For the past 3 NFL seasons, the New Orleans Saints have not only been disappointed with the final results of their own efforts each year but have had to also deal with a restless and increasingly agitated fan-base who have been questioning the organization’s commitment to putting a winning product on the field each and every Sunday; a product capable of obtaining one simple goal — to make the NFL Playoffs every year.
After yesterday’s events during the opening day of 2017 NFL Free Agency, perhaps they may have finally satiated that fan-base for a while; and if not long-term than at least for the time being.
With an ultra-aggressive approach to the start of Free Agency that perhaps is unparalleled at any time during the Sean Payton Era, the team AGGRESSIVELY ATTACKED Free Agency with a vigor that perhaps caught some of their harshest critics of the past several years (myself included) completely off-guard.
Perhaps it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when you consider that the organization had given the media somewhat of a hint back in early January right after they had completed their 3rd consecutive 7-9 season, that their plan going forward was to do whatever means necessary to get the team back to its previous winning ways of several years earlier.
And as we now know: they weren’t kidding.
The Saints signed a new starting guard (Detroit Lions guard Larry Warford), a probable new starting middle linebacker (Carolina Panthers LB A.J. Klein), a new kick returner (Carolina Panthers WR / KR Ted Ginn, Jr.) and perhaps most important of all: re-signed starting defensive tackle Nick Fairley to a brand new 4-year contract, which had been one of the franchise’s top priorities of the entire off-season.
It was a phenomenal day overall for not only themselves, but for their incredibly rabid and ultra-passionate fan-base (a.k.a., “Who Dat Nation”) whom have been nothing short of demanding that they be held accountable for the last 3 straight losing seasons that have seen them left out in the proverbial cold at NFL Playoff time.
The Saints likely aren’t done yet either, as they likely will address other positions — particularly at cornerback — as the Free Agency signing period reaches its full peak. That could come either in the form of another signing, or perhaps via a trade as they try to find a suitor for unhappy and disgruntled wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
Now make no mistake: there is still plenty of work to be done, before the Saints can even pretend that they’re ready to put themselves back in contention for the NFL Playoffs and hopefully another Super Bowl before QB Drew Brees retires.
As we have seen in past seasons, these moves don’t always work out. We all remember names like Jairus Byrd, Brandon Browner, C.J. Spiller, and James Laurinatis; all players who were free agent “busts”.
And these signings yesterday don’t come without trepidation. While Fairley and Warford are considered solid additions to both sides of the line, there is some debate as to whether Klein, who backed up All-Pro LB Luke Kuechly with the Panthers — is or isn’t a starting-caliber player who could prove to be a liability.
And then there’s Ted Ginn, Jr., who though he still has game-breaking ability at age 31, isn’t the player that he “used to be” and is notorious for his trouble with catching passes (the “dropsies”) as a wide receiver — which is why he will likely be used primarily on special teams as the designated punt and kick returner and serve as only a “decoy” in the Saints offense.
But nevertheless, the Saints still deserve praise for their efforts.
The Saints still need to address their biggest need, which is an edge pass rusher to put on the opposite side of All-Pro defensive end Cam Jordan, along with the previously mentioned cornerback spot and also the free safety position for their defensive secondary.
Those positions more than likely will be addressed in the upcoming NFL Draft later next month; with the possible trade of Cooks providing an additional pick that could potentially speed up the process of significantly re-shaping the roster, particularly on the defensive side of the football — which has obviously been their biggest “Achille’s heel” of the past few seasons.
But by attacking the start of Free Agency with such an aggressiveness and willingness to bring in the talent necessary to get back on track towards putting a successful product out on the field each and every week; the New Orleans Saints have shown the entire Pro Football world that they are indeed SERIOUS about “winning” again.
Well done, Saints. Well done……….
Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist and Lead Analyst Barry Hirstius is a 49-year old semi-retired journalist and former New Orleans area sports Editor and Columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints NFL football team. Additionally, he is a frequent guest on a variety of SportsTalk Radio programs that cover the Saints. Barry is also a New Orleans native that dating all the way back to his childhood in the early 1970's, grew up as a long-time New Orleans Saints fan who followed and now covers the team for a span of over 40 plus years. Most importantly, he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.......