With the NFL league year set to start Wednesday and the legal tampering period kicking off Monday, the New Orleans Saints mostly stuck to their own by bringing back special teams ace J.T. Gray and offensive weapon Juwan Johnson.
However, they made their big offseason move by signing former Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.
The first day of the tampering period saw tons of familiar faces leave as Shy Tuttle, David Omenyata, Kaden Ellis, and Marcus Davenport all agreed to new deals. So, what do the Saints do now?
The plan seems to be status quo as the Saints seemed focused on bringing back their own players and focusing on the second and third wave of free agency. Let’s take a look at four players the Saints could still target and add to the 2023 roster.
4. James Robinson- Running Back, New York Jets
With the running back market being pretty much untouched after the tampering period, there are still plenty of starter quality running backs available. Plus, with what many consider a very stacked running back class coming out in this draft, the market shouldn’t get too crazy for some of these veterans.
2022 was a weird year for James Robinson. After starting the first three games of the season with over 200 yards rushing, three rushing touchdowns, and 4.8 yard a carry, Robinson was eventually phased out for Travis Etienne and traded to the New York Jets after Breece Hall went down for the season and never really made an impact and was a healthy scratch for the final five games of the season. Robinson could come at a low price for the Saints and make an immediate impact for this team and even start some games if Alvin Kamara is going to miss some time with his legal situation. In 2020 when Robinson came into the NFL the former Redbird made a name for himself rushing for over 1,000 yards averaged 4.46 yards a carry and scored 10 total touchdowns as the feature back Robinson had the most total scrimmage yards for any rookie free agent in NFL history.
3. Sheldon Rankins- Defensive Tackle, New York Jets
A reunion with the former first round pick Sheldon Rankins just makes more and more sense as the defensive tackle market continues to grow bigger and bigger. Javon Hargrave signed a deal with San Francisco that will average out to about 21 million a year, Dalvin Tomlinson signed a deal with the Browns averaging to 14.25 million a year, and former Saint David Omenyata inked a deal with Atlanta averaging to 12 million a year.
When healthy, Rankins was productive for the New York Jets, recording 6 sacks in the last two seasons and averaging about 50% of the defensive snaps he played in and he stayed relatively healthy, which was a problem during his last couple of seasons in New Orleans. Adding Rankins immediately addresses the major hole you have at defensive tackle and will help spark a pass rush that was rather lackluster last season and a run defense that left a lot more to be desired. Also, having played in this system with Dennis Allen familiarity and being able to plug Rankins in day one should not be a problem.
2. Frank Clark- Defensive End, Kansas City Chiefs
The Saints must find a way to add an elite pass rusher opposite of Cameron Jordan. The longtime Saint has made it very clear that the Saints have struggled to find that elite pass rushing threat to lineup on the other side and take some pressure off of Jordan. The team swung and missed on Marcus Davenport who just agreed to terms with the Minnesota Vikings late Monday night and could be heading in that same level of uncertainty with Payton Turner. Enter Frank Clark, who was recently cut by the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Clark recorded 5 sack and played in 14 games for the Chiefs in 2022.
Sometimes availability is your best ability as Clark has never missed less than 14 games in his career so far. Clark can be a 8-10 sack guy a season and that would be enough for the Saints and take a good amount of pressure off of Jordan and the rest of this Saints front seven.
1. Duron Harmon- Safety, Las Vegas Raiders
The impact of Chauncey Gardner Johnson leaving this team did leave somewhat of a hole in this defense last season.
The Saints currently lack a “tweaker” safety, or someone who can play in the box and isn’t afraid to get in the trenches, while also being able to cover down the field. Former Patriot and Raiders safety Duron Harmon fits the bill. He started all 17 games for the raiders last year and recorded 86 total tackles while adding 2 interceptions and forced fumbles, recording an overall grade of 72.3 according to PFF.
Harmon in a pinch could even come in and start at safety with Marcus Maye facing some legal hurdles it never hurts to have as many good defensive backs in the NFL.
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