Top Five Priorities for New Orleans Saints Offseason
The New Orleans Saints were very successful in the 2009 offseason, acquiring players, preparing through camps, and filling their roster with an upgrade.
The success brought them to Super Bowl XLIV, where they were crowned Super Bowl Champs for the first time in team history.
Now they need to improve in order to make a run at a Super Bowl repeat. In doing so, they'll need to fill a few missing holes this offseason.
Most of the weaknesses are on the defensive side of the ball, where the Saints had trouble stopping the run and producing a pass rush with four down linemen.
There are dozens of free agents to either re-sign or part ways with.
This offseason will prove to be interesting if a new CBA cannot be reached before March 5. Without a new CBA, 2010 will be an uncapped year.
Since the Saints are one of the top eight teams in the league, they will not be able to pursue a free agent until another team signs away one of their own. Most of their roster improvements will have to come from the draft.
No. 5 Drew Brees' Contract Extention
It's not often that I feel that a player is worth $100 million (i.e. Albert Haynesworth). But when your franchise quarterback plays a huge role in winning your team a Super Bowl title, it's time to pony up.
Drew Brees currently has two years remaining on the six-year, $60 million deal he signed as a free agent. Now he should be paid like a top three NFL quarterback.
I expect the Saints to re-work the final two years and then extend him another four years. Effectively, he would be receiving a new six-year deal worth about $100 million.
No. 4 Figure Out What To Do With Reggie Bush
I've heard many speculate that Sean Payton just doesn't know how to use Bush correctly, but that just seems ridiculous.
If Payton can develop a complex offensive system that is consistently among the league leaders in points and yards, then I think he can figure out how to properly use one of the fastest players on his roster.
When you look beyond the surface, you begin to notice Bush is not the best back on the team. He's not the best receiver either.
He also isn't handed the ball in do-or-die situations, becuase of the possibility of a fumble. Bush also trailed another back in yards and touchdowns as well.
Bush had a major impact on just three games this season: at Miami, at St. Louis and against Arizona. If you point to the Arizona game as to proof that Bush will break out next year, then you are fooling yourself.
I would try to restructure Bush's contract so that he's guaranteed between $2 million and $2.5 million and load it with incentives based on games played, yards, first downs and touchdowns.
No. 3 Address the Left Tackle Position
When starting left tackle Jammal Brown went on IR because of hip and sports hernia surgeries, I have to admit that I was a little bit worried about the overall quality of the offense.
Brown is a two-time Pro Bowler. While I believe he's a little bit overrated, he's still an above-average NFL left tackle.
Bushrod, who got the job done often, was more of a run of the mill tackle, as his place was exposed by some of the better defensive teams in the league.
According to http://footballoutsiders.com/stats/ol, the Saints were one of the worst teams in the league running the ball to the left side.
Brown is a restricted free agent. I would sign him to a high tender this year and then draft his replacement the following year. He will command too high of a contract in 2011 to sign to an affordable long-term deal.
If another team matches the offer sheet this season, I would take the draft pick compensation in a heartbeat.
No. 2 Re-sign Darren Sharper
Darren Sharper was the face of the Saints defensive turnaround. He tied for the league lead with nine interceptions and led the league with three defensive touchdowns.
Sharper is the reason why Peyton Manning didn't challenge the Saints deep down the field like he did in 2007 when he gashed safeties Josh Bullocks and Kevin Kaseviharn.
While Sharper is 34, renowned trainer Tom Shaw says that he still maintains his explosiveness.
Signing Sharper to one-year deal worth $5 million-$6 million with a team option for a second year would be most effective.
No. 1 Upgrade Defensive Front
The Saints have three above-average players in the defensive front seven—Will Smith, Sedrick Ellis and Jonathan Vilma.
Charles Grant catches a lot of flack from the fans for not meeting the expectations of his contract. He is scheduled to make $4 million next season.
While a disappointment as a pass rusher, opposing running backs are far less successful running to his side of the line of scrimmage than the other side.
The Saints desperately need a run stuffer at defensive tackle to play alongside Ellis as the interior run defense has struggled over the past three years.
Outside linebackers Scott Fujita and Scott Shanle both will turn 31 next season. Fujita is a free agent this season. While they are both great leaders in the Saints locker room, neither is very athletic or good at playing in space.
I would use each of the first two draft picks on a defensive tackle to replace Kendrick Clancy and an outside linebacker to replace Scott Fujita.