The New Orleans Saints entered the 2016 offseason knowing that they would once again make their lack of cap space work for them. Like previous seasons, the front office had to find the bargain deals and potentially make one big signing.
The Saints are increasingly becoming known for their poor free agent decisions. They have by far the biggest dead money total in the league at $41.8 million, and have had that honor for the past two years. That being sad, this could be the year they turn it around. We take a look at what free agent acquisitions we liked most throughout the first four games.
After Delvin Breaux was lost to a fractured fibula in Week 1, the Saints had to go out and find a solid replacement. It always hard to find that after the start of the season, but it looks like the team might have something with B.W. Webb.
He was called onto the field against the Falcons and played pretty well. Not brilliant, but he did his part and showed that he should be above rookie De’Vante Harris on the depth chart.
Against the Chargers, he really showed up. He had tight coverage throughout the game and deflected a few passes in the process. His most important play came at the end of the game by sealing the team’s first victory with an interception.
He hasn’t been around for long, but Webb looks like a great addition to a banged up secondary. Hopefully, he can continue the good play throughout the season.
John Kuhn was added to the squad because of an injury to the Saints starting fullback Austin Johnson. The long-time Green Bay Packer is not only showing he still has it, but he’s also a great guy to have around on the team.
And so far this season, Kuhn has been producing more than anyone expected. He is tied for seventh in the NFL in rushing touchdowns with 3, and he also added one receiving touchdown against the Chargers. When it comes to Kuhn, it’s not only the scoring that’s been important. The Saints have also used him in short yardage situations to get first downs.
Kuhn was not a big flashy pickup, but he has proven to be very valuable for the Saints both on and off the field.
Because of the increasing amount of injuries on the Saints, especially on defense, Sean Payton had to dig deep in his depth chart and turn to Sterling Moore against the Giants in Week 2.
Moore played well, and was one of the reasons the Giants didn’t score an offensive touchdown all game. With him lining up against Odell Beckham Jr., it’s definitely something to acknowledge. Ever since that game, Moore has been a steady performer. He has done what he could to limit the opposing receivers even when the defense has struggled.
Only time will tell if Moore will perform as good as he has so far, but he has the abilities and he could end up being a permanent starter for the remainder of the season.
Being one of the more underrated signings this summer, many didn’t have high hopes for Robertson. He was predicted to be a backup linebacker in Dennis Allen’s 4-3 scheme. Robertson’s stint in Cleveland produced a guy who could come in and help cover running backs and tight ends, which is something the Saints have struggled with during the last few years.
Because of Dannell Ellerbe’s unavailability with a quad injury, Robertson has started all four games. In those four games, he has 41 tackles and two passes defended. He was actually the league leader in tackles before the Chargers game, but couldn’t stay in front of Zach Brown from the Buffalo Bills. The tackles he’s racked up serves as a indicator of just how good Robertson has been for the Saints. Without him, the team would be in bigger trouble at the linebacker spot, but because of his talent and versatility, they can use him in different roles and move him around the different linebacker positions.
Robertson has been of the most important players for the Saints this season and we all hope he continues to show the great form he is in.
Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton went into this season knowing that defensive tackle was likely their biggest position of need. With John Jenkins underperforming and Kevin Williams retiring, the Saints had to come up with solutions. They did so by drafting Louisville Cardinals star Sheldon Rankins, but he has yet to play because of a broken fibula.
Enter Nick Fairley. The Saints signed the former first-round pick to a one-year prove it deal over the summer, and so far he has showed out. He currently leads the team with 3.0 sacks (all over the last two games) and is tied for second in tackles for loss with three. His partnership with Tyeler Davison seems perfect while Rankins is out, and the two have helped lower the average rushing yards per attempt for the opposing offense.
Fairley’s playing time will most likely go down when Rankins return, but he is proving to everyone that he should be on the field more than most probably expected. The two could be the perfect duo in Dennis Allen’s 4-3 scheme, as they can both rush the passer and sheds the blocks in the run game. In turn, all Saints fans should look forward to that when Rankins potentially returns on Nov. 6 against the San Francisco 49ers.