Friday, March 5, 2010

Saints Nation: Team's Free Agency Needs

It's weird to think about the Saints needing to fix anything just weeks after winning the SuperBowl, but the reality is that free agency is now upon us and the Saints have an opportunity to make their team better or worse. The offseason will serve largely as focus on keeping the parts that helped the Saints make their run through the playoffs. Because the Saints ended in the top 8, there's also several restrictions on what the team can do in free agency. The team cannot sign an unrestricted free agent unless they lose one, so it encourages them to hold on to the ones they have. Cutting Charles Grant, by the way, does not count as losing a free agent. In the coming weeks the Saints will need to decide whether or not to re-sign free safety Darren Sharper and linebacker Scott Fujita. We should also expect the team to finalize a long term deal with Jahri Evans soon. Adam Schefter of ESPN reported today that the Saints are on the verge of making Evans the highest paid guard in NFL history.

As far as what the Saints need to upgrade this offseason, first it depends on what they lose. They've tendered tackles Zach Strief, Jammal Brown and Jermon Bushrod - but it's entirely possible they'll need to add depth at the tackle position should they lose any of those players. Should they lose Darren Sharper and/or Scott Fujita, safety and linebacker immediately become a position of need. Rumblings are that Malcolm Jenkins may be thrown into the role of free safety should the Saints lose Sharper. Mike Bell and Pierre Thomas aren't locked up for next year yet either, and there's a decent chance someone will make a run at both players. Losing either would result in the need for a back, and there's been rumblings of LaDainian Tomlinson possibly coming to New Orleans.

Assuming all of these players return, though, the top positions of need are on the defensive line. The Saints have parted ways with two of their opening day starters on the front four (Charles Grant and Kendrick Clancy), and while Will Smith and Sedrick Ellis both had solid season, the Saints need to fill the other two starting spots with some quality talent. Expect them to target these areas early in the draft and in free agency as their two major needs. An able run stopper and a capable pass rusher top the Saints' current wish list.