Saints Hoping Small Ripples In Free Agency Pool Create Tidal Wave Of Success

Paul Augustin, Jr.Senior Analyst IMarch 30, 2009

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 30: Linebacker Jonathan Vilma #51 of the New Orleans Saints yells during play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on November 30, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

While the Washington Redskins (Albert Haynesworth), New York Jets (Bart Scott), and Seattle Seahawks, (T.J. Houshmandzadeh) among other teams have spent their resources luring high-priced free agents away from other teams, the New Orleans Saints have focused on keeping many of their own players and adding a few lightly modestly-priced newcomers.

The signing of Jonathan Vilma (five-year, $34 million) is the only high-priced free agent the Saints have signed. Vilma should be worth every penny as he is the cornerstone of the defense and is one of the best tacklers in the NFL.

New Orleans has also re-signed Devery Henderson and Jon Stinchcomb to modest contracts. The Saints have offered tenders to Lance Moore, Jahri Evans, Zach Strief, and Leigh Torrence. 

The Saints have made a concerted effort to add players to their team to rebuild their under-performing defense.

The shiniest and most expensive import is Jabari Greer. Greer's four-year, $22 million deal is a bargain compared deals for Ronald Bartell (four-year, $25 million), DeAngelo Hall (six-year, $55 million), and Domonique Foxworth (four-year, $27.2 million).

The Saints improved their defensive depth by signing Darren Sharper, Paul Spicer, Rod Coleman, and Pierson Prioleau to light contracts. 

During the past few years, the Saints would enter free agency with a lot of room under the cap and would not always spend wisely (i.e. throwing $15 million to Jason David and having two $60 million defensive ends).

The Saints' salary cap restrictions this offseason may have been a blessing in disguise.  Out of necessity, they have been selective in who they re-sign and who they release.  They have been forced to make smart decisions with their limited funds. 

The Saints' biggest decisions between now and the draft will be with restricted free agents. 

Teams must sign restricted free agents by April 17 and old clubs must exercise their first right of refusal by April 24. 

Within the next few weeks, the Saints will have either retained Moore, Evans, and Strief or will have received first day draft picks as compensation. 

The Saints will not receive compensation for Leigh Torrence because they offered him a low tender.

Regardless of what happens between now and April 25, the Saints have set themselves up well for the draft. 

By addressing nearly every position on the defensive side of the ball through smart free agent signings, the Saints have allowed themselves to either draft the best available player with the 14th pick or to trade down and acquire more picks.

While much of the rest of league is making noise with huge free agent signings, coaching changes, and player disgruntlement, the Saints, on paper at least, have quietly positioned themselves to make a run at another division title and playoff berth.