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Saints options for replacing Nick Fairley are pretty straightforward

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The Saints had high hopes for Fairley following a standout 2016 campaign. So, where do they go from here?

Denver Broncos v New Orleans Saints Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

After placing veteran defensive tackle Nick Fairley on the Reserve/NFI list Monday morning, Fairley’s status has become more clear. He’s lost for the 2017 season and will likely never play professionally again.

As covered earlier by Canal Street Chronicles’ John Hendrix, this is the news the organization and Saints fans have been dreading. Fairley emerged as a bright spot for Dennis Allen’s squad when there weren’t many on the 2016 black and gold defense.

Reportedly, Fairley has an enlarged heart, a condition first exposed in pre-draft physicals prior to his entry into the 2011 NFL Draft. He’s played through the heart problems throughout his career, but received an opinion from a personal physician this offseason that he should retire.

Following a positive second opinion, the Saints have been waiting for the results of a third, which apparently confirmed the first. It’s unlikely Fairley will ever return to football at this point.

There are three ways the Saints can choose to address the loss of Fairley.

First, they can take a stab at the veteran free agent market.

They’ve already done this to a degree with the addition of former Seattle Seahawk Tony McDaniel, who was brought in shortly after word on Fairley’s condition first dropped.

There are other names of note, unsigned as of now. But as they say, if you’re unsigned at this point, it’s for a reason. Dan Williams, Glenn Dorsey, Jared Odrick, Jonathan Babineaux, Cullen Jenkins and Canal Street Chronicles’ staff pick Vince Wilfork are just a few of the names available. Most of those are well past their career prime but could be suitable fill ins used sparingly.

The second option is for the Saints to stand pat. That could be a scary prospect considering the team’s injury history, but they’re returning 2016 first-rounder Sheldon Rankins, another second-year player in David Onyemata, Tyeler Davison and the untested Ashaad Mabry and Justin Zimmer. That’s a large work load to put on Rankins, Onyemata, and Davison but all three showed signs in 2016 that they can hold down the fort, if not excel.

The third option will most certainly be explored by the Saints brass. That will be scanning the waiver wires at the conclusion of preseason for players who were maybe just not there for other team,s but who could help in New Orleans. With recent rule changes the cutdowns to the 53-man rosters will happen in one fell swoop at the end of preseason rather than in two stages, as has been the norm for some time. There will be a feeding frenzy prior to the Saints taking the field for their opening night game against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football and it’s likely some good players could be available.

It’s certainly troubling that the black and gold will be without Fairley for 2017 and likely forever, but next man up is how it goes and the team will have to do what it can to fill the void.

Poll

How would you address the void left by Nick Fairley?

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    Stand pat, let others step up
    (318 votes)
  • 24%
    Go scour the free agent market
    (263 votes)
  • 46%
    Try to pick up a released player during final cuts
    (495 votes)
1076 votes total Vote Now