Burning Saints offseason questions: What positions should be addressed in free agency?
There's definitely a void in a football fan's life right now with the absence of the NFL. Sure, it's only been a few days since the Super Bowl effectively ended the season and the XFL is nearly here, but the reality is that we have to wait about six months for preseason action to return. The New Orleans Saints look to put together another strong contender in 2020, but it won't be easy with some of the things they have to face this offseason.
We previously tackled what happens at quarterback and the top free agent priorities to re-sign for the Saints in our burning questions series, and now turn our attention to what positions the team could address in free agency.
Whether you buy the reported contentment with the wide receiving corps the Saints have from General Manager Mickey Loomis or not, this is simply an area that New Orleans has to improve. It's not like the team hasn't tried to get better in free agency or the draft, as it's mostly failed. The natural tendency is to chase down the hot names hitting free agency like A.J. Green, Amari Cooper, Emmanuel Sanders, and Robby Anderson - who headline the market currently. Remember that Cooper is the only 1,000-yard receiver out of the group, and he has the most catches at 79.
However, that doesn't mean it is the best play for the Saints. Think about this. If Drew Brees returns, which should be viewed as the best option for New Orleans to win a Super Bowl next season, and he can't heave it down the field like he used to, then that means the Saints will need receiving weapons who aren't just vertical threats. While you can turn to the draft to get a good prospect who can take short routes and make things happen after the catch, free agency may hold one of those hidden gems that could come on a relatively friendly deal for New Orleans.
Let's be honest, Demario Davis has made his case for being the best free agent acquisition the Saints have had since Drew Brees. While he seemingly improves each season, the reality is that New Orleans has some holes at the linebacker spot. Kiko Alonso is set to return, but has a $6.4 million salary cap hit in 2020. Josh Martin, Manti Te'o, Stephone Anthony, and most importantly A.J. Klein are all set to become unrestricted free agents. Craig Robertson is playing out the final year of his contract extension, and the team will get back Alex Anzalone and Kaden Elliss from injury.
There's also uncertainty there with players like Colton Jumper (ERFA), Chase Hansen (NFI), and Andrew Dowell (reserve/future deal). Overall, the durability is the concern for the group. Plus, the team has yet to name a linebacker coach replacement for Mike Nolan. Out of all the in-house free agents, the Saints could look at bringing back Klein first and then seeing what's out there. Additionally, the team could look elsewhere to find someone they feel would be an improvement to the position over Klein who could play alongside Davis. Either way, the Saints need to ensure their depth is bolstered at linebacker.
Left guard is an area where the Saints will have to figure things out, as Andrus Peat is headed to free agency. The team has options already on the team like Will Clapp and Nick Easton, but it remains to be seen if that's the direction they'll turn. Cameron Tom, a restricted free agent, is also an intriguing thought if the Saints bring him back.
The secondary depth is one area to watch, as P.J. Williams, Eli Apple, and Vonn Bell are all scheduled to become free agents. Also, the team will have an important decision to make on Patrick Robinson's contract. Saquan Hampton, who comes back from injured reserve, could have more of an impact in 2020 along with C.J. Garder-Johnson. If New Orleans makes a move ahead of free agency to bring anyone back, it would be Bell.