New Orleans Saints Free Agency: Grading Moves the Saints Have Been Involved in

Jonathan Peralta@itsjperaltaContributor IIIApril 3, 2012

New Orleans Saints Free Agency: Grading Moves the Saints Have Been Involved in

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    It has been a crazy roller-coaster ride so far for the New Orleans Saints this offseason. Despite the controversy that has surrounded the Saints organization, they have done a good job of keeping a roster good enough to contend for the championship, next year.

    The Saints did lose some key players, but that's just the way life is in the NFL during free agency.

    A few losses this offseason:

    • Jo-Lonn Dunbar
    • Robert Meachem
    • Carl Nicks
    • Tracy Porter

    All of them being key players in the team's success. But Saints GM Mickey Loomis and the organization managed to make some key acquisitions of their own, addressing their defense (a unit that needed much work), and retaining Brees' favorite target, Marques Colston.

    If you think about it, especially with the lack of cap space the team had, they did a good job during the 2012 free agency, picking up some solid players. Let's take a look at the Saints' moves so far and grade them.

Marques Colston, WR

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    The Saints managed to keep Brees' favorite target and retained star receiver Marques Colston. And that's turning a frown upside down. Especially with all that's been going on with the Saints.

    The Saints locked in Colston with a five-year deal before he could hit free agency, which was a smart move. If Colston hit the market, the Saints could not have afforded to get into a bidding war with other teams with wide receiver needs.

    Colston is a key part of the Saints offense. In his six seasons in the league, Colston has 449 receptions for 6,240 yards and 48 touchdowns.

    Grade: A

Chris Chamberlain, OLB

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    The Saints picked up outside linebacker Chris Chamberlain from the St. Louis Rams.

    Whether or not he is a replacement for veteran Scott Shanle remains to be seen, but his familiarity with new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's defense gives him an advantage.

    Chamberlain, who has been in the league four years, had his best season in 2011, recording 82 tackles, two sacks, one interception and one forced fumble.

    Chamberlain, no stranger to competition, will compete for the starting weak-side or outside linebacker job. He is a solid football player who has always put forth his best effort and has progressed every year.

    Grade: C+

Ben Grubbs, G

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    Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks left the New Orleans Saints and signed with the Tampa Bay Bucs; they couldn't afford the type of money Nicks was looking for. The Saints needed to address this immediately, and they did.

    Grubbs is a two-time Pro Bowl guard and can bring the same level of skill that Nicks provided on the Saints O-line.

    In five years in the league, Grubbs has been on the All-Rookie team in 2007, a Pro Bowl alternate in 2009 and 2010, and last year, was a starter on the Pro Bowl squad.

    Grade: B+

Brodrick Bunkley, DT

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    The Saints filled one of their most glaring needs. They picked up one of the best run-stuffing tackles available in Brodrick Bunkley.

    Bunkley was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2006 but was traded to the Denver Broncos after a few inconsistent seasons with the Eagles. He reinvented himself with the Broncos and went on to have a solid season.

    Bunkley can be a force in the middle and will help out the Saints in stuffing the run. He is also capable of rushing and pressuring the QB. In his six years in the league, Bunkley has 187 tackles, six sacks, three fumble recoveries and 18 stuffs.

    I believe Bunkley is an upgrade over Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin.

    Grade: B

Curtis Lofton, MLB

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    With Jonathan Vilma's future still up in the air (with player suspensions looming for the bounty scandal) the Saints needed to improve and secure their interior defense. Curtis Lofton is a great pickup.

    Curtis Lofton is one of the top middle linebackers in the NFL and played a key role in the Atlanta Falcons defense. He is versatile and is capable of playing in any linebacker spots. He also has improved his pass coverage.

    The Saints needed to revamp their linebacker corps. and this was a great step in the right direction. Lofton is a tackling machine, recording 147 tackles just last season. In his four years in the NFL, he has recorded 492 tackles, four sacks, seven forced fumbles, three interceptions and 15 passes defended.

    Grade: A

Turk McBride, DE

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    Turk McBride is a pass-rush specialist. Something the Saints need help with: the pass rush. Big time. Spagnuolo will want to generate more of a pass rush with the front four and less with complex blitz packages.

    McBride showed signs of potential early in the season with sacks in two of the first three games, but injuries ended up decreasing his production and cutting his season short. He can be a good solid backup to starting DE's Will Smith and Cameron Jordan.

    The Saints signed McBride to a one-year deal, maybe wanting to give him another chance to live up to his potential. McBride can be a contributor on the Saints defense.

    Grade: C+