The New Orleans Saints are playing "Cool Hand Luke" when it comes to free agency in 2013. The cavalier attitude of the front office may be driving fans up the wall but it has served them well in not getting in over their heads or more importantly over the salary cap.
So far the major player that eluded the Saints was linebacker Paul Kruger who ended up signing with the Cleveland Browns. It was later revealed, with much frustration, that not only did the Saints make an offer to Kruger but he would have signed had the money been right. Other players were no doubt in the grasp of the Saints but chose to sign with other teams due to the same reasons.
Cornerback Keenan Lewis did say he was likewise offered a bigger contract by another team but decided to come back to his hometown of New Orleans instead.
Four names have been outed as obvious targets by the Saints with two taking recent visits. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, linebacker Victor Butler, offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, and defensive end Vaughn Martin. After losing Kruger and others to another bidder, should the Saints focus on one player to go after aggressively?
Asomugha is a hot one since the Saints secondary was torched beyond belief last year. While he may not be the magic cure, he would definitely help since he has operated under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan before. Asomugha has been knocked as falling off but was greatly misused by the Philadelphia Eagles zone scheme instead of man coverage which he thrives in.
Although the Saints do have potential starters in Patrick Robinson, Jabari Greer, and obviously Lewis, general manager Mickey Loomis did say that there is a place for all of them on the roster and that their mantra is that no certain player is guaranteed a starting spot.
Asomugha left the Saints after a visit last Sunday without a contract after being spotted out with Ryan for lunch. He is also being courted by the San Francisco 49ers for his talents. One thing in the Saints favor is not only the Ryan connection, but that Asomugha will get $4 million from the Eagles due to his contract which would help the cash strapped club sign him to a manageable deal.
Butler's name emerged for the Saints at the start of the offseason and went into high gear when Ryan was hired. He has played in Ryan's 3-4 scheme during their time with the Dallas Cowboys and was thought to be a move that could happen much like when former defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo brought in linebacker Chris Chamberlain last season.
Butler also visited the Saints on Thursday and Friday of this past week after being pursued by the Pittsburgh Steelers and the general consensus was that he wasn't leaving without a contract. However Butler did just that and is said to be headed to the Browns for a visit.
After being shadowed on the Cowboys roster, Butler has proven to be a hidden gem and generated 89 tackles, 11 sacks and 4 forced fumbles in his limited amount of playing time. With the Saints looking to improve their pass rush he would be a nice pickup. The only bad note is that Butler is also looking to get paid which could kill the deal with the cash strapped team.
The need for an offensive tackle is an area that has grown a bit for me over the past week after conferring with some fellow writers and on a recent edition of The NOLA Rundown. While he hasn't officially visited with the team, McKinnie did say on a radio show recently that he has gotten some interest from the Saints.
Prior to that the Chicago Bears were in the hunt for him until they landed offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod no doubt mainly for the connection to his former offensive line coach Aaron Kromer who is now the Bears offensive coordinator. Other than that McKinnie has stayed pretty quiet on all fronts.
The Saints do have Charles Brown at left tackle as well as sophomore player Marcel Jones. The Saints could also draft a tackle this year but unless they use it on a first round talent I'd be kind of nervous trusting a late rounder protecting Drew Brees blindside. That combined with Brown's injury history makes a signing of a veteran like McKinnie that much more pressing if not urgent.
Martin is intriguing because he popped up along with a long list of candidates seeking his attention. At 327 lbs., Martin has played both defensive end and tackle while in college at Western Ontario in Canada. He was selected in the fourth round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers and has proved to be capable of holding his own the past few seasons.
In 2011 he had 27 tackles and one sack while in 2012 he had one just as impressive with 19 tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble. Martin's rising talent could help push the Saints as they appear to try to be going younger. Though he has played end with the Chargers, he could also be brought in to play the tackle position on the defensive line.
The Saints, though, are going to have to compete with several teams for his attention. Also in play for Martin are said to be the Chargers, New England Patriots, Detroit Lions, and Philadelphia Eagles. Currently the Saints have Brodrick Bunkley and Akiem Hicks at the defensive tackle position and could use someone like Martin but how badly they want him is the question.