"Draft? Who needs a stinkin' draft?" - Mike Ditka's and, apparently, Mickey Loomis' April strategy.
During the Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis era, the New Orleans Saints have concentrated on building their team primarily through free agency and with limited draft picks. Once again, that's probably not going to change this off-season.
This is will be the seventh consecutive year that the Saints will be going into the draft with six picks or less. That has been a big reason why Payton's teams have been built through free agency.
Right now, the front office has already started cutting dead weight and re-structuring deals. Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith are the next names up on the re-structuring block. I have a feeling that Payton wants to keep these guys around, mainly because they were so loyal to them during the bounty "sham" investigations. Both would be best served to just move on and start fresh somewhere new (More than likely, both will be restructured and be on the team for one last hurrah).
Looking at the crop of free agents, there are plenty of guys who would look good in Black & Gold, on both sides of the ball.
On the defensive side of things, when you bring a new defensive coordinator into the fold, he always winds up finagling at least one free agent from his previous coaching stop. Gregg Williams brought in Pierson Prioleau. Steve Spagnuolo signed up Chris Chamberlain. This year shouldn't be any different with Rob Ryan.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Saints' major focus will be on the offensive tackle and tight end positions and, to a lesser extent, wide receiver.
Let's take a look at a few guys who can help out New Orleans without breaking the bank too bad.
Beatty's career is what Charles Brown's would look like if he wasn't so prone to injury. He is a strong and athletic lineman who has gotten better every year, especially in regards to his technique. The UConn alum is an effective run or pass blocker and it doesn't look like he will be resigning in New York, with their attention on their other free agents.
I let both of these guys share this spot because, in essence, they are the same player. The only difference being that Casey is three inches taller. Besides that, they are the same player, same age, weight, hands, versatility. The list keeps going on.
Payton loves his players being versatile, and I'm sure he didn't want to release David Thomas, but the injury concerns had to be too much for them to gamble on in 2013. That is why I see him looking for that same type of player, that H-Back type, to backup Jimmy Graham and do similar things to what Thomas used to do.
Both Walker and Casey would fill that role and add just another dimension to an already potent Saints attack.
Brandon Tate, WR, Cincinnati
His value has gone down a bit after a subpar year with the Bengals in 2012, but you would be signing Tate and hoping that you were getting the 2010-11 version of him. In that time, he was a feared return man, and a threat to take the top off of a defense whenever he was on the field.
His main purpose on this team would be to become the primary return man. Darren Sproles going out on a punt every once in a while is fine, but you'd rather him focus in on making the his offensive game just that much better. That's where Tate comes in. He could help keep Sproles fresher for the offense but also giving the Saints a legitimate return man they haven't had in a while.
Victor Butler, OLB, Dallas
This is the guy I think follows Ryan from the Cowboys, and not Anthony Spencer. He is three years younger than Spencer and played well subbing for DeMarcus Ware and Spencer. Butler is a strong at the point of attack and great in run support. His pass-rushing skills are overlooked at times, but, when he's had the chance, he's shown that athleticism to be an above-average rusher.
Desmond Bryant, DE, Oakland
As of now, it looks like the Saints could be using Hicks at nose tackle according to ourlads.com. Personally, I say that is a waste of Hicks' talent, but, if they do play him at that position, Bryant would be a good compliment to Cameron Jordan, Add Hicks into the mix, and you have a very young, very dominate defensive front.
And you know what every player on that line's specialty? Rushing the passer. What have the Saints lacked? Pass rushers. This would be a step in the right direction at setting up a youthful base to their 3-4 system.
Cary Williams, CB, Baltimore
Williams is going to be the odd man out in the Ravens secondary with Lardarius Webb coming back and Jimmy Smith progressing nicely. That could make him available for a Saints unit that has decent talent, yet underachieve. Williams would remedy that very quickly.
He is an excellent man-to-man corner who is not afraid to get his nose dirty in run support. He is also a taller corner at 6' 1" that would be ideal against some of the bigger receivers that New Orleans plays against in the NFC South.
These wildcards are entirely dependent on if the Saints front office finally decides to cut ties with Roman Harper, either via trade or release. If they do, I can definitely see bringing them in on a 1-2 year contract and making another run at the Lombardi Trophy. Both have injury concerns, but Reed has been surprisingly healthy the past two years, not missing any games.
Both are ball-hawking "center fielders" who are constantly creating turnovers and, when that happens, they usually know how to get it into the end zone. Either one of these players would also help elevate Malcolm Jenkins game. Having those guys on the field would bring more opportunities for Jenkins to make plays like he did in 2010-11.