2012 NFL Free Agents: What the Loss of Nicks and Meachem Means to the Saints

David Levin@@davidlevin71Senior Writer IIMarch 15, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 14:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints throws the ball against the San Francisco 49ers during the NFC Divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park on January 14, 2012 in San Francisco, California. The 49ers won the game 36-32.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Has an era finally ended in the Big Easy?

After being one of the more steady units in the NFL since Drew Brees came to Louisiana, the New Orleans Saints are at a loss of sorts. And no, this has nothing to do with the recent allegations surrounding "bounties" on NFL players.

On Wednesday, the Saints, fresh off a place in the NFC playoffs and seeing Brees shatter NFL passing marks, lost two key players on offense, guard Carl Nicks and receiver Robert Meachem. With the loss of both cogs, does this signal a chink in the armor of the team and could it spell problems for the upcoming season?

What made New Orleans such an offensive juggernaut is the way they were able to remain together. In this day of free agency and everyone wanting the "big pay day," management has been able to keep it together for the franchise. But for some reason, it seems things are starting crack with the NFC South's best team.

But those issues are only half the problems for the team right now considering the current state of the team and the NFL investigating the team and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for their part in bounties on players during games while he was with the team.

Also, Brees has expressed his displeasure with the team for not being able reach a contract extension with him and having the franchise tag applied for the 2012 season.

Nicks (who signed with Tampa Bay)  is considered by many to be one of the best guards in football and Meachem (San Diego) is a great speed receiver who could be a solid top receiver on any other team. Both losses will leave holes on the offense. Right now, it looks like the Saints are interested in Ben Grubbs to fill Nicks' place in the lineup.

The Saints have not indicated who they might be interested in to take Meachem's place.