Perhaps it’s just me getting older, but I’m honestly in shock that free agency is essentially here for the NFL. Of course, any New Orleans Saints fan will be quick to remind you how their season ended was extremely controversial. In fact, there’s many out there who make it a point to remind the world on a daily basis on the public ‘hosing’. But here we are, facing a new league year, and the only thing that matters is sending Drew Brees riding off into the sunset.
As we witnessed on Monday, there’s been a flurry of activity around the league already during the ‘legal’ tampering period. Here’s a look at some of the biggest needs for the black and gold, as well as some in-house players to keep tabs on. Be sure to familiarize yourself with a full list of Saints free agents too.
Players to Watch
- Mark Ingram — Recently, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the soon-to-be free agent is on the Packers and Bears radar. FOX 8’s Sean Fazende also added on Monday that the Ravens and Lions were interested. It would absolutely be a big loss for the Saints, as Ingram has done well over the past several seasons and has paired extremely well with Alvin Kamara. Both New Orleans and Ingram have expressed a desire to stay together, and have reportedly met to discuss the future. Should Ingram depart, the Saints will need to find a strong missing punch to Kamara.
- Alex Okafor — Because of his contract being updated in December, Okafor benefited from a $400,000 sack bonus incentive due to the renegotiation. Now, the final year of his contract voids. Okafor put together a respectable 2018 campaign after coming off a torn Achilles the year before. In addition to being productive off the edge opposite of Cameron Jordan rotating with rookie Marcus Davenport, Okafor was also strong in special teams with partner in crime Taysom Hill. Both Davenport (who had offseason toe surgery in February) and Trey Hendrickson are in the mix with Jordan for 2019, which makes it interesting to see how the Saints compensate if Okafor walks in free agency.
- Teddy Bridgewater — The quarterback market looked appealing for Bridgewater, but then some moves happened for some needy teams that potentially hurt his chances to cash in on a good deal and fit. (Can you believe Nick Foles got all that money from the Jaguars?) The latest rumors swirling state that there’s a belief Bridgewater comes back to the Saints, and with options running low, it might be in his best interest to return to New Orleans on a one-year deal to back up Drew Brees.
Positions to Address
- Tight End — Benjamin Watson is out enjoying retirement, which leaves the Saints with Josh Hill (signed a contract extension), Dan Arnold, and Garrett Griffin. New Orleans could bring back veteran Michael Hoomanawanui to help compete, but there’s plenty of valid arguments to suggest that an upgrade is needed for the offense. Free agent tight ends have been getting ridiculous money thrown at them for virtually little to no production. It’s quite something when you compare it to Hill’s 3-year, $8.85 million extension. No matter how you slice it, tight end is an area where the Saints need way more production from.
- Defensive Tackle — As of now, the only real option the Saints have for the interior defensive line is Taylor Stallworth. Sheldon Rankins is likely to start the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list from his torn Achilles injury, while David Onyemata could be facing a suspension and Tyeler Davison is set to become a free agent. On the surface, it looks pretty grim. However, a quick re-sign of Davison coupled with moves to bring back veteran Tyrunn Walker (who was signed after Rankins went down) and Jay Bromley (who was played on injured reserve after filling in some) could help alleviate some pressure. Of course, that’s more of a band-aid situation.
- Wide Receiver — The Saints have a very young, but talented group of wide receivers. However, they have to grow up and develop quickly. Michael Thomas does so much for the offense, and Ted Ginn Jr. racked up nearly half the yardage (209) in 10 less games than Tre’Quan Smith (427). Keith Kirkwood made a handful of plays, but overall the corps was very inconsistent and struggled. Slot wide receiver has been a big of a hot button for what the Saints need, and again the price tags for some (in particular Adam Humphries) were laughable. Maybe they get something in Cameron Meredith this season and maybe Dez Bryant comes into the mix later on, but if we’re looking in the now, the Saints might want to bring in a good veteran.
- Honorable mentions — A backup offensive tackle is very much in play with Jermon Bushrod still being a free agent. and that’s a position the Saints seemingly have to have with some of their past ailments. Another linebacker will also be an area of need, even with the Craig Robertson re-signing, as well as potential needs at cornerback and safety.
If we’ve learned anything from New Orleans, it’s that the shiny objects aren’t what they’re made out to be. Jairus Byrd was a complete bust, and the talks of Brandon Browner being what the team needed for their locker room is just hilarious to us all now. Coby Fleener was another one of the many players who have taught the team a valuable lesson on choosing the right guy.
Where do you want to see the Saints upgrade the most?
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