The New Orleans Saints, like the rest of the NFL, are gearing up for the league draft just 26 days from now. The Saints have already taken care of some important team needs through free agency. They added speed and skill to their linebacking corps with the signing of Demario Davis. Depth for the secondary was checked off by signing safety Kurt Coleman. Team depth was bolstered by bringing back a few former teammates in cornerback Patrick Robinson, offensive lineman Jermon Bushrod, and tight end Benjamin Watson. The Saints also re-signed defensive end Alex Okafor, along with of course their most important deal of the offseason, quarterback Drew Brees. The Saints will get another infusion of youthful talent with the start of the draft on April 26th, but there are still some intriguing free agents available as well. In honor of today's holiday, we take a look at some potential hidden Easter Eggs still available at positions of need for the defending NFC South champs.
Robert Ayers (DE-Buccaneers, age 32)
Ayers, recently released by Tampa Bay after two seasons, began his career as a 1st round draft choice with the Denver Broncos in 2009. He is not known as a top end pass rusher, notching 34.5 sacks in his 9-yr. career. Ayers is an excellent run defender, and sets the edge well. His effort and strength on the edge can pressure the pass pocket, he just isn't a great finisher.
Other notable defensive ends:
Lamarr Houston (age 30, Bears)
Kony Ealy (age 26, Jets)
New Orleans has some depth here, having re-signed Okafor to go along with 2017 3rd round draft choice Trey Hendrickson and 2015 2nd round pick Hau'oli Kikaha. All three players have had injury concerns, however, including Okafor's recovery from an Achilles tendon tear that ended his season last year. Coach Sean Payton has mentioned that the team intends to add a pass rusher this offseason. With the lack of edge rushers that were available in free agency, the Saints could grab one with an early draft pick to team with All-Pro end Cameron Jordan.
Karl Klug (DT-Titans, age 30)
Klug was given his release by the Titans after spending his first seven seasons in Tennessee. He is most effective against the run, and can play either inside or move out to end in some alignments. He can push the pass pocket well at times, and has 21 career sacks, but has yet to match his career high of 7 takedowns from his rookie season.
Other notable defensive tackles:
Johnathan Hankins (age 26, Colts)
Bennie Logan (age 28, Chiefs)
Jay Bromely (age 26, Giants)
The Saints made a hard push for defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who eventually signed with the Rams. They have some talented interior defenders in David Onyemata, Tyeler Davison, and 2016 1st round pick Sheldon Rankins. Despite the Saints defensive improvements in 2017, they still gave up a number of long runs during the season. Davison, one of the team's best run stuffers, is also due to become a free agent at the end of next season.
Cam Meredith (WR-Bears, age 25)
Meredith is a restricted free agent receiver that recently visited with the Saints. Similar to New Orleans with Willie Snead, Chicago has given a tender to Meredith where they would have one week to match any offer given from another team, but would not receive any compensation if they elected not to match. Meredith is a big and physical receiver (6'3, 200-lbs.) capable of playing outside or from the slot. He had a breakout year with the Bears in 2016, his second season, when he caught 66 passes for 888 yards and 4 touchdowns. He missed last season with a knee injury, but recovery is on track for a return to form by offseason activities.
Other notable wide receivers:
Eric Decker (age 31, Titans)
Jordan Matthews (age 26, Bills)
Kamar Aiken (age 29, Colts)
Jeremy Maclin (age 30, Ravens)
The Saints have tendered their own restricted free agent receiver (Snead), and reportedly had interest in Jordy Nelson and Michael Crabtree, but have shown little interest in any other wideout that has been available. New Orleans seems almost certain to add a few receivers in the upcoming draft.
Clive Walford (TE-Raiders, age 26)
Walford, a former 3rd round pick from the University of Miami, was cut by Oakland after a disappointing 2017 season. He is a big receiver capable of making big plays down the field. Walford did not develop as expected in his third year after nearly 700 yards receiving and six touchdowns in his first two seasons. He struggles with drops, and needs to refine his intermediate routes to be more effective. He is a good blocker, and provides a vertical threat against a defense. The Saints have had some past success in developing raw but physically gifted Miami Hurricane tight ends. New Orleans recent signing of Watson does give Drew Brees a reliable and trusted target, but also provides a mentor for a young tight end that could be drafted in the early rounds later this month.
Benny Cunningham (RB-Bears, age 27)
Cunningham, who spent 2017 with Chicago after spending his first four seasons with the Rams, recently visited with New Orleans. He could provide quality depth behind Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Cunningham is a capable receiver out of the backfield, a solid kickoff returner, and standout special teams performer.
Current Saints free agents Brandon Coleman, Delvin Breaux, and Kenny Vaccaro have attracted little interest on the market thus far. Someone like Coleman could be brought back on a cheap 1-yr. deal if still available after the draft. They could also bring in another former teammate, such as veteran offensive lineman and former Saint great Jahri Evans, who at 34 still played well last year with Green Bay. New Orleans will obviously look to fill any major remaining needs in the draft, but there is still talent available among remaining free agents that would benefit an already talented roster.