NFL free agency is getting closer by the day, and the New Orleans Saints have an almost unprecedented amount of available salary cap space (compared to years past). With around $30 million currently projected, but the possibility of creating more space, there is the temptation to make a big splash in free agency. While making headlines with a big free agency signing might be the path the Saints take, here are five high-profile names the Saints should try to avoid.
CB Stephon Gilmore (BUF), age 27
The Saints have an obvious need at Cornerback, needing at least one or two Corners, to round out the team in 2017. NFL.com listed Gilmore as the top Cornerback available in free agency, and the 13th best free agent overall. So if he’s the top available player at a position of need for the Saints, what’s the big deal? Well, the biggest issue here is cost. With the Saints having approximately $30 million in available cap space at the moment, Spotrac estimates it would take around half of that amount per year just to lock up Gilmore. That would leave the Saints with now only $15 million to address Guard, Defensive End, Linebacker, back-up Running Back, and the draft.
Make no mistake: Gilmore has been a great player in his career. In 2016 he finished with a career-high in interceptions paving the way for his first Pro Bowl appearance. Want to know another high-profile, interception-creating free agent out of Buffalo in history’s past? Jairus Byrd. Add in C.J. Spiller and the Saints don’t have the best track record in signing free agents out of northern New York.
TE Martellus Bennett (NE), age 30
The long-time Chicago Bear turned New England Patriot will cost nowhere near the amount of money needed to sign a player like Stephon Gilmore. With New Orleans Saints Tight End Josh Hill yet to emerge as a consistent pass-catching threat and Michael Hoomanawanui more of a blocking specialist, there is a thought the Saints could look to add another receiving Tight End to pair opposite Coby Fleener.
Personally, I don’t view Tight End as a need for the Saints to address this offseason, but if the Saints front office instead decides to make an addition here, a 30-year-old veteran with a resume that would demand a salary above his projected level of production in New Orleans (remember - he would be behind Fleener as a receiving option at TE, but behind Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas, and Willie Snead as receiving options in general), Bennett is just not worth the money in New Orleans.
WR DeSean Jackson (WAS), age 30
While the Saints might not have a glaring need at Tight End, there is a fairly pressing need to add a return specialist on Special Teams. Playing in his age 30 season, Jackson would presumably not bring quite as a heavy a price tag as other Wide Receivers on the market. Add in the fact that Jackson is still a viable deep threat in the passing game and you have a player who wouldn’t be completely one-dimensional/special teams-only in the New Orleans Saints offense.
But look a little closer and you’ll see some of the drawbacks. Jackson did not return any kickoffs or punts in the entirety of the 2016 season. While he has historically been a great punt returner, he has only logged a handful of kickoff returns in his entire career. Then add in the fact that his use on the offensive side of the ball, which is why a team would most likely be signing Jackson in the first place, and his price tag would likely be outside of the Saints budget for what they need. When there are cheap players like Cordarrelle Patterson on the market, DeSean Jackson is just an unnecessary luxury.
WR Alshon Jeffery (CHI), age 27
Here is a pretty easy one. While some people believe the Saints should be looking to add another offensive weapon for Drew Brees, it is similar to Tight End in it is just not something high on the priority list for the Saints this offseason. There are too many holes on the defensive side of the football and only a limited pool of resources, so allocate those resources to a completely luxury-type player, it just doesn’t make any sense.
What kind of resources would it take to bring in Alshon to New Orleans? Spotrac projects well over a third of the projected available cap space for the Saints. Unless the Saints do something drastic with WR Brandin Cooks, don’t look for the Saints to be making much of a splash at Wide Receiver.
OLB Melvin Ingram (SD), age 28
And now this one is a little more controversial. There is a strong case to be made that the Saints should take the opposite approach and make Melvin Ingram a top priority this offseason. For starters, he’s ranked as the 7th best available free agent by NFL.com. Then consider that he has registered 18.5 sacks the last two years combined and caused eight fumbles over that same period (for comparison’s sake, Saints DE Cameron Jordan has registered 17.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in that same time).
The Saints have a clear hole at Linebacker, and Ingram looks to be the Linebacker and pass-rusher the Saints need - so what’s the hold up? Obviously cost is the biggest issue here. Both Spotrac and ESPN project Ingram to land an average starting salary north of $17 million per year, well over half of the currently projected available cap space for the New Orleans Saints. Check out our counterparts over at Bolts from the Blue who did a niece piece showing Ingram’s inconsistent and frustrating play as a member of the Chargers. Ingram is without a doubt one of the best names available in free agency, but the Saints should strongly question whether he is the type of player to warrant the pay day he’s going to receive.