It is priority number one. No question about it. The Saints must fill their gaping hole at cornerback opposite Keenan Lewis. It's the one position where the Saints can't hope a rookie draft pick emerges; they must go out and get a proven guy.
The Saints shocked all of us last year when they were a cash-strapped team but went big with the signing of Jairus Byrd. They are never afraid to make these kinds of moves but in a perfect world this offseason they won't be premium buyers but more likely targeting a middle class purchase
However, even targeting a middle class player won't be cheap. With the passing games of the NFL, supply and demand has driven the price of the middle class crop of cornerbacks up. In 2015, a legitimate middle tier NFL starting cornerback on the open market would run $5.5-$7 million per year. By comparison, in 2013, the Saints got Keenan Lewis for $5.1 million/season.
More importantly, given the demand from several teams, there can't be any smoke and mirrors to the deal. In other words, there can't be any contracts that look sexy on the surface but inside are filled with back loaded money and over the top performance incentives. That will scare off legitimate prospects. The Saints will simply have to pay to play if they want their guy.
With that in mind, a realistic offer to a player that falls into this category would look like this:
Length: 4 years
Total Value: $24 million
Average per year: $6 million
Guaranteed money: $10 million
Perrish Cox (28) San Francisco
Cox had an incredibly productive contract year in San Francisco last year with five interceptions. The problem is Cox only had one interception in three years before that. At 6'0 he would fit the mold of longer corners the Saints covet and could possibly be available to them at the right price.
Chris Culliver (27) San Francisco
Seven interceptions in three seasons but only allowed 50% completion percentage to receivers he was guarding. He even picked off Drew Brees in the Superdome last year. He also had great size at 6'0, 200 pounds.
He would have been at the top of my list had he not had a few character red flags. He went on an idiotic anti-gay rant before the Super Bowl in New Orleans a few years ago. According to profootballtalk, he also had an alleged run-in where he used brass knuckles to threaten a witness during an automobile accident. It would certainly be fair to question his maturity level on a team that struggled in that regard last year.
Brandon Flowers (29) San Diego
Productive and consistent, Flowers has 20 interceptions in seven seasons. That's the problem. That production may creep him out of the Saints price range. Plus he's a 5'9 cornerback, a little smaller than the Saints would like on the outside. Though, Jabari Greer was this size and performed just fine.
However his production is undeniable and if he slips through the cracks in the first wave of free agency, the Saints may make a run at him.
Tramon Williams (31) Green Bay
A four year deal, as I suggested above, would not apply in this case. Williams will turn 32 before the season. However, he has been remarkable durable throughout his career with only one missed game. For his career, he's picked off 28 passes in eight seasons. Plus, by all accounts in Green Bay he was well-respected leader, something this team can certainly use.
The Saints may be a little hesitant to target a guy north of 30 like they did last year with Champ Bailey but Williams hasn't shown any signs of slowing down like Bailey did.
As you can see from the names above, no one provides the perfect answer. That's what shopping in the middle class section will get you. However, there are several players that can step in and help this team right away at their biggest ‘must' as Sean Payton put it. We'll see who that player becomes.