The New Orleans Saints have won free agency at least three times in the Sean Payton era.
In 2006 the team successfully courted Drew Brees—a brilliant yet questionable free-agent signing due to his having a major reconstructive surgery on his throwing shoulder in that offseason. The team also managed to bring in Scott Fujita—one of the key leaders on the defense that eventually reformed enough to capture the franchise’s first Super Bowl trophy in 2009.
In the 2011 free agency period—one marked by the oddity of beginning in late July due to an unnecessary league-wide lockout—the Saints stole the show by signing Darren Sproles away from San Diego. Sproles and Brees were teammates for a year in San Diego. Because of what Brees had noticed of Sproles from their time together, Brees petitioned the organization, after it had decided to move Reggie Bush, to make Sproles an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Sproles only helped New Orleans become the greatest offense the league had ever seen in 2011.
Last season the Saints won again by signing Curtis Lofton away from the rival Atlanta Falcons, while also stealing away fellow starters on defense, David Hawthorne from Seattle and Brodrick Bunkley from Denver. While all three teams those players left had more success in 2012, the Saints figure to be better in 2013 and beyond because of their presence.
It most impressively paid almost $20 million less for Ben Grubbs than had it re-signed Carl Nicks. Grubbs had the better season, by far. The point is simple: The Saints have had some great success in free agency while Sean Payton has been head coach.
With the team coming off a disappointing 7-9 campaign in 2012, the Saints would love to win free agency again in 2013. The only thing is that “winning” free agency may look a little different than in previous offseasons.
The Saints need to do the following four things to “win” the 2013 free-agency period.