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Saints 2021 free agent targets: AFC West edition

Free agents from each AFC West team the Saints could potentially target.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

We’re going through each division to see which players could potentially be targets for the New Orleans Saints in the upcoming free agency period.

This time, we’re on the AFC West.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

DE Alex Okafor - Chiefs

Okafor was a solid starter for the Saints a few years back, just as Dennis Allen’s defense started to hit its stride. A lunch-bucket kind of player, he’s not a guy who’s going to knock your socks off as a pass rusher.

But he’s a good run defender and is reliable, when healthy. And that latter part has been a struggle for him. He’s had nagging injuries throughout his career that have sidelined him at times.

During what was looking like the best season of his career at that point in 2017, his tenure was cut short after a brutal injury against the Washington Football Team. He had 30 QB pressures and five sacks through nine and a half games, and a PFF grade of 78.

He came back and played a full, solid season in 2018, racking up 42 pressures and five sacks, while defending the run well.

After a couple of season with the Kansas City Chiefs that were limited by injury, I think the 30-year-old would serve as a quality depth piece. If Trey Hendrickson is indeed gone, the defensive end spots being held by Cameron Jordan, Marcus Davenport, Alex Okafor and Carl Granderson wouldn’t be half bad.

Especially considering Davenport’s injury history, it’s a move I’d definitely consider making.

Okafor is entering unrestricted free agency, and it’ll be interesting to see what his market value is. At his age and with his recent production, I’d assume somewhere at or under $3-4 million a year.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Las Vegas Raiders Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

LB Nicholas Morrow - Raiders

With it seeming like a distinct possibility that Kwon Alexander and Alex Anzalone could be gone before next season, the Saints might be in need of a weakside linebacker. While there are plenty of options on the market, the athletic Nicholas Morrow could potentially be a nice fit.

At about 225 pounds, Morrow is almost a safety/linebacker hybrid. He’s not a run stuffer, but can cover ground in zone coverage, as well as track down running backs and tight ends in single coverage.

He had the best season of his career last year, with career bests in pass break-ups (5), catch rate allowed (67.9%), yards per catch allowed (7.4) and yards allowed (265). He also only missed six tackles all year, which was the lowest mark since his rookie year — via PFF.

His closing speed and sure tackling would at the very least provide good depth at the linebacker position next year.

Coming off of a three-year, $1.67 million deal, Morrow will enter unrestricted free agency soon. If the Raiders don’t re-sign the young backer, he’d be a formidable option.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

S Rayshawn Jenkins - Chargers

This would be a purely “If the Saints don’t re-sign Marcus Williams” deal. Jenkins is a starter-quality, deep safety, and he likely isn’t going to sign a deal to be a backup.

It seems like they will be making Williams a priority, according to reports. But if they are unable to reach a deal with him this off-season, Jenkins could be a cheaper option coming off of his rookie deal.

He doesn’t have flashy interception totals, with five in his career, but he consistently has prevented big plays. He’s never given up a pass play more than 46 yards in his career, and he allowed a mere 8.8 yards per catch last season (T-9th best out of 64 qualifying safeties).

It’s not a super-exciting hypothetical signing, but he would be about as good of a replacement you’d find for Marcus Williams at safety at an affordable rate — besides Tre Boston.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

T Demar Dotson - Broncos

Dotson is probably one of the more underrated players in the NFL over the past 10 or so years. A career starter in Tampa Bay from 2012-2019 at right tackle, he was consistent as they come.

I know some aren’t big on PFF grades, but when it comes to pass protection, their grades are usually a pretty solid gauge over a large sample size. And his profile page is pretty impressive.

Since 2013, he hasn’t had a single season where he played at least 300 games with a pass blocking grade under 70.0. Every season (besides 2015 when he only played three games), he’s been in the range of 70.0 - 81.6. Just a consistently good-not-great player.

And while he is getting up there in age (35 years old now), he was still good last year in Denver on a one-year deal. In 246 pass-blocking snaps, he only allowed 10 hurries and finished the year with a 70.8 overall grade.

He just finished a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Broncos, and I’d expect another similar deal to that this year. For that price, he’d be an absolute steal of a backup tackle.


What do you think of these free agents? 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 @AndrewBell_98.