Sign, Tag, Walk: Breaking Down What to Do with Each of Saints 2013 Free Agents

Will Osgood@@BRwillosgoodAnalyst IJanuary 9, 2013

Sign, Tag, Walk: Breaking Down What to Do with Each of Saints 2013 Free Agents

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    The 2013 free agency period draws near. On March 12, players who are free agents will be allowed to officially sign with whichever team they choose.

    The New Orleans Saints have many difficult choices to make. The team is projected to be $16 million over the salary cap barrier heading into the offseason. 

    That's money the Saints must shed, either by restructuring contracts or cutting ties with veterans who have helped the team to varying degrees through the years. 

    This is not about players who are scheduled to be under contract in 2013 and beyond (players such as Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma). Instead, it will look at the 18 players who are officially free agents. 

    Five are of the restricted variety, while the other 13 will be allowed to immediately sign with any team they choose. 

    Here we'll decide if a player should be re-signed, tagged (which no one will be, though some will be tendered) or allowed to walk. 

LT Jermon Bushrod

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    Jermon Bushrod's 2012 cap-hit number was $6.75 million. It is likely Bushrod will command a greater salary in 2013 and beyond. 

    Considering that we saw Bushrod struggle against average defensive ends in 2012, he is not worth it. If he can come down to his salary structure in 2011 ($2.9 million), the Saints should sign him before he gets to free agency. 

    Most likely that will not happen, though. 

    Decision: Let Bushrod walk

DT Sedrick Ellis

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    Sedrick Ellis epitomizes the term "draft bust." His 2012 cap number was an appalling and offensive $7.341 million. The Saints could have paid three players that amount of money and received three times the production. 

    Unless Ellis takes a pay cut of approximately $6 million and accepts a backup role, he can't be allowed to return to New Orleans. 

    Decision: Let him walk


DB Rafael Bush

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    Though Rafael Bush played in all 16 game, he did not truly get a real opportunity to make an impact until around Week 10. 

    From that point on, Bush was nothing short of a revelation. He had one interception, which he returned 40 yards. Additionally. he accounted for a pass defensed, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. 

    Based on that production, had he played the entire season, Bush would have had roughly 2.5 interceptions for 100 return yards, 2.5 forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries. In other words, he is a playmaker. 

    After earning just $465,000 in 2012, look for the journeyman to settle down in New Orleans and make a fair salary, but nothing that will break the bank.

    Decision: Re-sign him

LB Jonathan Casillas

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    The neck roll coming out of his No.52 jersey is supposed to give the illusion that Jonathan Casillas is a throwback, old-school linebacker. But he really is not. 

    Instead, Casillas is a new-school player who has tremendous athleticism. He can run with tight ends and is an able blitzer and zone-coverage guy. 

    But he is weak when the ball is run at him. When the Saints played their nickel package, of which Casillas was a part, offenses were able to run with great success. 

    If Steve Spagnuolo can learn to disguise his defenses, or find a better mixture of players to make up for Casillas' weaknesses, the veteran should be kept. 

    He earned $1.26 million in 2012 and doesn't figure to command significantly more than that in 2013. 

    Decision: Re-sign him

QB Chase Daniel

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    In three seasons, Chase Daniel has completed seven of nine passes for 55 yards. He has also rushed eight times for 30 yards. That is also known as a quarter for Redskins' phenom quarterback Robert Griffin III. 

    But Daniel has been a steadying force in the backup quarterback spot. His role as the holder on special teams has allowed him to see the field, too. Daniel only cost the Saints $1 million in 2012. 

    He may cost slightly more in 2013, but the pay raise should not be significant. As a result, Daniel should stick around. 

    Decision: Re-sign him

DE Turk McBride

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    Turk McBride was supposed to provide stability at defensive end when he was brought in two offseasons ago. Instead, he has spent the majority of his time on the sidelines because of injuries and flat-out ineffectiveness. 

    The good news is that the Saints only paid him $1 million in 2012. The bad news for McBride is he won't even receive that in 2013, at least not from the Saints. 

    Decision: Let him walk

LB Scott Shanle

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    Scott Shanle lasted the better part of seven seasons (the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era) as a starting linebacker for the Saints. The job was finally taken from him in 2012. 

    There is little reason to believe the Saints would bring him back. 

    Decision: Let him walk

OT William Robinson

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    William Robinson joined the Saints at midseason after spending the first part of the year on the Atlanta Falcons' practice squad. 

