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New Orleans Saints free agent targets at needy positions

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Four big areas need to be addressed in the Saints offseason, and the great news is there are a lot of options open in free agency.

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Free Agency is creeping up and the New Orleans Saints have to fill some holes. Luckily, this year the Saints actually have some money to spend. They can have anywhere between $26-38 million depending on cuts and restructuring. That is by far the most they’ve had in some time. Expect for general manager Mickey Loomis to go after some high level free agents and some solid role players to add depth at different positions.

The Saints have multiple positions they need to go after in free agency, but there are four positions that stick out as bigger needs than most. Those positions are edge rusher, linebacker, cornerback, and guard. This free agency has some great players at all those positions that the Saints should go after.

A lot of people want the Saints to go make a big splash in free agency and grab some of the top free agents, which is definitely a possibility, but they also have to make sure they have enough money to add depth at these positions. Last year, most people believed that the Saints cornerback group had the most depth, but due to injuries the team had to grab multiple players at the position off the streets.

If the Saints want to make a playoff run, depth at these positions is crucial because injuries happen. With that being said, here are some free agent targets the Saints should take a look at from those four positions of need.

Middle Linebacker

  • Tier 1: Dont’a Hightower, Zach Brown
  • Tier 2: A.J. Klein, Gerald Hodges, Keenan Robinson, Kevin Minter
  • Tier 3: Malcolm Smith, Manti Te’o

The inside linebacker position is one of the weakest in this year’s draft class, so it is very important that the Saints get a good one in free agency. Expect Dont’a Hightower to get franchised tag or get a long-term deal for a lot of money, so the Saints should go for the next best, and that is Zach Brown. He is a very underrated linebacker and shouldn’t break the bank for the Saints.

A.J. Klein and Gerald Hodges are pretty much unknown to most fans. Gerald Hodges had a good year this past season, but since he played for the San Francisco 49ers most fans of the Saints haven’t heard of him. He’s only 26 years old and could be a nice signing for the Saints. As for Klein, he was Luke Kuechly’s backup in Carolina and played well in Kuechly’s absence.

Malcolm Smith is the former MVP of the Super Bowl while he was with the Seattle Seahawks. He would be a decent pickup if the other guys sign somewhere else. Manti Te’o, when healthy, is a pretty good linebacker. The only problem is the guy can’t stay healthy. We don’t know if the Saints want to go after a player with injury problems, but he could be cheap, maybe worth the risk if the others are off the board.

If the Saints do grab a free agent linebacker, they should still grab another one in the draft with one of their first four picks.

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Edge Rusher

  • Tier 1: Melvin Ingram, Jason Pierre-Paul, Chandler Jones
  • Tier 2: Jabaal Sheard, Nick Perry, Andre Branch, Charles Johnson
  • Tier 3: William Gholston, Margus Hunt, Damion Square

This is the position where a lot of people are thinking the Saints could make a splash at. Melvin Ingram and Jason Pierre-Paul’s names have been swirling around the Saints the past few weeks. Both would be great additions to the Saints, as they need to find that edge rusher opposite of Cam Jordan. The problem with Ingram and Pierre-Paul is the money. Both are going to be looking for a huge payday and Saints need to determine if they’re worth it or not.

Also, they’ll have to wait and find out if any of them will be franchised tagged. The rumor is Chandler Jones will be tagged, but it is still uncertain on whether or not Ingram and Pierre-Paul will be tagged. If the Saints do choose that the price is too high on them, luckily there are other quality edge rushers in free agency to choose from.

Nick Perry is coming off his best year of his career. He could make for a nice fit opposite of Jordan and wouldn’t cost as much as the higher tiers, leaving us more money to spend at other positions of need. Jabaal Sheard and Andre Branch would also be nice additions to the Saints roster and could help add depth at the position, which the Saints desperately need.

No matter what the Saints do, they should get at least two new edge rushers this offseason, ideally one in free agency and one in the first four rounds of the draft.

Guard

  • Tier 1: Kevin Zeitler, T.J. Lang, Larry Warford, Ronald Leary
  • Tier 2: Chance Warmack

While Jahri Evans was better than expected last year, he is 33 years old. He may have a year or two left, but the Saints need to find his replacement. Instead of getting a guard in the draft there are some great ones they could target in free agency. Kevin Zeitler will most likely get most of the attention out of the group, but if the Saints could somehow grab T.J. Lang, Larry Warford, or Ronald Leary to fill that right guard position they would be in great shape.

Lang is used to a pass heavy offense, having played in Green Bay. There was interest from the Saints in Ronald Leary last offseason, but it just didn’t workout. As for Larry Warford, he is a solid 25-year-old player who is probably looking for somewhere between the 7-8 million dollars a year range. He could be a nice fit, and only get better in the Saints offense. Chance Warmack is also a 25-year-old guard, who could be a solid pickup for the Saints. He’s coming off an injury year, so he could come pretty cheap.

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Cornerback

  • Tier 1: Trumaine Johnson, Stephon Gilmore, A.J. Bouye
  • Tier 2: Logan Ryan, Dre Kirkpatrick, Mo Claiborne, Prince Amukamara, Sterling Moore, Darius Butler

The cornerback position is a very interesting position. The top tier corners are rumored to be asking for around $14 million per year. Trumaine Johnson could possibly be tagged for his second year in a row. A.J. Bouye is coming off a really great year, where he went from not being known to being one of the top free agent corners in free agency. The Saints need to figure out if he worth the risk or not. Trumaine Johnson and Stephon Gilmore have both played well in their careers and would be great fits in the Saints defense. They would be a huge upgrade for the Saints secondary, but are they worth that much money is the real question.

If the Saints choose to pass on those guys, Logan Ryan would be a perfect fit for them. Ryan shouldn’t be too expensive, and he can play both inside and outside. He is a great tackler and is an underrated player. Ryan could be the best option at this position considering how much the top tier corners are rumored to be asking for.

Then there are three young talented corners in Dre Kirkpatrick, Mo Claiborne, and Prince Amukamara. All three are former first-round picks that have gotten better over the years. Not as consistent as you want your corner back, but all three have the skills to be great.

Lastly is Sterling Moore, he was one of the few bright spots in the Saints secondary. It seems both Moore and the Saints have mutual interest in each other. Re-signing Moore would help keep depth at the position, plus Moore is only 27 and his best years are yet to come. The draft class is cornerback heavy, so I’d expect the Saints to draft at least one. Hopefully they are able to re-sign Moore, add another in free agency, and then draft another in the 3rd or 4th Round of the draft.

The Saints have to get some productive players at these positions in free agency. If they can fill some of these holes it will help out with the draft a lot. Instead of reaching for a position of need, they will be able to draft the best player available. Free agency isn’t too far away, and hopefully the Saints make the best of their cap space. Whether it’s making big splashes or adding depth at different positions, expect the Saints to be aggressive in free agency.