Offseason review: New Orleans Saints

Pre-draft needs

DT, DE, OLB, C, SS, TE

 

Draft class

Round 1: Cameron Jordan, DE

Round 1: Mark Ingram, RB

Round 3: Martez Wilson, LB

Round 3: Johnny Patrick, CB

Round 7: Greg Romeus, DE

Round 7: Nate Bussey, LB

 

Potential free agents of note

Heath Evans, FB

Lance Moore, WR

David Thomas, TE

Jonathan Goodwin, C

Carl Nicks, G

Jermon Bushrod, OLT

Jeff Charleston, DE

Remi Ayodele, DT

Anthony Hargrove, DT

Jimmy Wilkerson, DE

Jo-Lonn Dunbar, OLB

Scott Shanle, OLB

Marvin Mitchell, LB

Danny Clark, LB

Leigh Torrence, CB

Roman Harper, SS

Darren Sharper, S

Usama Young, S

Pierson Prioleau, S

 

Post-draft needs

DT, OLB, C (depth), SS, DE (depth), TE (depth)

 

Analysis

The Saints have a remarkable number of players unsigned for this coming season, so they approached some of their positional needs in the draft.

While some personnel evaluators believe first-round pick Cameron Jordan would be better playing defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, the Saints felt he would fit in just fine in their 4-3. Seventh-round pick Greg Romeus would have been selected much higher had he not suffered a torn ACL last November. In the preseason, Romeus received a low first or high second-round grade from one of the two scouting services most NFL teams use to evaluate seniors. Third-round pick Martez Wilson is expected to compete for playing time on the strong-side.

It probably surprised many that the Saints traded up to select running back Mark Ingram. However, his selection is a clear signal that the team wasn’t happy with its running game. The Saints should have no trouble controlling the ball on the ground with the addition of the powerful rookie. Ingram’s selection and the re-signing of veteran running back Pierre Thomas before the draft should signal that the team is going to lessen the role of Reggie Bush, who will take a pay reduction and a lesser role if he returns for his sixth season with the team.

The selection of third-round pick Johnny Patrick could signal that the team will ask veteran cornerback Randall Gay to take a pay cut if he returns for his fourth season with the team. Gay, who is scheduled to earn $3.5 million in base salary, has missed 16 regular-season games the past two seasons because of injury.

Both outside linebacker jobs remain open with veteran weak-side linebacker Scott Shanle and the versatile Danny Clark unsigned. The team is high on Jonathan Casillas, who missed all of last season because of injury. He’ll be expected to compete for the weak-side job if Shanle doesn’t come back for his sixth season.

While depth isn’t currently an issue at wide receiver, it could be if veteran Lance Moore isn’t re-signed. Moore, who is arguably the team’s most reliable passing target, would be an unrestricted free agent under 2009’s rules, but a restricted free agent under last year’s rules.