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In-house Free Agent Decisions Will Heavily Influence the Saints Offseason

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Which of their own free agents will the New Orleans Saints push hardest to bring back?

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints are going to be faced with a number of crucial offseason decisions before taking the field again for the 2020 season. The Saints didn't have many glaring weaknesses in 2019, but the ones they did have were badly exposed in their playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings. While New Orleans will look to fortify those shortcomings in the draft and through free agency this offseason, the team also has a number of decisions to make with their own free agents. The Saints have 17 players who will be unrestricted free agents this offseason, including 8 starters. One of the major questions is at quarterback, even though Drew Brees seems almost a certainty to return. Assuming the legendary Brees is once again behind center, let's have a look at how their other major unrestricted free agents should be prioritized.

Eli Apple, Cornerback

Dallas Cowboys v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Apple had a fantastic start to the season as the starting cornerback opposite Marshon Lattimore as the two combined to shut down some of the league's best wideouts. Apple slumped badly down the stretch however, and was replaced as starter by Janoris Jenkins before having his year ended by an ankle injury.

The 25-Yr old Apple didn't have an interception on the year, gave up 63% completion percentage when targeted, and surrendered 2 touchdown passes. He has the coverage skills and athleticism to stay with most NFL receivers, but confidence struggles have often led to penalties or breakdowns. He would be a terrific third corner to Lattimore and Jenkins, but could reel in top cornerback dollars on the open market.

LOW PRIORITY

Poll

How should the Saints prioritize Eli Apple this offseason?

This poll is closed.

  • 4%
    High Priority
    (28 votes)
  • 57%
    Low Priority
    (374 votes)
  • 37%
    Good Riddance
    (243 votes)
645 votes total Vote Now

Vonn Bell, Safety

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Bell has been one of the most effective and underrated New Orleans defenders throughout his four year career. Despite missing three games with a knee injury, he finished second on the team in tackles for the fourth consecutive season. Bell also led the NFL with 5 fumble recoveries, forced 2 others, was responsible for 1.5 sacks, and reeled in his first career interception.

Bell is one of the league's more versatile defensive backs and is always around the ball. Already a good run defender, Bell improved his coverage skills in each of his four years and evolved into perhaps the team's best coverage option in the slot. He may pull in a contract that puts him among the league's highest paid safeties if he hits the open market. Remember that the Saints already have Marcus Williams and used two draft picks on defensive backs last spring; a 4th rounder on Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and a sixth on Saquan Hampton. Gardner-Johnson had an outstanding rookie year, while the coaches are high on Hampton's potential. With numerous big contract decisions looming in front of them, New Orleans could use a franchise tag on Bell while they negotiate a longterm cap-friendly deal.

HIGH PRIORITY (but only on franchise tag or if they can get a deal done before free agency)

Poll

How should the Saints prioritize Vonn Bell this offseason?

This poll is closed.

  • 84%
    High Priority
    (545 votes)
  • 12%
    Low Priority
    (82 votes)
  • 3%
    Good Riddance
    (20 votes)
647 votes total Vote Now

Ted Ginn Jr., Wide Receiver

Carolina Panthers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The nearly 35-Yr old Ginn started the year well, catching 7 passes for 101 yards in a season opening win over the Houston Texans. Ginn would have just 23 receptions for 320 yards over the final 15 games though, hauling in a paltry 47% of his targets. He dropped a number of deep opportunities and often failed to gain separation in key moments.

The Saints possess the NFL's best receiver in the record breaking Michael Thomas, but the rest of the unit was a major team weakness in need of retooling.

GOOD RIDDANCE

Poll

How should the Saints prioritize Ted Ginn Jr. this offseason?

This poll is closed.

  • 2%
    High Priority
    (16 votes)
  • 29%
    Low Priority
    (194 votes)
  • 67%
    Good Riddance
    (441 votes)
651 votes total Vote Now

A.J. Klein, Linebacker

New Orleans Saints v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Klein was a key playmaker for the New Orleans linebacking corps alongside All-Pro Demario Davis. The 28-Yr old Klein was a stout run defender, effective blitzer, and was smart in pass coverage drops. He finished the season with 67 tackles (5 for loss), 2.5 sacks, 1 fumble forced, 1 fumble recovery, and an interception return for a touchdown.

Davis is one of the players that the Saints defense is built around, but Klein has continued to prove his worth to the team. New Orleans will get back linebackers Alex Anzalone and Kaden Elliss from injury next season, but may be without Kiko Alonso at the start of the year due to a knee injury suffered in the playoffs. Expect them to make a push to retain Klein, who knows their defensive system well.

HIGH PRIORITY

Poll

How should the Saints prioritize A.J. Klein this offseason?

This poll is closed.

  • 62%
    High Priority
    (397 votes)
  • 31%
    Low Priority
    (203 votes)
  • 5%
    Good Riddance
    (35 votes)
635 votes total Vote Now

David Onyemata, Defensive Tackle

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Onyemata has evolved into a good all-around defensive linemen since being selected in the 4th round of the 2016 draft as a raw prospect. The 6'4 300-Lb tackle brings both size and freakish athletic ability to the Saints defensive line rotation. He had 3 sacks and 15 quarterback pressures in 2019, along with showing vast improvement as a run defender.

The 27-Yr old Onyemata could command top dollar on the open market. While there is no denying his ability to disrupt offenses, the Saints are deep in talent at this position. Tackles Malcom Brown, Sheldon Rankins, Shy Tuttle, and Mario Edwards Jr. present a formidable rotation and should allow New Orleans to focus their finances on other needs.

LOW PRIORITY

Poll

How should the Saints prioritize David Onyemata this offseason?

This poll is closed.

  • 52%
    High Priority
    (322 votes)
  • 44%
    Low Priority
    (273 votes)
  • 3%
    Good Riddance
    (22 votes)
617 votes total Vote Now

Andrus Peat, Guard

Arizona Cardinals v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Peat has been a mostly solid starter for a New Orleans offensive line considered among the league's best. He struggled mightily in the team's playoff loss against Minnesota though, showing an alarming lack of mobility.

The 13th overall pick of the 2015 draft, Peat would find a home at left guard after struggling at tackle, the position he was drafted to play. He is expected to get alot of interest on the open market and receive a high offer that the Saints are not likely interested in making to a serviceable starter.

GOOD RIDDANCE

Poll

How should the Saints prioritize Andrus Peat this offseason?

This poll is closed.

  • 16%
    High Priority
    (102 votes)
  • 38%
    Low Priority
    (237 votes)
  • 45%
    Good Riddance
    (283 votes)
622 votes total Vote Now

P.J. Williams, Cornerback

Wild Card Round - Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Williams has been a coverage liability for most of the last three seasons. He did have an interception and 42 tackles on the year, but allowed 5 touchdown passes and surrendered nearly 66% completion percentage when targeted.

Williams is one of the most fundamental tacklers in the New Orleans secondary and did play well when moved to safety because of injuries at the position late in the season. Opposing quarterbacks feast on him when in man coverage however, and he seems unlikely to return in a cornerback role.

GOOD RIDDANCE

Poll

How should the Saints prioritize P.J. Williams this offseason?

This poll is closed.

  • 6%
    High Priority
    (39 votes)
  • 36%
    Low Priority
    (226 votes)
  • 57%
    Good Riddance
    (357 votes)
622 votes total Vote Now