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Saints Free Agent Review - Linebacker and Secondary

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The next big happening of the NFL off-season will be the beginning of the free agency signing period on February 27th. With that in mind, I figured we could take a look at all of Saints players who will become free agents this year. The coaching staff definitely has some tough decisions ahead of them. Let's try to put our finger on what the organization might have in store for these players.

First, a little briefing on the different levels of free agency, courtesy of the official NFLPA website.

Free agency rights depend on the number of "accrued seasons" the player has at the time his contract expires. An accrued season is a season in which the player has been on "full pay status" for six (6) or more regular season games. There are three categories of free agents:

1. Unrestricted: In a capped year, a player with four or more accrued seasons has unrestricted free agency rights. Five or more accrued seasons are required for unrestricted free agency in an uncapped year (1993 or the last year of the CBA). An unrestricted free agent may sign with any team. If the unrestricted free agent is not signed by June 1, his old club may offer him a contract with a 10% raise over his prior year's salary, and thereby obtain the exclusive right to re-sign him after July 15 if he has not signed elsewhere by then.

2. Restricted: A player with three but less than four accrued seasons (four but less than five in an uncapped year) can seek offers from other clubs after his contract expires, but he has only 60 days to do so (from around March 1 to mid-April). If he gets an offer, his old club must choose between matching it and retaining him, or letting him go to the new club in return for draft choice compensation. The draft choice compensation varies depending upon the offer the old club gives the player prior to becoming a restricted free agent.

3. Exclusive Rights: A player with an expiring contract who has less than three accrued seasons can only sign with his old club, provided that he is offered a one-year contract at the minimum salary for the upcoming year. If the exclusive rights free agent gets no such offer, he is completely free.

The first group of players we'll take a look at our the linebackers and secondary. The biggest priority on this list is, of course, Jonathan Vilma. But it's our secondary that needs help the most and quite a few players will have a chance at new deals. Let's see who will probably be around next season and who might be leaving the Saints when free agency begins.

Linebackers

Player Position Years Exp. FA Status Evaluation
Marvin Mitchell
LB 2
ERFA

As an exclusive rights free agent, the Saints only need to offer Mitchell the minimum salary to keep him on the payroll in 2009. Mitchell is still young and has upside so at that price I expect to see him around next year to compete for a spot.

CSC says: Keep him!

Player Position Years Exp. FA Status Evaluation
Jonathan Vilma
LB
5
UFA

I will cancel my season tickets and shut down CSC if Vilma is not re-signed within the first five minutes of the free agency period. There is no need to go at length on this topic. Vilma is the leader of this defense. Gregg Williams is in love with him. Only because of loop holes surrounding his trade does Vilma not already have a contract. This one is a lock.

CSC says: Keep him!

Player Position Years Exp. FA Status Evaluation
Troy Evans
LB
7
UFA

Evans contributed minimally last season at linebacker but he's valuable on special teams and that can sometimes be enough. It shouldn't cost too much to keep him around and I think he's one of those hard-working underdog types that coaches love. Definitely worth another look.

CSC says: Keep him!

Secondary

Player Position Years Exp. FA Status Evaluation
Aaron Glenn
CB 15 UFA

2009 needs to be the start of a new era for the Saints defense and an aging, injury-prone Glenn shouldn't fit into those plans. Other teams may not be interested either. It might be time for him to think about retiring to Florida and catching the early bird specials.

CSC says: See ya!

Player Position Years Exp. FA Status Evaluation
Terrence Holt
SS 6 UFA

If the Saints actually do draft a safety or two this year, it might get a little crowded in the backfield and Holt may be out of a job. Personally, I could care less about the future of Holt.

CSC says: See ya!

Player Position Years Exp. FA Status Evaluation
Michael Lehan
CB
6
UFA

Lehan was a late-season pick up to help fill a roster spot amid the Saints' ridiculous amount of injuries in 2008. I've never even seen this guy play. Have you?

CSC says: See ya!

Player Position Years Exp. FA Status Evaluation
Leigh Torrence
CB 3
RFA

Torrence is in the same boat as Lehan above. It won't cost much to keep him but I doubt he'll provide the much needed help this secondary craves so badly.

CSC says: See ya!

Player Position Years Exp. FA Status Evaluation
Chris Reis
FS 2 ERFA

The hard hitting Reis impressed enough in camp last year to earn a spot on the roster. The Saints will probably offer him the minimum and let him try and impress them again. He's great on special teams and could make for a valuable backup.

CSC says: Keep him!

Player Position Years Exp. FA Status Evaluation
Josh Bullocks
FS 4 UFA

You are the weakest link. Goodbye. In all seriousness, if the Saints want to make a real stab at improving their secondary, particularly the safety spot, Josh Bullocks must go. Consider it addition by subtraction.

CSC says: See ya!