After the draft and rookie free agency, the Saints’ roster stands at around 90 (the limit) and I feel pretty good about how rounded out it is. Obviously the Saints need to get Drew Brees under contract but I’ll reiterate once again that I don’t think this will happen until the player suspensions get announced. I feel like the Saints are stacked fairly evenly at most positions and depth isn’t a major concern in most spots. The draft went a long way to solidifying depth on the offensive line, defensive line, and at receiver. If you asked me what two position right now I’m most concerned about at this point, it has to be the depth at tight end and corner. The Saints will continue to add and subtract to the roster, and look for them to target those two positions.
Here’s how they currently shake out:
Tight End – Right now behind superstar Jimmy Graham, the unquestioned starter, is David Thomas who struggled mightily with concussions last year and ultimately spent the end of the season on IR because of them. Thomas is a very reliable backup when healthy, but he’s had repeated head trauma issues. Those type of injuries seem to come easier once you have a history. I’d love to see Thomas come back healthy, but his concussion problems have to make his reliability a major concern. The only other two tight ends on the roster at this point is an UDFA last year in Michael Higgins, and day old UDFA signing Jacob Byrne. Not to make any judgment on either of those guys, but I’d love to see the Saints bring in some reliable competition. There really is not much behind Jimmy Graham and if, God forbid, something happened to him the Saints would be in big trouble at that position the way things currently stand. I’d love to see a veteran tight end join the team. The Saints did look at tight end Joel Dreessen during free agency, but he ended up signing with the Denver Broncos. No other veteran tight ends have been reported as coming in for a visit, though that position typically sees more activity later in free agency. The cupboard may be a little bare right now at that position as the top 20 remaining available free agents don’t boast a single tight end. The Saints will no doubt eye the waiver wire as the offseason progresses for a promising player to become available. I’m just going to also throw out there that while old and injury prone, Dallas Clark is still available… maybe his asking price continues to drop and eventually it becomes attractive to the Saints?
Cornerback – Patrick Robinson and Jabari Greer are excellent starters that the Saints feel very good about. It’s behind them that things get a little worrisome. Johnny Patrick looked very good in limited duty a year ago, but he’s now thrown into the fire as the #3 corner. The Saints’ staff and fans alike have every expectation that Patrick will develop into a stud, and I don’t doubt that based on what I’ve seen so far, but there is a lack of experience and track record with the Saints’ primary backup at this point. Behind Patrick it gets real dicey, and that’s a position you typically want to be at least 4 or 5 deep at. The Saints have lost Tracy Porter and Leigh Torrence and have done little to replace them. The Saints did draft Corey White from Samford and Spagnuolo did confirm they will try him at corner first even though he is projected by most draft scouts and a corner/safety hybrid. Hopefully he pans out, but I don’t know if he’s ready to be the team’s #4 corner. The Saints have a large number of young, little known players also on the roster (Cord Parks, Kamaal McIlwain, Laron Scott, A. J. Davis, Josh Victorian) so we’ll of course hope that one or even two of those guys can pan out into a nice surprise. Still, adding a veteran or two to the mix has to be essential. At the very least the Saints need a front runner for the 4th corner that’s better than Corey White, and at most I’d love to see a guy that can compete with Johnny Patrick for the nickel spot. Unlike tight end, there are some veterans out there still promising and available at corner. The Saints looked extensively at Kelvin Hayden before he signed with the Bears, so again we saw the Saints show some interest in free agency at corner, they just didn’t land the guy they wanted at that position. Random names still available: Phillip Buchanon, James Butler, Andre’ Goodman, Kelly Jennings, Roderick Hood, Bryant McFadden, Lito Sheppard, Frank Walker, and Gibril Wilson. Yes, a lot of these guys are in their early 30’s and probably washed up, but remember, we’re looking for #4 and #5 corners that can maybe push Johnny Patrick. We’re not looking for starters. I’m guessing if the Saints brought some of the guys listed above for a workout, at least one or two could fit the bill. I’m sure their ability no longer matches up with their opinions of themselves, but as they continue to remain available their asking price will continue to drop. The open market has a way of making athletes past their prime become realistic in a hurry.
To me these two positions are thin and they need more depth. Watch for the Saints to tackle them in the second wave of free agency, post draft. They would be very unwise not to.