New Orleans Saints Offseason Preview: A deep dive into the defensive end needs

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - NOVEMBER 28: Ra'Shede Hageman #90 and Cameron Jordan #94 of the New Orleans Saints celebrate a sack by Marcus Davenport #92 against the Atlanta Falcons during the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on November 28, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - NOVEMBER 28: Ra'Shede Hageman #90 and Cameron Jordan #94 of the New Orleans Saints celebrate a sack by Marcus Davenport #92 against the Atlanta Falcons during the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on November 28, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /
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The New Orleans Saints have some studs on the defensive side of the football.

In particular, the defensive ends stood out, as Cameron Jordan dominated opposing offensive lines and notched 15.5 sacks in 2019, making the Pro Bowl. He was a staple for the New Orleans Saints’ defensive ends.

On the right side of the defensive line, Marcus Davenport posted six sacks and forced three fumbles before his season ended in December with a foot injury. Davenport was sorely missed in the team’s Wild Card loss to Minnesota.

Davenport and defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins were both placed on injured reserve with leg injuries, costing the Saints in the postseason as the Minnesota Vikings were relatively unfazed from the defensive front in the Wild Card Playoff.

New Orleans had three sacks on Kirk Cousins, but Minnesota was able to sustain many drives with successful third-down conversions, as it made 10 of 18.

The backups for Jordan and Daveneport were Trey Hendrickson and Carl Granderson, who combined for just 5.5 sacks on the season.

Jordan is under contract through the 2023 season from his three-year, $52.5M extension last year, and the five-time Pro Bowler has emerged as a team leader on the field and in the locker room.

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Davenport is still playing with a rookie contract, and he may earn himself a huge pay-day with a double-digit sack season and possibly a Pro Bowl nod as he enters his third season with the Saints.

As Jordan continues to shine and Davenport learns the ropes, another veteran presence on the defense could help the Saints put pressure on opposing signal-callers.

There are bigger needs for the team in 2020 like wide receiver, offensive line and cornerback, but the team has found diamonds in the rough for positions that aren’t in a big demand.

In the past, draft picks like Alvin Kamara and Ryan Ramcyzk in 2017 come to mind in these kinds of situations.

In the free agency market, New Orleans could look to target Ezekiel Ansah, whom the team had looked at last offseason before he signed a one-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks.

His contract was worth $9M, but in 2019, he only totaled 2.5 sacks and forced and recovered two fumbles in the Northwest.

Ansah could agree to a substantial paycut to play for a contender and alongside two talented rushers in Jordan and Davenport, while providing league experience at age 30 and having a Pro Bowl selection under his belt.

Another possible player to sign would be Carl Nassib, a 6-foot 7-inch, 275-pound defender who recorded 6.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer in 2019.

In 2018, Tampa Bay claimed Nassib off waivers, and New Orleans could snag the 26-year-old as he only made about $2M last season and he turns 27 next month.

Perhaps one of these players could add some depth to the defensive end position and improve the New Orleans Saints defense as a complete unit.

One player like an Ansah or Nassib could come in handy should a player like Davenport go down, and if the whole group is healthy, they have the ability to create havoc in the pocket.

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It’s a win-win situation if these free agents land a contract for a contender in the NFC and save the Saints a few bucks while maintaining talent on their roster.

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