When the lockout is lifted, the Saints are going to have a ton of work on their hands (as will every other team) in crafting their roster. As nice as it would be to pluck some solid free agents on the open market that could potentially represent an upgrade, the Saints have to focus first and foremost on re-signing a bunch of guys that helped build the foundation they proudly sit on now.
One of the big questions the new CBA will address is whether players that previously would have qualified as "restricted free agents" will now be "unrestricted". Under the old CBA, you have to have 4+ years of experience to be an unrestricted free agent. If you had less years of service than that and your contract ran out, you were a restricted free agent giving your original team a clear advantage in re-signing you.
That'll be something to keep in mind as some of the Saints players will be easier/tougher to re-sign depending on how the CBA gets ironed out. Regardless of how the deal works out and who is restricted and who is not, below are all the players who's contracts are up in order of re-signing importance:1. Carl Nicks - He *should* be a restricted free agent, but the Saints run a huge risk of him getting a massive offer on the open market if he goes unrestricted. Regardless, giving him a big deal is of the utmost importance. He's about to hit the jackpot.
2. David Thomas - The Saints only have Jimmy Graham under contract right now. Re-signing Thomas is imperative to their tight end depth.
3. Roman Harper - Say what you will about his playoff performance, he was one of the best defenders for the Saints in 2010 and he's a starter at strong safety that knows the defense. His ability around the box and against the run is still something of value.
4. Lance Moore - He re-emerged as a Drew Brees favorite target last year. While the Saints have a number of capable receivers, Moore is arguably the most reliable of them all.
5. Jonathan Goodwin - The big question is whether or not the Saints feel Matt Tennant is ready to take over as the starting center. I personally would be very disappointed to see him go.
6. Scott Shanle - Shanle's an incumbent starter, though some feel the Saints can use an upgrade at his position. Still, he's a leader and a proven commodity. Say what you will about his play, which isn't the flashiest, you can't argue that he's consistent. The Saints have tried to upgrade that position every off-season and Shanle always holds off whatever competition they bring in. There is something to be said for that.
7. Heath Evans - The Saints have no trustworthy fullback on the roster. Methinks the Saints need him in the locker room even worse than they need him on the field.
8. Danny Clark - He was a pleasant surprise as a starter last season. Still, is he the answer long term?
9. Jermon Bushrod - Like Goodwin, he's got a young player behind him (Charles Brown) knocking at the door for an opportunity to step in. Unlike Goodwin, his performance hasn't been as reliable.
10. Remi Ayodele - He's a starter, and last year his performance started as a really pleasant surprise before it faded to obscurity. Still, the Saints are weak at interior depth.
11. Anthony Hargrove - He's got some interest on the open market and after his regression in play last season I think the Saints may be less inclined to keep him.
12. Zach Strief - If Bushrod goes, the urgency to keep him increases. Either way, he's a great guy, a very good backup that has the ability to start, and i'd like to see him back.
13. Darren Sharper - Malcolm Jenkins is the free safety of the future for the Saints now. In fact, he's the free safety of the present. I have a hard time seeing Sharper back unless he's willing to accept a significantly reduced role.
14. Marvin Mitchell - The Saints haven't brought in a backup middle linebacker to compete and he did a fine job as Vilma's backup.
15. Courtney Roby - No question the new kickoff rules has given his worth a hit. He's still the best gunner on he team, though.
The other guys: Jeff Charleston, Jimmy Wilkerson, Julius Jones, Ladell Betts, Kawika Mitchell, Pierson Prioleau, Matt Giordano, Leigh Torrence, Usama Young, Chris Reis, Tory Humphrey, DeShawn Wynn, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Anthony Waters.
On the "other guys" list, I'd be happy to see any of those guys back in camp competing (if there ever is "camp") or I'd be fine seeing them replaced with upgrades. Ultimately none of those guys will break the starting lineup.
How do you feel about this order? Would you re-arrange it at all?