Part four: one pick and one signing that will make the 2018 Saints better
By Dayton Brown
Free agency officially kicks off today. With the draft coming next month, the Saints have some boxes to check off during both events.
Boy, has the NFL landscape changed drastically since part three of this series. The combination of free agency and draft preparation wasn’t enough for us adrenaline-filled football fans.
On Saturday, the Cleveland Browns made five different trades. The biggest of which was acquiring Jarvis Landry from the Miami Dolphins, a player I had in part two of this series. They also acquired Tyrod Taylor and swapped around some draft picks while keeping their first and fourth overall selections come April.
A big move that was both surprising and not was that of Richard Sherman and his release by the Seahawks. A day later, he signed with their rival, the San Francisco 49ers. Justin Ellis, another player featured earlier in this series, re signed with the Raiders. And, of course, the signing of veteran safety Kurt Coleman sent Who Dat Nation into a satisfied frenzy.
It sounds like Kirk Cousins has found a new home with the Vikings, as the biggest free agent of this season seems to be off the market. Players like Sammy Watkins, Andrew Norwell, and Allen Robinson have also found new homes within the last 24 hours.
Fortunately for New Orleans as well, Drew Brees has been re-signed. Now that the team’s number one priority is taken care of, the front office will look towards improving other areas on the field. Here’s another pick and another signing they should be considering at the moment.
The pick: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Noticing a common theme in this series? It’s linebackers, and the Saints need to improve that corps as soon as possible. We’ve talked about veteran help, like Nigel Bradham, and outstanding prospects, like Tremaine Edmunds.
Now, let’s profile a more realistic target: a 6’3”, 234-pound, two-time National Champion out of the SEC who will likely be available at 27. Like his high school teammate and now-49er, Rueben Foster, Evans went to Auburn High School. Much to the dismay of their hometowns, both chose to play for the rival Crimson Tide.
That means Evans has played, and probably will always play, with a chip on his shoulder. Evans won a title while playing on one of the nation’s best defenses twice during his college tenure (2015, 2017). He’s physical, tested well at the combine, and fits a big need for New Orleans.
Putting Evans as a weak side linebacker in the Saints’ 4-3 setup would yield a lot of blitzes from Evans and outside run stops. Alex Anzalone was outstanding the four weeks he played last season. His shoulder injury is a big concern, though, so Evans will back up and relieve Anzalone at the very least. Craig Robertson is getting up there in age, and the combination of A.J. Klein, Manti Te’o and newly signed Demario Davis. lock down the middle for New Orleans. Outside backer help is vital for this defense to make the next step.
Evans has an extremely high motor, and he never stops pursuing the football. His tackling techniques and his angle IQ yields very few missed tackles. He could fill a major void to take the Saints to the next level. Does New Orleans look at Evans as much as they did his former teammates, Foster, during last year’s draft?
The signing: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, New York Giants
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Some will argue that the Saints don’t need any help in the secondary because of the addition of Coleman and Patrick Robinson. That may be true for the frontline, but there are major depth concerns with the corners and safeties of this team.
Especially so due to the scheme defensive coordinator Dennis Allen runs. Typically, he will have three safeties on the field at the same time. Coleman is now that third safety, but the Saints still need some insurance guys at the very least for slot coverage. That’s where Cromartie, aka DRC, comes into play.
DRC’s career has been nothing but wildly interesting. He’s 6’2”, 203 pounds, and currently 31 years old. He was the 16th overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals in 2008 out of Tennessee State University.
He was Arizona’s starting nickel back his rookie season, was a Pro Bowler in 2009, and eventually helped the team get to Super Bowl XLIII. However, due to the addition of Patrick Peterson and the need for a QB, the Cardinals traded DRC in 2011 for Kevin Kolb.
He landed in Philadelphia for two seasons, and signed a one-year deal with Denver in 2013. DRC helped them play into Super Bowl XLVIII, another loss for the cornerback. He played so well in Denver that the Giants gave him a 5-year, $35 million deal in 2014, where he played until he was cut last week.
So far in his career (153 games), DRC has 439 combined tackles, 145 passes defended, 30 interceptions, six touchdowns, and 2.5 sacks. He was selected to the Pro Bowl again in 2015, and had a career-high six interceptions in 2016. The 2017 season was filled with locker room drama and suspensions for DRC, as his temper with the coaching staff finally boiled over.
Clearly, Rodgers-Cromartie can still go up and pick the ball off. He’s more of a hawk, and plays much better in zone. He’s always been that way, and his tackling would be an added incentive to a rising secondary in New Orleans.
There are also little things that tie DRC to New Orleans.
But, would Rodgers-Cromartie be willing to play some safety in New Orleans? Tensions rose during his tenure in New York, reportedly due to his unhappiness at being moved from an outside corner to a slot corner. If Rodgers-Cromartie viewed that as a demotion, he certainly will do the same if he takes any snaps as a safety.
Next: We made the case for Demario Davis
Rodgers-Cromartie would be able to play outside corner and slot corner. Something he may be willing to do for such a talented defense. The Saints have less cap space than the Washington Redskins, who Rodgers-Cromartie visited yesterday.
Like I said for Jimmy Graham, New Orleans is the best option if DRC wants to win within the next season or two. He may not make as much money, but his career could end on a winning note, not a money note.