The Complete Guide to New Orleans Saints Free Agency
At this point the team probably could not even sign one free agent. In other words, there is still work for Mickey Loomis and his staff to accomplish before Tuesday (or Monday at midnight, if you will).
Here we will see most of the work the team has already done. It has made some key decisions, or at least figured out their most likely decision once that particular deadline arrives.
It has identified its needs on both sides of the ball. It has done its work scouting free agents and making up a free-agent board. The next few weeks the team will try to employ its plan and hope it can come up with the right fits at each position of need.
This is meant to give an idea of the potential moves, while also keeping you updated on each move and how that impacts the team's plans going forward.
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The New Orleans Saints entered the offseason roughly $16 million over the projected 2013 salary cap. Thanks to the brilliance of Mickey Loomis and his staff of cap wizards, not to mention the willingness of many of the teams' veteran leaders, the Saints have cut that number to the point the team actually lies under the $123.9 million figure the NFL recently released as the 2013 salary cap.
There remain four high-priced veteran defensive players who could greatly benefit the team by restructuring: DE Will Smith ($14.5 million cap figure in 2013), LB Jon Vilma ($8.68 million), S Roman Harper ($7.1 million) and CB Jabari Greer ($5.425 million). If any or all of them will simply agree to reasonable restructures, the team can go full bore ahead in the 2013 NFL free-agency period.
Team's Free Agents Still Unsigned
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The Saints still have 15 of their own unsigned heading into the 2013 offseason. They are:
LT Jermon Bushrod (Unrestricted)
LB Jonathan Casillas (Unrestricted)
QB Chase Daniel (Unrestricted)
C Brian de la Puente (Restricted)
LS Justin Drescher (Restricted)
DT Sedrick Ellis (Unrestricted)
DE/OLB Junior Galette (Restricted)
WR Devery Henderson (Unrestricted)
LB Ramon Humber (Unrestricted)
RB Chris Ivory (Restricted)
CB Elbert Mack (Unrestricted)
DE Turk McBride (Unrestricted)
OT William Robinson (Unrestricted)
WR/ST Courtney Roby (Unrestricted)
LB Scott Shanle (Unrestricted)
Franchise Tag Situation
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The Saints wisely eschewed the use of their franchise tag this offseason after using the tag on franchise quarterback Drew Brees to guarantee he remains a New Orleans Saint for life.
It is conceivable the franchise may be in a position to use it again next offseason if the team is unable to work out a deal with franchise tight end Jimmy Graham. It is better if the team is able to work out a deal, which is just one more reason the other veteran players need to agree to contract restructures.
Players Already Re-Signed
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The Saints have thus far re-signed two of their own as exclusive rights free agents.
S Rafael Bush (One year, $550,000)
OG Eric Olsen (One year, $550,000)
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As the New Orleans Saints prepare for 2013 NFL free agency, they have likely identified the following positions of need:
Though the unit was young and inexperienced in 2012 (and playing in a complicated scheme), it showed little to inspire hope for 2013 that times will get better. Acquiring at least one player, either through the draft or in free agency, figures to be the teams' best bet.
In light of the team's impending move to a 3-4 defense, outside linebackers who can get after the quarterback become a preeminent priority. The Saints would be starting Martez Wilson and who knows who else with the current roster makeup.
Perhaps Brodrick Bunkley can handle the nose tackle spot himself. Even if he can, there's no one else on the roster who would seem to be a capable backup.
Even if Jermon Bushrod re-signs with the team, it is still in need of a right tackle to replace Zach Strief. Of course left tackle is the prominent concern.
After releasing David Thomas, the Saints put themselves on the hook to find a second tight end. Michael Higgins probably isn't that guy. The team would like to add a veteran in free agency and draft a player who it can develop to eventually be a dual threat alongside Graham.
Offensive Free-Agent Targets
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The Saints have several players it could target once the offseason unfolds. Here are but a few:
WR Steve Breaston, Kansas City Chiefs
As Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports reported Thursday, Steve Breaston elected not to undergo a Regenokine treatment to heal his aching knee. By all accounts, time and rest will cause the knee to heal properly.
Breaston is an explosive slot receiver who could complement everything the Saints like to do offensively with their plethora of playmakers.
OG/C Mike Pollak, Carolina Panthers
Pollak would provide quality depth on the interior of the offensive line. For a more detailed report, click here.
TE Leonard Pope, Pittsburgh Steelers
Leonard Pope plays the game the way it's meant to be played. He is a really nice second tight end for any team. For a more detailed report, click here.
OT Tyler Polumbus, Washington Redskins
Tyler Polumbus probably isn't much better than Zach Strief as a right tackle. But with some good coaching, he probably could outperform Strief. For more on Polumbus, click here.
Defensive Free-Agent Targets
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Though the New Orleans Saints are desperate for defensive help, it is much more difficult to discern just which defensive free agents the team may target. Here are a few guesses:
DB Charles Woodson, Green Bay Packers
Even at an advanced age, Charles Woodson is more than simply a safety. He can cover man-to-man and is still one of the best DBs against the run. For more on Woodson, click here.
S Ed Reed, Baltimore Ravens
It's almost too obvious. To some, Ed Reed returning home seems like a done deal. It is not. But it could happen. If the Saints cut Roman Harper, Ed Reed becomes a definite possibility, though it would be Woodson OR Reed, not both.
NT Isaac Sopoaga, San Francisco 49ers
Notice a trend here? With the defensive players especially, the Saints should be targeting players who come from winning franchises. Sopoaga is a beast at nose tackle. He'd be an outstanding signing for the New Orleans. For more on Sopoaga, click here.
Offseason Moves Made to Date
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Exclusive Rights Free Agents Signed
OG Eric Olsen (One year, $550K)
S Rafael Bush (One year, $550K)
LB Curtis Lofton ($5 million roster bonus turned into signing bonus)
DT Brodrick Bunkley (Base Salary from $3.7 million to $750K in 2013)
WR Marques Colston (Base Salary from $4.5 million to $1.7 million in 2013)
OG Ben Grubbs (Base salary from $5.2 million to $1.2 million in 2013)
OG Jahri Evans (Base salary from $7.2 million into $3 million in 2013)
LB David Hawthorne ($3 million roster bonus turned into signing bonus)
All salary figures courtesy of Spotrac.com.