saints with around $13 million in cap space.

Assuming Nick Fairley gets his big contract, the Saints will need to spend in the ballpark of $21 million to essentially resign their entire roster.

That’s about $2 million in 2017 for their ERFAs, $3 million for their RFAs, and maybe around $16 for their UFAs. Again, that’s a very, very, very ballpark number.

Unfortunately, once you set aside around $5 million for their draft picks, the Saints only have $8 million left in free cap space to bring in talent.

Next: Where has the offense gone?

That may not seem like a lot, but considering how the Saints have operated recently, it’s more than enough. There’s space to backload contracts and to work out extensions with current players. Drew Brees is a prime candidate.

The Saints can make a splash in free agency. Let’s just hope they pull this one off.

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