AFR: Saints do well with moderate approach to free agency - FOX 8, WVUE,, weather, app, news, saints

AFR: Saints do well with moderate approach to free agency

(FOX 8 Photo) Mickey Loomis and the Saints made strides in free agency despite low salary cap space. (FOX 8 Photo) Mickey Loomis and the Saints made strides in free agency despite low salary cap space.

No blockbuster deals. No surprising cuts or trades.

Moderation was clearly the approach for the Saints this free agency and for the most part it worked. With limited resources available, the Saints were able to successfully address most needs on the team without breaking the bank to do so. Whether it makes them a better team or not, time will only tell.

Best Move

James Laurinaitis

I think Coby Fleener will flourish in this system and put up big stats (more on that later), but I’ll go with Laurinaitis having the biggest impact.

Even if his stats aren’t jaw-dropping, his presence will help this defense. Too many times, the Saints were misaligned and seemed confused at the snap of the ball. Laurinaitis can bring clarity to that especially if he connects quickly with defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and becomes an extension of him on the field.

Biggest Loss

Jahri Evans

Evans was not the player he once was last season. However, I’m not convinced the Saints believe they are set at either guard spot with Tim Lelito and Senio Kelemete. They’ll no doubt address this in the draft. Plus, without them getting this in free agency, I’m starting to get the feeling that Andrus Peat moving inside is a strong possibility. Regardless, this is not a position to play around with. It’s crucial to the protection of Drew Brees and the operation of the entire offense.

Biggest Surprise

Josh Hill

When the Bears offered Hill a three-year deal, I thought he was gone. From a statistical standpoint, Hill doesn’t stand out. However, the Saints view his value in a different way than the stat sheet. He is versatile enough to play both tight end, fullback and at times line up in the slot. Plus, he contributes heavily on special teams that may not be as obvious to most fans. He’s also a high character guy. The Saints actually gained space by keeping him and good for Hill for earning a nice raise.  

Other Observations:

  • I’m saving my thoughts on Drew Brees’ contract for another post, but obviously I have a few thoughts on it.
  • Back to Fleener: Andrew Luck is a great quarterback but he’s also very different than Drew Brees. Unlike Luck, Brees is a very tight end-friendly quarterback who dominates down the seams. Luck is much more of a power thrower down the sideline to wide receivers. I’m not sure how often Fleener was Luck’s top option on pass plays, but with the Saints, Fleener will be Brees’ go-to guy in a lot situations. The contract is a little high but not completely unreasonable given how big those first-day deals got. The bigger hits come in 2017 and beyond and they can get out of it after two years if Fleener doesn’t work out.
  • While it didn’t receive much fanfare, bringing back cornerback Kyle Wilson was a solid move. Having him as the team’s fourth cornerback provides great depth to this position and you can never have enough quality cornerbacks in today’s NFL.
  •  It’s interesting that three of the four players the Saints released have not yet signed with another team. Of the players they released, only Ramon Humber has caught on with another organization.
  • Of the remaining in-house free agents, running back Tim Hightower remains the highest priority. He’s a physical back that can excel in short yardage. I think the team values that and will bring him back once again.
  • Of the three Saints’ restructured contracts, Mark Ingram’s was the most surprising simply because a running back’s shelf life is shorter than other positions. If the Saints want to part ways with him before his contract runs out, it will now be more expensive to do so. However, it’s not completely back-breaking, nor were Cam Jordan and Thomas Morstead.

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