It’s been almost two weeks since free agency has kicked off, but it probably seems like a lot longer for loyal followers of the New Orleans Saints.
To this date, the only signings that can you could literally get excited about is actually a toss up between tight end Coby Fleener or linebacker James Laurinaitis — and that should say how it’s going for the team.
Being fair, both were a “need” but fans were hoping for more of a splash that was comparable to recent years; although those splashes have left the Saints soaked in salary cap debt.
General manager Mickey Loomis said last week that the club had been making inquiries and calls concerning free agents, but due to their cash strapped situation it’s been pretty quiet.
Speaking of which, the Saints reportedly are only operating with around $1.3 million in salary cap space currently; and that is before the deal for Laurinaitis is official, so it could be less than half of that amount when it’s done and that’s being generous.
Nov 8, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; St. Louis Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis (55) against the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Rams 21-18. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
It’s probably a good thing that this has forced the Saints to be more patient and diligent in the search process; but on the flip side, that means that they are running out of “quality” bargain free agents as time stretches on.
Defensive tackle Nick Fairley was recently in NOLA to visit with the team, but left without signing a deal; and reports are that he is headed to meet with the New England Patriots staff at the NFL owners meeting in Boca Raton, Florida — which could be another player off the Saints list.
Considering that Fairley was coming off a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Rams and was one of the better defensive tackles left in free agency, he could be another good piece the Saints were unable to add for depth along the defensive line.
Right now, the only guards left that could come in to possibly give some competition to Tim Lelito or Senio Kelemete would be veterans like Geoff Schwartz or Louis Vasquez; who was released by the Denver Broncos after the Super Bowl.
Jan 17, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos offensive tackle Louis Vasquez (65) against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the AFC Divisional round playoff game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
There is also the slim possibility of a reunion with Evans, who refused to rework his contract with the Saints leading to his release; thinking that he could make some bigger money in free agency but which hasn’t been the case.
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If Fairley escapes the Saints clutches, they could fall back on former Washington Redskins defensive tackle Jason Hatcher — who was brought in recently for a visit but left without a contract.
After that, the pickings get even slimmer (pun intended), with Hatcher’s former teammate Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton still available after he signed a one-year, $4 million dollar deal with the Redskins; or the Saints could attempt to bring back Kevin Williams for another one-year deal which is if he still wants to play football.
Weakside linebacker, like guard, is another position that needs depth; but after two weeks the only viable option would be someone like Zach Brown, who hasn’t received much buzz from his own team, the Tennessee Titans, or anybody else for that matter.
Dec 6, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Brandon Boykin (25) celebrates his interception with linebacker Ryan Shazier (50) against the Indianapolis Colts during the first half at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
The secondary market is getting light as well, with a free agent class headlined by the likes of safety Reggie Nelson and cornerback Brandon Boykin; who I thought the Saints might have taken a run at after some of the bigger names like Janoris Jenkins and Sean Smith grabbed onto even bigger contracts.
I had warmed to the possibility early of the team bringing in a veteran wide receiver presence, but the only one likely worth taking a shot at is Rueben Randle — being that he’s still relatively young at 25, and other older players like Anquan Boldin have seem to be headed the way of former Saints receiver Marques Colston.
Not saying that Randle wouldn’t be a good player to have, but I don’t see him taking the reins of a leadership role like Colston had.
We won’t even go into the defensive end position, in trying got find some experienced help on the other side for Cameron Jordan; because if Jason Jones of the Detroit Lions is the highest ranked player available at that position. that tells you everythig that you need to know.
Unless of course if you wanted to try you’re luck with Greg Hardy….uh, no thanks.
Good grief, how did I end up even more depressed at the end of this article?
Is it time for the NFL Draft yet?