Defensive end is a position that stands out as an area of immediate need for the New Orleans Saints going into the 2017 offseason, more specifically the side opposite Cameron Jordan.
Jordan ironically said recently he actually wants the team to add some cornerbacks, likely to help give the defensive line those few precious extra seconds to get after the quarterback.
I agree with both of those being I love the defensive aspect of football, but I also know how important having the right pieces on offense can be and it all starts up front with the offensive line.
The Saints may have found the right fit for Andrus Peat who has struggled to find his footing until being plugged in at left guard and with a hopefully healthy Terron Armstead at left tackle going into the season, that side should be solidified.
The question comes on the right side which was manned by stalwarts Jahri Evans and Zach Strief at guard and tackle respectively.
While both players did well this past season compared to previous outings, it’s likely time for the Saints to start finding options that could offer the same stability, with guard being edged into the spotlight since Evans return is uncertain.
With Evans a free agent, the Saints would be smart to bring him back in at the very least as a fail safe plan until they decide which route they will go heading towards free agency and the draft.
The NFL Draft is always a tricky spot to select an offensive lineman unless you already have a solid line and can afford to let the player develop, but the Saints aren’t in that position and would have to hit on an immediate contributor or bank on a returning veteran like Evans regaining his form for at least the season while the player soaks up as much as he can.
Unfortunately it looks like the upcoming draft is currently not that strong or stacked with offensive lineman so the prevailing, popular theory is that the Saints will go after a guard in free agency.
There are several players the Saints will have a shot at but they won’t be the only one’s in the hunt so the price could get a little pricey when free agency opens on March 9th.
Some top names on the guard market are: Cincinnati Bengals Kevin Zeitler, Green Bay Packers T.J. Lang, Dallas Cowboys Ronald Leary, and Detroit Lions Larry Walford.
According to Spotrac.com, the top names look like they will garner top dollar as well looking at their calculated market value.
These are the projected values/contracts for those players along with their grades from ProFootballFocus.com from this past season:
–Cincinnati Bengals Kevin Zeitler(26 years old)
*Previous contract(rookie) = 4 yrs/$7,544,200 with $6,125,446 guaranteed and average salary of $1,886,050 per year
*Projected Spotrac market value = 5 yrs/$58,107,783 with an average yearly salary of $11.6 million per year
*Graded by PFF as the #7 overall guard from 2016 season
–Green Bay Packers T.J. Lang(29 years old)
*Previous contract = 4 yrs/$20,800,000 with $5,500,000 guaranteed and average salary of $5,200,000 per year
*Projected Spotrac market value = 4 yrs/$33,757,783 with an average salary of $8.4 million per year
*Graded by PFF as the #8 overall guard from 2016 season
–Dallas Cowboys Ronald Leary(27 years old)
*Previous contract = 1 yr/$2,553,000 with zero guaranteed money and average salary of $2,553,000
*Projected Spotrac market value = 4 yrs/$36,411,779 with an average salary of $9.1 million per year
*Graded by PFF as the #24 overall guard from 2016 season
–Detroit Lions Larry Walford(25 years old)
*Previous contract(rookie) = 4 yrs/$3,075,000 with $697,000 guaranteed and an average salary of $768,750 per year
*Projected Spotrac market value = 5 yrs/$31,105,637 with an average salary of $6.2 million per year
*Graded by PFF as the #20 overall guard from 2016 season
**On a side note none of the Saints guards entered PFF’s grades until #36 overall with Jahri Evans and Andrus Peat was graded more at tackle.
While these are not set in stone contracts, the demand or need for a team at the position will surely fluctuate the prices.
Their respective teams could also want the player back bad enough and may re-sign for less money due to that player being comfortable enough or having a strong enough desire with said team to return.
Lang is one who has expressed wanting to return to Green Bay but so far has heard nothing from the Packers front office according to ProFootballTalk.com.
Another issue that needs to be taken into account is fit as well since players like Leary have played primarily left guard and a switch to the right side is always not as cut and dry much like fellow Saints Nation writers Brian Pavech and Patrick O’Rly discussed with The Advocate’s Saints beat writer Nick Underhill on the latest podcast.
Sure the Saints have money to play with but finding a quality defensive end, cornerback, and guard in free agency will be a challenge when competing with other teams who have more cap room.