With free agency right around the corner, and with the New Orleans Saints having cap space breathing room that hasn’t been felt in years, the Saints are primed to make a big splash in free agency. Taking a big chunk of cap space and placing in one or two high-profile free agents could leave the Saints looking for value signings to fill other needs. Here are five such bargain-bin signings the Saints could look to:
G Austin Pasztor (CLE), age 26
We’re starting with a free agent signing who can’t be technically considered a legit “bargain bin” find, but is still an under-the-radar signing that would by no means break the bank. Pasztor should get a significant pay increase as a free agent, with Spotrac projecting a 4-year, $20 million contract offer. Coming into a contract year in 2016, Pastor had the best year of his career in what was potentially in his first (and only) fully healthy season of his career. He was able to play in all 16 games last year and notably has played on both sides of the offensive line during his five years in the NFL.
RB Lance Dunbar (DAL), age 27
Now we’re on to a free agent who could potentially be had for the veteran minimum. Dunbar is another player who has been plagued with injuries during his career. A career back-up, Dunbar would help fill the void of back-up running back if the Saints are unable to re-sign Tim Hightower and unwilling to re-sign Travaris Cadet, Dunbar would be a cheap back-up who might be able to shine in a reserve role and exceed expectations (much like Hightower). Dunbar has only one touchdown in his career (a rushing touchdown last year), but also has experience returning kickoffs - another area of need for the Saints.
DT Tyrunn Walker (DET), age 27
Walker has already been touched on as a possible defensive tackle replacement if the Saints and pending free agent Nick Fairley are unable to reach a new deal. Walker signing with the Saints would be a homecoming of sorts as the five-year vet was originally signed as an undrafted free agent in 2012 and played the first three years of his career in the Crescent City. Walker started the most games of his career last year (starting only eight games), and has not recorded a sack since the 2014 season. For those reasons, Walker will not likely see a big pay day, but just like Fairley (another former Lion), Walker might be able to experience a resurgence in New Orleans.
CB Sterling Moore (NO), age 27
Moore has actually started to garner praise as this free agency period approaches as one of the better Cornerbacks available. Plenty has been said about Moore’s performance with the Saints in 2016 after stepping in due to injuries, but with injuries questions still surrounding Delvin Breaux, P.J. Williams, Damian Swann and others, it would be nice to keep Moore around on an affordable contract to provide valuable depth for the inevitable injury to one of the Saints corners.
LB Malcolm Smith (OAK), age 29
The Saints desperately need a starter (or two) at the linebacking position this offseason, but personally I’m not sure they actually look to free agency to find their play-making starter. There are only two really big names in free agency in Dont’a Hightower of the New England Patriots and Zach Brown of the Buffalo Bills. Hightower will come with a huge price tag as he is arguably the top Inside Linebacker in this year’s free agency class and Brown will not come cheaply himself (and we know the Saints’ history with free agents out of Buffalo). The Saints could look to draft an ILB and add an OLB in free agency. Enter Malcolm Smith. Smith (a former Super Bowl MVP with the Seattle Seahawks) is still a talented and serviceable linebacker who could bring the veteran presence the Saints thought they would be getting in James Laurinaitis at a much cheaper price tag than Brown and Hightower.