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ESPN Insider Field Yates: Saints should not re-sign free agent Nick Fairley

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The Saints’ only big unrestricted free agent is big interior lineman Nick Fairley. Should he return to the team in 2017 and beyond?

NFL: Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley (90) celebrates tackling Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) in the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

We’re less than a month out from the dawn of NFL free agency and the tweets are already flying fast and furious. ESPN Insider Field Yates recently assessed each team’s toughest offseason decision and threw his two cents out there. You can read the full article with an ESPN insider subscription, but here’s his take on the question of what to do with New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley:

New Orleans found tremendous value in Fairley last year when he inked a one-year, low-risk deal worth $1.5 million. The reward for his stellar play should rear itself on the open market, which would likely price him out of New Orleans' range. The Saints have some cap breathing room this offseason, but the focus on this defense must be building it through the draft, addressing the linebacker spot and getting healthy in the secondary.

Verdict: Let him walk.

The urge to re-sign Fairley no matter the cost is plain, but the Saints need to be smart about this. Fairley tied Jacksonville Jaguars nose guard Malik Jackson and Philadelphia Eagles interior lineman Fletcher Cox for 6.5 sacks in his breakout 2016 season; just four other defensive tackles got more sacks all year.

Jackson and Cox also recently signed big contract extensions. The 26-year old Jackson inked a six year deal with the Jaguars worth $85.5-million ($42-million guaranteed) averaging out to $14.25-million per year. Cox also signed on for six years at age 25, earning $102.6-million ($63.3-million guaranteed) for an average of $17.2-million per year.

At 29-years old, Nick Fairley’s future in New Orleans is in serious question. What is his value on the open market? Will the Saints pony up the money for him, or risk entering the offseason with another roster hole on defense? What would you like to see happen?