The other day, good old cajuncommando posted an excellent comprehensive list of every free agent available in the 2015 offseason. As of today, according to spotrac, the Saints are approximately $23 million over the cap. General Manager Mickey Loomis is going to have to do a lot of moving and shaking to get the Saints under that number, and restructures are looming. However, Loomis has kicked the can about as far as he can on some of the major contracts that he's signed, and it's about to time to pay the piper (that piper's name is Drew Brees).
I'm not a general manager, nor will I ever purport to be. I don't know how Loomis is going to get New Orleans under the cap, but when he does, it won't be by much. For this reason, when March comes around, don't expect the Saints to be terribly active in free agency. They aren't going to be signing blockbuster players, and I would be utterly astounded if another Jairus Byrd situation occurred in 2015. The Saints are going to try to fill their needs with role players, and that's okay. For this reason, I'm looking at players that they may sign that could effectively fill a role that the Saints need filled, for a reasonable price.
Perrish Cox - CB: San Francisco
A lot of Saints fans may not like him after the Hail Mary play against San Francisco was called back because of him in 2014, but Cox had the best season of his career last season by a mile. With 18 passes defended, 5 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries and 49 tackles, Cox finally made himself into a viable NFL corner after 3 years of mediocrity in his limited snaps. He will likely get overlooked due to Chris Culliver being on the market as well, as Culliver is the player that stole most of the attention in San Francisco on the edge. Cox's solid 2014 campaign may put him on the outside of what the Saints can pay him, but if the price is right he could be a good anchor opposite Keenan Lewis. Obviously the Saints signed Delvin Breaux from Canada in order to get CB depth, but they will likely want to see someone who's already been in the NFL for a few years in order to ensure that the talent gap in the CFL didn't account for Breaux's seemingly freakish coverage.
Kareem Jackson - CB: Houston
There have been rumblings of the Saints already having talked to Jackson, but they're just that: rumblings. Jackson played fairly well for Houston in 2014, garnering 9 passes defended, 3 picks and 48 tackles. Despite the rumors of talks occurring between the two camps, however, Jackson has stated publicly that he wants to remain in Houston. Whether this is a case of simply saying the right things or sincerity remains to be seen, but to assume one way or the other would be foolish. Jackson is a young, quick talent, and he could help the Saints' secondary immensely if Cox turns out to be out of their price range.
Clint Boling - G: Cincinnatti
In 2013 and 2014, Brees took 37 and 30 sacks, respectively. Between 2006 and 2012, Brees never took more than 26 sacks in a season. Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs are both aging guards. Brees used to be able to avoid interior pressure by stepping up in the pocket, but that's no longer an option as the pocket is folding in on itself. This has led to more bad decisions by Brees (not to excuse them, some of them are REALLY bad), and for a quarterback that plays with the style that Brees does a pocket is so important. Boling could add youth to the Saints' interior line, and create a bit more of a throwing lane for Brees.
These positions are really the main two that I believe can be filled through free agency. The re-signing of Parys Haralson only reaffirmed my belief that Mel Kiper & Todd McShay are correct and the Saints should draft Dante Fowler, or a pass rusher of similar caliber in the first round. Haralson, while being strong in gap discipline and backside containment, simply isn't a playmaker and he isn't dynamic getting to the quarterback. He should be a role player, not a feature of the defense. In fact, this offseason I'd be looking almost entirely defense, with the exception of a guard and, presuming Ingram walks, a running back. The only reason to sign a CB in free agency is because there isn't a lot of depth at the position in the draft. It looks to be fairly top-heavy, with Trae Wayes of MSU and Jalen Collins of LSU headlining. Re-signing Patrick Robinson is an option, but he actually looked fairly comfortable in the slot during the back half of 2014, and it wouldn't make sense to put him outside again even if they do go that route. Barring some kind of ridiculous emergence of Stanley Jean-Baptiste in 2015, the Saints need to do something about their number 2 cornerback position, but reaching for one in the first round likely isn't the answer.
David Hawthorne is, of course, still on the Saints' books, but if they can get another ILB to anchor the front 7 along with Curtis Lofton that would be ideal. There are, seemingly, quite a few diamonds in the rough at ILB in the 2015 draft, with Denzel Perryman of Miami (FL) being the only consensus first rounder. The versatility of Eric Kendricks makes him an enticing player for a second round team if he drops that far, but it's more likely that Stephone Anthony (Clemson) or Hayes Pullard (USC) will be around when the Saints even get to thinking about ILBs. Hawthorne can fill the gap if need be, but his lateral quickness and pass coverage leave a lot to be desired. In Rob Ryan's schemes, these flaws can prove fatal to a defense in the middle of the field.
There are thousands of ways that this offseason can play out, but the important thing for the Saints is to not go for the splash. The Saints are a team with needs, and it's imperative that those needs are addressed. Going from the 4th defense in the NFL to 31st doesn't just happen, something has to give. Despite having the worst salary cap situation in the NFL, the Saints should have a few options come March 10th. It's just a matter of knowing what they need and having a plan.
Writer's Note: I tried making a poll for this, but the answers and routes that the Saints can take are so varied it became impractical. If you have an alternate plan though, leave it in the comments, because I'd love to see others' takes!