With the 2013 NFL offseason set to officially kick off March 12—the beginning of the free-agency signing period—it is appropriate to discuss which moves the New Orleans Saints should avoid at all cost.
Many such moves discussed here will merely be an exercise in dispelling popular rumors or notions that have developed due to the over-saturation of media and opinions floating around.
A few of the moves listed here, though, may actually be a good idea. For one reason or another, the team would still be wise to avoid such a move.
In either case, the Saints would be wise to stay away from the following moves.
Reasons for Keeping Jonathan Vilma
1. Jonathan Vilma has been the leader of the Saints defense since arriving from New York in an offseason trade in 2008. Despite his role in Bountygate, Vilma remains one of the team's most respected leaders. His presence last season helped the team improve on defense throughout the year.
2. Sean Payton said earlier this offseason he believes there is a place for Vilma in the Saints' new 3-4 defense.
According to Payton, the team will run the now-more common 3-4 style which operates more like a 4-3 than the traditional 3-4 made famous by Bill Belichick in New York when the team was winning Super Bowls under Bill Parcells.
This style of 3-4 defense will allow Vilma an opportunity to succeed.
3. If Vilma and the Saints can agree to a contract restructure (they have already done so with Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne), the team would be three deep at a spot that requires two starters. Of course, few teams make it all 16 games plus the playoffs without suffering injuries at one position.
Vilma could, and perhaps should, be kept simply for depth purposes.
Reasons for Not Keeping Jonathan Vilma
1. If Vilma does not restructure his contract—which he is not guaranteed to do—he will cost the team $4.8 million in 2013. Considering he is likely to be a backup or rotational player at best, that is way too much money to pay a player who will be 31 when the season gets underway.
2. Vilma led the world in missed tackles in 2013 (no official statistic here, but if you argue that point you obviously didn't watch the games this past season). Age, injuries and rust may have each played a role in Vilma's incompetence in that particular area. Adjusting to a new defense in 2013 isn't going to help him overcome any of those factors.
3. Most notably, Vilma played in a 3-4 defense under Eric Mangini with the Jets. It wasn't long before Mangini discovered Vilma was not fit for his defense. Vilma was then placed on the trading block and shipped here to New Orleans and the renewed comforts of a 4-3 scheme.
Sure, Mangini played the old-school 3-4, as opposed to the new 3-4 that the Saints will employ. In reality, though, Vilma will still struggle in this defense. One less linemen (and at times two) isn't going to help Vilma shed blockers and tackle effectively.
4. Curtis Lofton is the equal of Vilma in leadership and already the quarterback of the defense. Don't confuse the unit by trying to have "equal" leaders and quarterbacks. It never works on offense. It won't work on defense either.
Reasons for Keeping Jermon Bushrod
1. Continuity. The Saints are likely to be scrambling to fill other positions on the 2013 roster. Allowing a player who is not causing your team to lose (Bushrod) to walk doesn't make a ton of sense in a transition year.
2. Success of the Offense. Bushrod has made consecutive Pro Bowls. He's allowed just 7.5 sacks the past two seasons. Running and passing, the offense has excelled in the past two seasons with Bushrod playing left tackle.
Reasons for Not Keeping Jermon Bushrod
1. Overrated. Few players can boast of two consecutive Pro Bowls. Even fewer can say they got there with a ton of luck, while riding the coattails of one of the greatest to ever play the quarterback position. According to Matt Miller, Bushrod is actually the 25th-best left tackle in the NFL.
2. Too Costly. Bushrod is expected to garner a deal worth upward of $6.0 million per year. For a great left tackle that would be an absolute steal. For an average left tackle riding the coattails of a great quarterback, it would be highway robbery on the part of Bushrod's agent.
If Mickey Loomis can find a way to cut that figure in half so that it costs roughly $3 million against the 2013 salary cap, the Saints may consider keeping Bushrod. That seems highly unlikely, though.
3. Better Options Available. Until the New York Giants re-signed left tackle William Beatty, it seemed there would be cheaper and better options available in free agency (there still may be). Now, though, it seems the NFL draft is the place for the Saints to target a Bushrod replacement.
Whether it's trading back to the middle or late first round of the draft (which is more difficult to do than many suspect) to draft Florida State's Menelik Watson, or targeting Terron Armstead somewhere between the end of the third (in other trade back) to fifth round, the Saints have a number of great draft options to replace Bushrod.
Reasons for Drafting Tyrann Mathieu
1. Local Kid. Media-wise, the fact that Tyrann Mathieu hails from the great state of Louisiana and played at LSU is a coup. The Saints, in certain circumstances, would have to consider that factor. Still, this is not an offseason where that sort of reasoning should win out.
2. On-Field Production Outstanding. When Tyrann Mathieu was on the football field in 2010 and 2011, he was one of college football's best players. He certainly was one of the most exciting players in the country.
As a hybrid defensive back and returner, Mathieu made play after play for LSU in 2011. The Saints have been longing for a defensive playmaker on the back end of the defense since Darren Sharper showed his age in 2010.
Reasons for Not Drafting Tyrann Mathieu
1. Off-the-Field-Issues. Unless you've been living under a rock the past year-plus, you are aware of the off-field problems of Tyrann Mathieu. They include multiple arrests for narcotics possession and use. He has been in and out of rehab.
