On March 9, free agency begins in earnest for Loomis and Payton as they attempt to piece together a championship roster under the constraints of a league-mandated salary cap of approximately $168 million. The Saints are projected to have between $25 million and $30,000 million in cap space to lure an impact edge rusher, or cornerback, or linebacker, or return specialist/running back, etc.
Veteran fullback John Kuhn didn’t bother with free agency. He re-upped with the Saints on Feb. 3, signing a one year, $1.08 million contract extension.
Hightower Runs for 102 yards
Of the remaining 18 unrestricted free agents (UFA) according to Spotrac, here’s my top five considerations:
— DT Nick Fairley. A good player, not a great player with past baggage/issues. The concern here is the team will be tempted to overpay him because, when totally focused and grounded, he can fill a huge need in the interior defensive line both as a run stuffer and a pass rusher.
— RG Jahri Evans … played well on the rebound last season … may decide to retire … turns 34 on Aug. 22.
— RB Tim Hightower … a solid, complementary player. Now that he has retained an agent, I hope he doesn’t price himself out of New Orleans.
— CB Sterling Moore … signed off the street during the season and acquitted himself nicely. Not a starter in an idyllic world but there’s a place on the roster for him.
— LB/special teams Michael Mauti … as long as he can walk, there’s always a place for him on my roster after that bone-rattling hit on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton in 2015.
There are other UFAs worth a mention.
— OLB Paul Kruger … nothing special; sign him on the cheap.
— RB Travaris Cadet … I’m not a fan of his … if he could return kicks/punts, he’d be more attractive.
— LS Justin Drescher … bring him to camp.
— G/C Tim Lelito … how many opportunities does he get?
— S Roman Harper … know when to say when … a budding position coach.
— DE Darryl Tapp … has the time come to Tapp out on a solid 11-year career?
Other orders of business:
— I’d make solid offers to five players currently under the Saints control: DE Kasim Edebali (restricted free agent), CB B.W. Webb (RFA), WR Brandon Coleman (RFA), WR Willie Snead (exclusive rights free agent) and K Will Lutz (ERFA).
— Also, I would restructure the contracts of S Jairus Byrd ($7.9 million base, $11.7 million cap hit) and TE Coby Fleener ($5.8 million base, $7.5 million cap hit). Better contributors have been asked to rework their deals.
Brian Allee-Walsh Sports NOLA
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