Around the NFL, the media is already assigning “winning” and “losing” grades to every NFL team’s moves in free agency. Bleacher Report has taken it a step further and assigned each division a “division winner” through free agency thus far. With only a handful of under-the-radar type signings to date, it might come as a surprise that the NFC South’s division winner of free agency is none other than your New Orleans Saints.
The New Orleans Saints re-signed Drew Brees to a two-year, $50 million contract. Everything else beyond that point is icing on the cake.
No one actually expected Brees to leave the Big Easy but getting a deal done wasn’t a given. According to ESPN.com’s Mike Triplett, another franchise offered $60 million in an attempt to entice the 39-year-old signal-caller to leave his home.
”But for me, this was about putting our team in the best position to go win a championship in the next few years,” Brees said. “ ... I’ve made it very clear from day one that I was always gonna be a New Orleans Saint as long as they would have me.”
Aside from the Brees’ new contract, the Saints had two specific problem areas on defense in need of attention: linebacker and pass-rusher.
Demario Davis, who signed three-year, $24 million contract, brings a different presence to the New Orleans linebacker corps. No one on the Saints roster is as quick diagnosing or physical defending the run. Davis experienced a career season with the New York Jets last year when he registered a team-high 135 tackles and five sacks. The 29-year-old defender does struggle in space. Even so, he’s still an upgrade over Manti Te’o.
Meanwhile, Alex Okafor decided to return and signed a two-year, $10 million contract, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Okafor played well opposite Cameron Jordan and tied for second on the team with 4.5 sacks despite missing the final six contests after suffering a season-ending ACL tear. A healthy Okafor makes the Saints’ pass-rush far more potent.
Patrick Robinson’s decision to return to New Orleans after being a Saints’ first-round pick in 2010 came as a surprise. Robinson’s career didn’t take off until he left the organization and finally blossomed into a well-rounded cornerback with the Philadelphia Eagles defense as part of last year’s Super Bowl run. The Saints are already set at outside cornerback with Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley. Robinson is expected to serve as the secondary’s nickel corner.
A possible Ndamukong Suh signing may be forthcoming as well.
When you stop to think about it, the rest of the NFC South has been relatively quiet. The Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have yet to really add any notable free agents and the Carolina Panthers are doing their best to add more than they’re losing.
Other “division winner” in free agency according to BR: Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers, and Jacksonville Jaguars.