As many expected, the New Orleans Saints have not been active during the early stages of free agency. The team managed to re-sign some of their own players, such as QB Jameis Winston, running backs Ty Montgomery and Dwayne Washington, G/T James Hurst, DE Noah Spence, defensive backs J.T. Gray and P. J. Williams. They also applied the franchise tag to star safety Marcus Williams and signed former Carolina fullback Alex Armah.
New Orleans had to release some of their contributors just to get under the league's mandated salary cap before the start of free agency. Some of those players, along with some of their own free agents, have already signed contracts with other teams. Defensive backs Janoris Jenkins and Justin Hardee, tight ends Josh Hill and Jared Cook, WR Emmanuel Sanders, DE Trey Hendrickson are off the open market, while DT Malcom Brown was traded to Jacksonville.
As the league enters the second week of free agency, we are seeing contracts drop a bit in value. While we should see the Saints become more active and add a few pieces to their talented roster, some New Orleans players remain unsigned. Here are five Saints defensive players who could return to the team at a reasonable cost after testing the open market.
KWON ALEXANDER, LINEBACKER
An Achilles injury suffered in a Christmas Day victory over the Vikings raises a question about Alexander's availability for the beginning of next season. Before the injury, he was a crucial part of the New Orleans defense ranking in the top-five of the league in most categories.
Alexander was released to free up over $13 million in cap space, but both he and the Saints have shown mutual interest in his return. He proved to be the perfect complement to All-Pro Demario Davis at linebacker, and his athleticism adds an extra element to the defense.
ALEX ANZALONE, LINEBACKER
Anzalone's defensive snaps were drastically reduced after the mid-season trade for Alexander, but he played a full season for only the second time in his four-year career. He still started nine contests, finishing with 3 tackles for loss and 50 total stops. Anzalone has 4 sacks, an interception, 3 forced fumbles, 8 tackles for loss, and 10 QB pressures in 38 career games with the Saints.
While not the athlete that Alexander is, Anzalone has good sideline-to-sideline ability and valuable experience in the defensive system. Like many players we’ve seen already, he could return to his original team on a one-year contract and hope for a big year to increase his value for next season.
CRAIG ROBERTSON, LINEBACKER
Robertson has been a valuable special teams contributor for the last three years after being a regular starter in 2016 and 2017. He can fill in at any of the linebacker spots and could supply experienced depth at a position of need as the team heads toward the draft.
The 33-Yr old Robertson is a team leader and mentor to the younger players. He should be available at a team-friendly salary unless the Saints can find younger options in free agency at a reasonable value.
D.J. SWEARINGER, SAFETY
Yes, the team just re-signed P. J. Williams and have Marcus Williams locked up for at least the 2021 season. The 29-Yr old Swearinger supplied capable depth for the secondary this past season. Another potential playmaker on the back end, he has 14 career interceptions and 13 fumbles either forced or recovered in his eight-year career.
Swearinger can play either safety spot and played well at free safety in relief of an injured Marcus Williams last season. He is considered mid-tier among the remaining available safeties, but adds starting experience and versatility to a defense.