The New Orleans Saints have displayed a solid number of flaws this 2012 season.
Yes, there is still plenty of time in the season for the team to right the ship, but the same recurring problems that we've witnessed throughout the season so far will not be remedied by the end of the season—regardless of how well the Saints do to close out the year.
It's been the same story each week for the Saints. What have we seen from them, thus far: an inconsistent offensive line, a weak running game, a lack of a pass rush and...well, a bad defense in general.
And that won't change between now and the end of the season.
So, just like every other team in the NFL, the Saints will be looking at available free agents in 2013. Some may be out of reach; others may not be. Whether or not the franchise decides to make any moves in free agency or work through the draft instead won't be known until the offseason.
But, until then, let's take a look at some NFL free agents on the Saints' wish list, players who may improve the team's chances of contending for the Super Bowl 2013.
It's no secret the running game has been struggling. In part, it could be some of the O-line's fault, or the play-calling, but those can't be excuses for the running backs' poor performances. All this after having a great running game in 2011.
Pierre Thomas, the most productive back of the bunch, has picked up only 214 yards on the ground. Mark Ingram has 127 yards and is averaging just 2.9 yards per carry. Darren Sproles also has had a quiet season. He has 118 yards on the ground. Chris Ivory has been nonexistent this season.
Maybe the Saints pick up a back in free agency. Not a superstar but someone who can go in and be productive and push the other backs to pick up their play.
Felix Jones can do that. He hasn't had an amazing career with the Dallas Cowboys, but he is a tough back that has showed flashes of his playmaking abilities and explosiveness.
The Saints' offensive line, once known as one of the team's stronger units, has been struggling this season, especially at tackle.
I know this is wishful thinking, but how about Ryan Clady? The Denver Broncos left tackle called off contract talks with the team and wants to renegotiate after the season. He'd probably be asking for too much, and the Saints won't be able to afford him.
But, like I said, wishful thinking.
Max Starks from the Pittsburgh Steelers is more feasible. The tackle was not re-signed by the Steelers last spring, who seemed to send a further message by drafting another tackle. But that changed over the summer when the Steelers had a change of heart and picked up Starks again and named him a starter.
The tackle is 30 years old and has been in the league nine seasons. On a few occasions, Starks was in danger of losing his job but always ended up working his way back into the starting lineup.
Starks would be a great help and a great addition to the Saints' O-line.
The Saints need some big-time help in the pass-rushing department. Their defensive linemen have not been able to consistently pressure opposing quarterbacks.
Detroit Lions defensive end Cliff Avril would be of great help to the defense and would be well suited to Steve Spagnuolo's 4-3 scheme. Coming off his best season last year with 11 sacks, Avril is quick and explosive and has a high motor.
All teams in the NFL value pass-rushers, so it may unlikely that the Lions will let Avril hit the market, but who knows.
Another problem for the Saints defense is getting burned on big plays. The team may want to consider getting another safety for the defense.
Arizona Cardinals safety Kerry Rhodes would be a nice addition to the team. He has good cover skills, and he's an athletic, hard-hitting safety capable of creating turnovers.
And what about Baltimore Ravens safety, Ed Reed?
Yes, Reed's a bit older at 34 years of age, but imagine Reed and his ball-hawking skills on the back end of the Saints defense? He is still capable of making plays. The former Defensive Player of the Year is injured this season and is "aging," so the Ravens may not want to bring him back.
The Saints should make a run for him.
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