Saints Free-Agency Tracker: Updated Signings, Rumors & Grades

Knox BardeenNFC South Lead WriterMarch 12, 2013

Saints Free-Agency Tracker: Updated Signings, Rumors & Grades

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    It’s not quite practicing all week with games on Sunday, but when the NFL calendar resets at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday and free agency begins, there will be a flurry of NFL activity.

    The Saints are still over the cap by $4.257 million, according to Spotrac.com and will have to hustle to get beneath $123 million. The Saints likely won’t have the cash to make a huge impact on their roster via free agency.

    But New Orleans still has to improve its roster and show its fan base it can take steps forward from its 7-9 record from last year. How will the Saints get that done?

    Consider this your daily buffet (and here you don’t have to pay or leave a tip) featuring everything you could ever want to know about the Saints in free agency. When players are added, released or when the rumor mill starts buzzing, check back here for the news. Check back frequently because we’re going to be keeping score.

Latest Rumors and Reports

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    March 22: The Saints are showing interest in offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, the ex-Raven told WNST

    March 22: The courtship between the Saints and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is in a holding pattern, according to Larry Holder of the Times-Picayune. Holder believes the Saints are still high on Asomugha.

    March 22: Linebacker Victor Butler stayed in New Orleans overnight and will meet with the Saints again Friday, according to the Times-Picayune.

    March 22: Defensive end Vaughn Martin is being looked at by five teams, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. The Saints are one of the teams interested.

    March 21: Linebacker Victor Butler is going to visit the Saints on Thursday, according to CBS Sports.

    March 17: Nnamdi Asomugha did meet with the Saints on Sunday but did not meet head coach Sean Payton or general manager Mickey Loomis, according to the Times-Picayune. Both Payton and Loomis were already in Phoenix for the NFL owners meetings.

    March 16: Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is scheduled to visit the Saints on Sunday, according to Matt Maiocco of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

    March 16: Tight end Kellen Davis visited the Saints and is drawing interest from three other teams outside of New Orleans, according to Albert Breer of NFL Network. (UPDATE: Davis signed with the Cleveland Browns, according to ProFootballTalk)

    March 15: The Saints aren't actively pursuing linebacker Elvis Dumervil, according to the Times-Picayune.

    March 14: If linebacker Victor Butler gets out of Pittsburgh without signing a contract a source told Larry Holder of the Times-Picayune that the Saints would be high on his list of places to land.

    March 14: Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that a deal for cornerback Keenan Lewis could be completed by the end of the day Thursday. (UPDATE: Lewis signed a five-year, $26 million deal with the Saints, according to Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times.)

    March 13: The Saints have entered the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes, according to NBC Sports' ProFootballTalk.

    March 13: Free-agent cornerback Keenan Lewis sent a tweet on Wednesday announcing that he was visiting the New Orleans Saints.

    March 13: The Minnesota Vikings released cornerback Antoine Winfield and the Saints might be on his radar. According to the Times-Picayune, Winfield's agent said New Orleans "could be a good fit."

    March 12: Ryan O'Halloran of the Florida Times-Union reported that Jaguars cornerback Derek Cox has set up a visit with the New Orleans Saints. (UPDATE: Cox signed with the San Diego Chargers, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune)

    March 12: Larry Holder of The Times-Picayune suggests that the reason why the Saints have not sparked up talks with offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod is because they want the market to set the price. New Orleans is willing to walk away if the price gets out of hand.

    March 12: Kenny Wilkerson of New Orleans Pro Football reported that the Saints will try and restructure the contracts of defensive end Will Smith and linebacker Jonathan Vilma to get below the salary cap. New Orleans has until 3 p.m. ET Tuesday to shave off between $4.5 and $6 million.

Free Agency Additions/Re-Signings

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    March 21: LB Will Herring: One-year deal, according to WWL-TV; terms not disclosed.

    March 18: LB Ramon Humber: One-year deal, according to the New Orleans Saints; terms not disclosed.

