The New Orleans Saints have had an incredibly productive off-season with the acquisitions of safety Malcolm Jenkins, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and a successful 2020 NFL Draft. Aside from the Baltimore Ravens, the Saints should be considered the most complete squad in the entire league heading into the 2020 season.
Despite the successful off-season, there seems to be no shortage of calls for New Orleans to add one of the premium defensive ends left on the free agent market in Jadeveon Clowney and Everson Griffin. That begs the question: should the Saints add another defensive lineman before the season begins?
For this exercise let’s assume that cap space is not a factor and that wizard/general manager Mickey Loomis can make an acquisition work. Now that that is out of the way let’s address the misnomers that surround the defensive line unit year in and year out.
Last season was eye opening for the unit, especially early when the defense led the way, which was quite the stark change from previous campaigns. That especially held true when quarterback Drew Brees missed five weeks with a thumb injury and Teddy Bridgewater was asked to step in. While Bridgewater did a phenomenal job at holding down the fort, the defense, led by the line, ensured that Bridgewater was routinely in position to win the game and gave the offense additional opportunities.
The New Orleans defensive line has improved every single year in sacks per game in which it has improved from the sixth best in 2017 with 2.63, to fifth in 2018 with 3.06 and was number three in the league last season with 3.13. In fact the same trend is true for pressures per game and quarterback hit percentage as Larry Holder of The Athletic (subscription required) points out in a recent column.
These factors alone mean the Saints defensive line, at least statistically are one of the best in the league. So, why is that they don’t garner the recognition they deserve? Injuries. Late in the last two seasons key lineman have gone down with major injuries which have changed the look and effectiveness of the unit. Marcus Davenport’s foot injury in December of 2019 and Sheldon Rankins Achilles tendon injury in late 2018 are some of the first to come to mind.
Adding Griffin or Clowney would be nothing more than a luxury. With Davenport looking ready to continue where he left off, David Onyemata ready to resume his role as a leader and Cam Jordan looking to once again have another career year, the defensive line is in good shape. None of that has yet to mention Trey Hendrickson, Shy Tuttle and Rankins returning healthy.
That is not to say Clowney or Griffin wouldn’t provide value, especially Griffin who adds extra versatility to the squad (and would likely come at a lower price tag than Clowney). Instead, New Orleans should be exploring quality depth options to help with any injuries may arise throughout the season. Adding Clowney or Griffen would likely not add much value compared to their relative cost, whereas a depth acquisition could. The New Orleans line is elite, now the core members need to prove they can stay healthy for an entire season. That factor may be the difference in making a Super Bowl versus another heartbreaking playoff exit.
Do you think the Saints should sign Clowney or Griffen? Let us know in the comments. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @KadeKistner.