The Saints are unlikely to possess significant cap space in the 2013 NFL offseason, though the moves prescribed previously would free some room. Still, there are some players who could thrive in New Orleans at a considerable discount over comparable players.
OT Sam Baker from Atlanta
Sam Baker was a bit of a disappointment in Atlanta for a "power football team." In a more balanced offense like New Orleans, Baker could be the perfect fit. He also should come at a cost-effective rate.
TE Ben Hartsock from Carolina
As with Baker, taking from a division rival isn't a bad idea. It potentially makes an opposing team in the division weaker. Hartsock is a physical blocker, which is what the team would like to bring in to fill the hole at the third tight end spot.
CB D.J. Moore from Chicago
Moore was a favorite of mine when he came out of Vanderbilt. For some unknown reason he has been replaced as the Bears' nickel back this season. He is the epitome of a playmaker, which is precisely what the Saints need in their secondary. He should come on the cheap.
DT Amobi Okoye from Chicago
Okoye is still an incredibly young player. The No. 10 overall pick in 2007 has had flashes of brilliance in between awful play in his five-year career. He is probably running out of chances, but his potential is great.
DE Michael Johnson from Cincinnati
Johnson had a cap figure of $1.62 million in 2012. That figures to increase by roughly 500 percent in 2013. Johnson has improved each of his four seasons in the NFL to the point where this year he has put up 9.5 sacks in 15 games.
That number would place him first on the Saints roster, of course. Though he would likely command a similar cap number to the one granted Will Smith this season, the production would figure to leap tremendously.
OLB Kaluka Maiva from Cleveland
Maiava was one of four Southern California linebackers to enter the NFL in the spring of 2009. The other three—Clay Matthews, Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga—have become virtual stars at the NFL level.
Maiava, though, has been a steadily improving player who flashes brilliance on occasion. He would not be a sexy pickup, but would figure to continue to improve the depth of the Saints' linebacking unit and make the Saints defense better once again. This season Maiava has two sacks, three passes defenses and two forced fumbles in addition to 29 tackles.
CB Tracy Porter from Denver
Porter is a goner in Denver. He has disappointed the Broncos this season, and the team has two young players at the position whose future they cherish. Porter could return to the sight of initiation into the league, not to mention the place in which he and the franchise shared their greatest moment.
Meanwhile, Porter's Broncos teammate Ryan Clady would be an ideal fit at left tackle for the Saints. But even in a perfect world, Clady leaving Denver is extremely unrealistic. It simply will not happen.
CB Brice McCain/H-Back James Casey/DE Connor Barwin/C Antoine Caldwell from Houston
As much as picking up all four members of the Texans' squad on this list would be desirable, it is not practical. But picking up one is doable, to say the least. The greatest need would be at center, and Caldwell may be the finest fit of any of the options available in free agency or the draft.
CB Chris Houston/DE Lawrence Jackson/DT Sammie Lee Hill from Detroit
Taking one of the three of these members away from Detroit's not-so-vaunted defense wouldn't seem to be a great prize. But each player as an individual is uniquely talented. Each has had some nice moments in The Motor City, but all are expendable.
Each seems to fit the Saints very well.
That's the theme of each player listed here. Each is a cap novelty. None of these players are going to demand the kind of salary that marquee free agents most certainly would (save for Johnson). All promise to be good fits in New Orleans, and would make the 2013 Saints a better football team.