After Further Review: Saints free agency progress report - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

After Further Review: Saints free agency progress report

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© ( AP Photo) It's not in Sean Payton's DNA to stand pat in an offseason © ( AP Photo) It's not in Sean Payton's DNA to stand pat in an offseason

The NFL free agency frenzy has cooled a bit and the Saints as usual didn't let their cap constraints sideline them in their pursuit to get better.

As we get closer to shift into full-time draft mode, I thought it would be a good time to evaluate where the Saints currently stand.

Biggest Addition:

Jairus Byrd. It may be the biggest move in all of free agency. I've been clamoring for Byrd since last year when Buffalo franchise tagged him. He can be that game-changing missing piece this defense needs. His aggressive recruitment and signing by the Saints also signaled that if anyone thought this team was rebuilding, they need to think again.

Byrd has the potential to be the biggest Saints free agent addition since Drew Brees. You read that right.

Biggest Loss:

Darren Sproles.  I have always believed if anyone in the running back room had to go, it was Sproles.  I completely agree with the trade, particularly netting a fifth round pick for his services.  He is not the triple threat he once was and at $4.2 million, he needed to be in order to keep his spot.

However, in every other subtraction, there is a clear cut replacement; I don't see that player with Sproles. Travarris Cadet is the closest to him, but expecting him to equal what Sproles gave this offense is not realistic.

Still to Come:

The future of center Brian de la Puente will be determined very soon. If he signs elsewhere the Saints could be in play for a veteran center to help bridge the gap for Tim Lelito, or it could simply be Lelito's job.

The bigger concern is Jimmy Graham's extension. Since his ‘disappointing' tweet a few weeks ago, Graham's camp has been eerily silent. The long-awaited grievance has not been filed thus the Saints have done business with his franchise tag tight end cap hit of just over $7 million. I've said all along, a long term deal should be the goal for both sides, not a meaningless fight over his position. The tag was just a way to buy time. A new deal gives the Saints some more cap space as well.

Overall Analysis:

If any team is ever in ‘cap hell' in an offseason, they need to take note of what Mickey Loomis has pulled off so far. Simply put, there's always a way to get it done.

Remember, the Saints came into this offseason $13-15 million over the cap and as of now stand at an estimated $3.1 million under the cap and frankly have just as good, if not better team than last year.

The Saints came from seemingly out of nowhere to grab Byrd, who will bring a new level of excitement to an already excitable defense. Bringing back Zach Strief and extending Pierre Thomas was huge in terms of production and intangibles.

I didn't see the Erik Lorig signing coming but I think it ultimately shows their commitment to a more physical style of running, particularly on the road this season.  Rafael Bush is an underrated player who's a solid glue guy for this defense, and Joe Morgan's big-play ability is certainly intriguing.

Losing Will Smith, Jon Vilma, Malcolm Jenkins, Roman Harper, Lance Moore, Jed Collins and Sproles will have an impact in locker room intangibles but other than Sproles as I outlined above, on the field I think the Saints have adequate replacements in every area they vacated.

 

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