Saints Free Agency

Saints: The 2016 free agent class in review

tanania
Aug 26, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton sits with owners Gayle Benson and Tom Benson and general manager Mickey Loomis before a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 26, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton sits with owners Gayle Benson and Tom Benson and general manager Mickey Loomis before a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports /
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Possibly the biggest blemish on Sean Payton’s track record—other than three consecutive years without a playoff berth—is his propensity for bad free agent signings. It’s been a singularly frustrating Saints tradition.

But if you’re looking for a reason for optimism in 2017, you might consider the 2016 free agent class. It’s been the Saints’ best in recent memory. And it gives me hope: has Sean Payton finally overcome his talent evaluation problems?

Of course, Payton didn’t hit on every signing. But that’s the nature of the game. And considering how many players have come in and produced at a reasonably high level, despite the Saints negligible cap space in that 2016 offseason, it’s fair to say that the front office did an excellent job.

I’m not going to review every free agent the Saints brought in this season. Many of those players live at the bottom of the Saints’ roster and exclusively play special teams. Others I just don’t know how to evaluate, including S Erik Harris, TE John Phillips and DE Darryl Tapp. They’re solid enough players, but they haven’t had enough of an impact to warrant a grade.

Well, let’s get started. Here’s one of my favorite signings of the year.

CB. 1 year, $760,000. STERLING MOORE. A-.

Dec 4, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Sterling Moore (24) breaks up a pass intended for Detroit Lions wide receiver Andre Roberts (12) during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Detroit defeated New Orleans 28-13. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 4, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Sterling Moore (24) breaks up a pass intended for Detroit Lions wide receiver Andre Roberts (12) during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Detroit defeated New Orleans 28-13. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports /

The Saints signed Moore less than a week before their first game, after Buffalo let him go in their last wave of cuts. I haven’t watched many Bills games this year, so I can’t speak to the strength of their secondary. But I can’t help but think they made a mistake here.

Moore has been a stud for New Orleans, at such a low cap hit. When injuries decimated this secondary, Moore stepped in as the starting CB. He proceeded to shut down Julio Jones and OBJ. He’s made a number of opportunistic interceptions on the year, and has generally been a bright spot in the secondary.

I’ll admit, when the Saints released Cortland Finnegan for Moore I was somewhat disappointed. I liked Finnegan’s energy and tackling ability. But there’s no doubt that Moore is the better player. He’s made some truly exceptional plays this year, and can cover man-to-man almost as well as a true CB1. The Saints will hopefully do everything they can to keep him on board for 2017 and the future. He’s only 26 years old. A real steal at the end of the offseason, and from the bargain bin no less.

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