    March 18: TE Ben Watson: Three-year deal, according to ESPN; terms not disclosed.

    March 17: WR/KR Courtney Roby: One-year deal, terms not disclosed, according to the South Mississippi Sun Herald.

    March 14: CB Keenan Lewis: Five-year, $26 million deal, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

    March 13: LS Justin Drescher: Four-year deal; terms unknown, according to the Times-Picayune

    March 9: OLB Junior Galette: Three-year deal, terms unknown, according to the Times-Picayune

    March 9: RB Chris Ivory: Second-round RFA tender, $2.023 million, according to ESPN

    March 9: C Brian de la Puente: Second-round tender, $2.023 million, according to ESPN

Free Agency Subtractions

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    March 13: Backup outside linebacker Jonathan Casillas signed a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers worth $3 million, according to the Times-Picayune.

    March 12: Starting left tackle Jermon Bushrod has signed with the Chicago Bears, according to the Times-Picayune. This loss is huge for the Saints who now have to find a replacement to protect the back side of Drew Brees.

    March 12: New Orleans released backup linebacker Will Herring on Tuesday, according to the Times-Picayune. The move saved the Saints $1.6 million in cap space.

    March 12: QB Chase Daniel signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, according to ESPN. New Orleans will  need to bring in a new backup for Drew Brees.

    Feb 19: CB Johnny Patrick: The move saved the Saints $500K.

    Feb 19: TE Davis Thomas: Thomas was set to make $1.5 million in base salary and a $200K roster bonus.

Saints Re-Sign OLB Junior Galette

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    Now that the Saints are moving to a Rob Ryan-led 3-4 defensive scheme, finding a pass-rushing linebacker is of vital importance.

    Of all the players on New Orleans’ 2012 roster, Galette seems best suited as the rush linebacker in the 3-4. Galette registered five sacks last season as a defensive end and was on the field mainly in passing situations. He’ll now have the opportunity to prove he can be on the field for more snaps.

    Galette’s versatility and body composition led to his new contract, not to mention his upside. The Saints need guys who can make the transition to linebacker from the defensive line and the team gave Galette a new contract because they think he can be their man.

    Grade: B

Saints Bolster Defensive Backfield with CB Keenan Lewis

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    Saints Bolster Defensive Backfield with CB Keenan Lewis

    Was cornerback Keenan Lewis added to the New Orleans Saints’ roster to act as a starting cornerback or the team’s nickel back?

    With a five-year contract for $25.5 million and a $6 million signing bonus it sure seems like the Saints figure him to be on the field as a starter. But according to advanced metrics, both Patrick Robinson and Jabari Greer are better cover corners.

    Greer allowed one reception for every 11.3 snaps while he was in primary coverage, according to Pro Football Focus. Robinson’s number for the same statistic was 10.1 last year. Greer ranked 17th in the NFL while Robinson was No. 33.

    Lewis was the No. 45 cornerback according to PFF, allowing one reception for every nine coverage snaps. For a defense that allowed 4,681 passing yards last season, getting the right coverage combination on the field will be of the utmost importance.

    Lewis may have been paid like a starting cornerback, but he may not be as much as his salary might dictate.

     

    Grade: C

Adding Ben Watson Gives Saints 2 Potent TE Targets

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    The New Orleans Saints announced a very interesting move Monday, signing Ben Watson as their backup tight end.

    The Saints, already flush with a superb ball-catching tight end in Jimmy Graham, now arguably have the best 1-2 tight end punch in the NFC. Watson caught 49 passes last year with the Cleveland Browns and has averaged just over 51 receptions per season over the last three years.

    With two tight ends occupying space in the middle of the field, New Orleans can make it impossible to double cover anyone on the outside of the field. Sending safety help to the outside also now becomes an issue.

    In addition to the help the outside receivers will get with the addition of Watson, there’s also a bonus for Watson. Most teams already have trouble finding a linebacker or safety to match up in coverage with a tight end. Will it be next to impossible to cover two?

     

    Grade: A