The 29-year-old Franklin was a 2nd round draft choice by the Denver Broncos in 2011, and started 16 games at right tackle in his rookie season. He remained at right tackle for his first three NFL seasons, missing just one out of 48 starts for one of the best offenses in the league. He was a vital member of a record breaking Broncos offense in 2013, starting seven playoff games in his career, including Super Bowl XLVIII. The Broncos moved Franklin inside to guard for the 2014 season, where he was even more effective. San Diego inked him to a lucrative free agent deal in 2015, but Franklin was limited to 10 starts that season due to injury. He bounced back nicely last year, again starting 16 games at guard, but the Chargers elected to release him for salary cap reasons at year's end.
The 6-foot-6, 315-pound Franklin has excellent mobility for his size, known to have a good football IQ, good strength, plays with a mean streak and finishes his blocks well. His strength is as a run blocker, but was also a very capable pass protector for Peyton Manning and Phillip Rivers, who were not exactly known for their mobility. He packs an explosive initial punch, and slides well along the line in pass protection to go along with good blitz recognition. Franklin's weakness has always been with speed rushers around the edge, but that was somewhat nullified once he was moved to guard.
Despite his prior experience at tackle, Franklin almost certainly projects as a guard in the New Orleans, but definitely will not supplant current starters Larry Warford and Andrus Peat. What the Franklin signing does provide for the New Orleans line is extra versatility. Left tackle Terron Armstead will miss most, if not all, of the entire season. The Saints initial plan is to insert rookie 1st round draft pick Ryan Ramczyk into that slot. Veteran Khalif Barnes has also been taking snaps with the first-team offense early in camp, and could be an option there if Ramczyk is slow to develop.
Outside of those two, and veteran stalwart Zach Strief at right tackle, the Saints only have Bryce Harris to turn to, a journeyman at best. One "emergency" scenario for left tackle if neither option pans out could be to turn to Peat, who had some solid moments when filling in for Armstead at LT last season. The Saints do possess a versatile backup already in Senio Kelemete, whose natural fit is at guard. But remember that New Orleans center Max Unger is also recovering from injury, and Kelemete, who is currently on the PUP list himself, could be used to fill in at center. Second year player Landon Turner is expected to be a solid depth player for the Saints this season, but the team's depth was growing frighteningly thin along the offensive line.
The addition of Orlando Franklin should give the New Orleans Saints not only an upgrade in depth, but a player who could be a quality spot starter if the team's current plan should falter.