Mathieu was even taken in by the parents of former LSU Tiger Patrick Peterson in the middle of this past college football season. It's a nice story in a sense to see the unity and family-friendliness of the LSU program.
But it shows that Mathieu is not yet ready to handle the bright NFL lights, especially in a city so licentious as New Orleans.
2. He's a Shrimp. This just in: 5'9" corners generally get destroyed by the big, tall and physical receivers which dominate the NFL today (especially in Atlanta and Tampa Bay). Tyrann Mathieu doesn't have any special traits that make him able to overcome his relative lack of size.
He is not quick or agile enough to stay in front of the same types of receivers. And he's definitely not strong enough to win the battle at the line of scrimmage with said receivers. As a result, he is nothing more than a nickel- or dime-package corner. Even then, he has zero value to a team other than the one interception a season he may luck into.
3. Return Ability No Better Than Others in This Class. If the Saints are drafting, or thinking about drafting Tyrann Mathieu because of his "elite return abilities," then the team is being extremely short-sighted.
Ace Sanders is just as explosive (likely much more so) and actually has potential as a deep-threat wide receiver. It's simple really: there is zero reason for the Saints to draft Mathieu.
Reasons for Drafting Jarvis Jones
1. Healthy Jones is a Beast. Though not a fan of Jarvis Jones, it's impossible to deny a healthy version of the player promises to be one of the top-five pass-rushing talents in this particular draft. He fits in exactly at No. 5 after Barkevious Mingo, Alex Okafor, Sheldon Richardson and Dion Jordan.
Is that really what the team is looking for at pick No. 15? Maybe.
Reasons for Not Drafting Jarvis Jones
1. Is He Healthy? Every draftnik knows that Jarvis Jones has a lifelong neck injury that concerns every NFL team evaluating him. One hit in the wrong spot could end his career, if not his life. Of course, that is true for any player, but it's certainly more exaggerated for Jones.
It would seem that best-case scenario for Jones is a five- or six-year career. While many teams would be happy to get five-to-six years out of Jones, the Saints should not be OK with that. Here's why...
2. He's Not a Complete Player. Jones is a one-trick pony. Before the Saints moved to a 3-4 defense, Jones was completely out of the question despite his supposed pass-rushing acumen. Now that the team plans to run a 3-4 defense, Jones is legitimately in question.
The problem is that Rob Ryan asks his outside linebackers to play like defensive ends. They are responsible for containment and to hold the point of attack in the run game. Jones is explosive, yes. But he shows no ability to hold the point of attack in the run game. He appears to lack the overall strength to do so effectively.
And he struggles to chase down plays that are run away from him. He is also not physical enough to win against most NFL offensive tackles. He is truly a one-trick pony.
Reasons for Signing Ed Reed
1. Hometown Connection. Ed Reed is from the New Orleans metro area. Though he played his collegiate ball at Miami, he still identifies most closely with the New Orleans area.
At this year's Super Bowl media day he even talked about "being a Saint" during the team's 2009 run to the Super Bowl championship. Having won a Super Bowl title in Baltimore, he could consider himself free to leave Baltimore now.
Reasons for Not Signing Ed Reed
1. Hometown Connection Often Means Very Little. New Orleans has had two "hometown" athletes turn into epic superstars as professionals playing in this city (Archie Manning and "Pistol" Pete Maravich). Other superstar athletes to take hold of the city are transplants.
In fact, if you look at the overall course of sports history, athletes rarely find the level of success that was expected of them when they play professionally in their "home town."
2. Reed Is Aging and Was Not as Good in Regular Season. Sure Ed Reed was wonderful in the Ravens' 2013 postseason run. But put the film on from the 2012 regular season and you'll find a player who is showing his advanced age.
He has become a bit injury prone as he's aged. Most importantly, he doesn't cover the same amount of ground that he once did. And he won't help the 32nd ranked run defense improve any in that area in 2013.
That doesn't even count the fact he's going to command a hefty sum of money, something the Saints cannot offer.
Reasons for Signing Laron Landry
1. Hometown Connection. Just as with Ed Reed, Laron Landry is a Louisiana native. It is tempting to assume for that reason alone that he's a perfect fit in black and gold. If the team were looking to gain popularity in the state or regain some of its fans who left for other teams, this would make more sense.
Reasons for Not Signing Laron Landry
1. Hometown Thing Is Overrated. The same thing that was said of Ed Reed can be said of Laron Landry. The hometown thing is overrated. Landry of course played his college ball at LSU, making him even more of a hometown product.
But Landry has never been a New Orleans homer. At least with the Manning brothers, it is mentioned in their bio and on national television. No one really considers it with Landry.
2. No Different from Roman Harper. If cutting Roman Harper appeals, signing Laron Landry should not. In other words, Landry is a more cut version of Harper.
He excels against the run and is a physical presence. But his coverage abilities are no greater than those of Harper. In fact, Harper, all in all, is equal if not better in coverage.
Landry may provide a few more knockout hits than Harper, but the production will ultimately be about the same. Clearly the best option for the Saints is to restructure Harper's contract.