    It didn't take long for him to see action. He played against the San Francisco 49ers on November 25 and even started a game in December. 

    He did an adequate job and deserves an opportunity compete for a roster spot in 2013 at a low cost. 

    Decision: Re-sign him

WR/ST Courtney Roby

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    Courtney Roby has been a standout special-teams player since the 2009 Super Bowl championship season. Rarely has he done much on offense as a receiver, but that simply is not his role. 

    In the 2012 season, Roby was on a one-year contract that paid him just $700,000. It seems fair that Roby should be brought back at the veteran's minimum again in 2013. 

    Decision: Re-sign him

TE Michael Higgins

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    The Saints liked Michael Higgins enough to have him dress in last season's road playoff game at San Francisco. And the young tight end saw the field in two tight-end sets. 

    In 2012, the team seemed to sour on him, or determined he was less necessary as he was active in just one contest. Higgins is one of the more difficult decisions since he clearly has talent. 

    But the team would like to add a more physically imposing blocker as its third tight end. 

    Decision: Let him walk

LB Ramon Humber

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    Ramon Humber had some great moments with the Saints' defense in 2011. In 2012, he was rarely even active. Still, Humber is on the roster. 

    The question is whether he can retain that spot through the free agency period and into the 2013 NFL season. With better options at the disposal of the Saints' organization, the guess is no. 

    Decision: Let him walk

WR Devery Henderson

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    Devery Henderson's time as a starting receiver, or even contributor, is over. Henderson no longer has the same burst and deep threat speed that he once did. 

    Henderson has been passed by young phenom Joe Morgan. Look for Henderson to try to latch on elsewhere.

    Decision: Let him walk

CB Elbert Mack

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    Elbert Mack was another veteran secondary player who came on in the second half of the season to greatly improve the unit. The Saints' secondary was still below average. 

    But thanks to Mack, Rafael Bush and Isa Abdul-Quddus, the secondary at least made some big plays. 

    The Saints need more of that sort of thing. For that reason, Mack will be given another opportunity to make the Saints in 2013. 

    Decision: Re-sign him

RB Chris Ivory (RFA)

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    Chris Ivory remains one of the NFL's most difficult cases to figure out. His talent should make him a regular contributor. But he, of course, is last on a loaded running-back depth chart in New Orleans. 

    In one sense, the Saints are fortunate that Ivory is a restricted free agent. Tendering him means a team would have to give up a second-round pick to acquire him. That would be best-case scenario for the Saints. 

    But the next-best case would be to pay the incredibly low salary that a second-round tender demands. For the production he has given each year, the money is more than fair. 

    Decision: Tender (with hopes of trading him)

C Brian de la Puente (RFA)

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    Brian de la Puente was a disappointing player in 2012. After a wonderful 2011 campaign, de la Puente underwhelmed for the entire season. 

    The Saints have made the center position an interchangeable one since Sean Payton arrived in New Orleans. But de la Puente is restricted, and it's unlikely any team is going to give the Saints anything to acquire him. 

    For that reason, the team may as well tender him with an undrafted tender and keep him, while bringing in someone else to compete with him in 2013. 

    Decision: Tender (but not with desire to keep him as starter)

LS Justin Drescher (RFA)

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    Justin Drescher is a restricted free agent who will cost somewhere under $1 million to keep on a tender deal.

    Though it sounds like a lot of money to pay for someone who plays five or 10 snaps a game, imagine the frustration the team would cause if long snapping suddenly became a significant issue for the team. 

    Decision: Re-sign him

DE Junior Galette (RFA)

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    Junior Galette has improved in each of his three seasons in the NFL. As a restricted free agent,  he will command a tender. 

    The Saints will likely give him a second-round tender, which will pay him fairly but keep his salary low and keep a team from trading for him. 

    If he can stay healthy, he can be a key player in Steve Spagnuolo's defense in 2013. 

    Decision: Re-sign him

OL Eric Olsen (RFA)

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    Eric Olsen was used primarily as the Saints' extra lineman in their jumbo packages in 2012. Ideally, Zach Strief would take back that spot in 2013. 

    Still, Olsen is not going to be desired by many other NFL franchises for anything other than a backup guard, which is what he is in New Orleans. 

    For that reason, the Saints should tender him as an undrafted player, which would allow any team to claim him and take him. The Saints should not be concerned about that, though. If Olsen is gone, it's not a big deal. 

    Decision: Tender/let him walk 

    All contract information and free agent status can be found at spotrac.com/free-agents/nfl/neworleanssaints

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