It’s late June and already a grim reality is settling over the 2017 campaign. First there was the massive panic/overreaction story from Ian Rapoport that made it sound like Center Max Unger was going to miss half the season at a minimum after undergoing surgery (Sean Payton has since noted that he expects Unger to play near the end of preseason and the panic was stemmed).
Then far worse news. First, DT Nick Fairley, a great offseason addition for the Saints a year ago who had just inked a new four year deal … might not be able to play again. Like ever. A heart condition prompted the organization to send Fairley for tests and the initial opinion wasn’t good, basically that Fairley ought to hang it up forever and not risk his life playing football. Fairley has since received another, more optimistic opinion, is currently waiting for a third but the Saints aren’t taking chances. Fairley was put on IR on Monday afternoon. A fantastic free agent pick up and solid re-up lost for the season before training camp was even a whisper.
This of course was on the heels of the “no Terron Armstead this year” news. Wonderful. A torn labrum is putting Armstead on ice for four to six months, which means AT BEST mid-October, at worst mid-December. I can easily see the Saints simply putting him on IR for the roster spot. The Saints need to move now.
Finding a replacement for Fairley or Armstead certainly won’t be easy. But there are a few names out there that could potentially help out, and the time to strike is now; injuries will stack up for every team in the league eventually, and there’s no reason to be the team without a chair when the music stops. Worst case scenario, anyone the Saints sign could wind up being a depth contributor, and when has that ever been a bad thing?
DT and LT aren’t the only places I’m concerned about either. Without further ado, here are 10 guys I think the Saints ought to kick the tires on and why:
Glen Dorsey, DT: Starting right with the obvious is the DT position and Dorsey immediately comes to mind here. He fits the Saints in a number of ways, and would make a lot of sense as a depth signing even if all goes fine with Fairley. Age and health make him a little risky, but also a lot more affordable than most.
Ryan Clady, LT: I know there’s the whole left handed guy protecting a right handed QB but Clady is a proven talent who had a lot of good years in Denver despite that very criticism. At this stage, I think the move is to simply provide a lot of talented options on the line and mix and match where you need. Clady is a perfect piece here, talented and experienced. He’s also the only guy on this list I’m willing to give a little money to.
Nick Mangold, C: Saints fans everywhere would likely start panicking at this move as a sure sign that Unger situation is as bad as Ian claimed, but the fact is, injuries are mounting on the offensive line already and when it comes offensive lineman, I like veterans.
Ladarius Green, TE: There were the briefest of flirtations with Green last spring before the Saints ultimately went with Fleener, and I have to say I’m a tad surprised to see Green back on the market. Concussion issues, including a potential retirement, clouded his first two months with the Steelers. But when Green did play he was dynamic, having a monster game against the Giants (6-110 and a TD). Let’s be honest – who among us is really that sold on Fabio? Green needs the opportunity to prove he can get it done (CHEAP), and Brees is just the guy to revive his career.
Gary Barnidge, TE: Same reasoning here as Green, but Barnidge isn’t going to be cheap and that’s probably why he hasn’t signed yet. I like him as the dependable option to Fleener’s tendency for the big drop. But I’m not sure that’s a spot the Saints want to spend any more significant money.
Vincent Jackson, WR: I have to admit – I’m not fully sold that the Saints are all set at WR. Granted, on paper the tandem looks great and I can’t wait to see it in action. But what if it turns out Mike Thomas ISN’T a WR1? That now means you’ve got three pretty ok guys that could struggle in coverage if it turns out Ted Ginn drops more than we think he will. Jackson is battle tested, and has a bit of chip on his shoulder from his days in Tampa. I’m sure he’s expecting to get a bit of payday, which would make this a bit of a stretch.
Anquan Boldin, WR: Same logic as Jackson, but Boldin surprised a lot of people in Detroit last year, and if he’s cheap, it’s a nice senior leader to this group and the exact kind of guy Brees looks for on the must have 3rd-and-3.
Erik Walden, LB: Walden actually had a halfway decent season in a depth role with Indy last year with 42 tackles and 11 sacks. The scheme is different but the pass rush abilities are tantalizing to say the least. Would have to assume he comes relatively cheap too.
Alterraun Verner, CB: At the end of the day, CB will always be the position on the team I feel is most vulnerable. Even with two great adds in the draft, this position seems devastated by injury year after year. Verner was a must add two years ago and things simply didn’t work out for him in Tampa. A depth signing with something to prove.
Tramon Williams, CB: Sure, he’s a little long in the tooth (34) but Williams was considered a top ten CB just a couple of years ago and would make a nice depth signing if the Saints corners start dropping like flies.
So yeah, no Tracy Porter (he’s no better than who I listed) and no Darrelle Revis (let’s be honest – he’ll want too much and has definitely lost a pretty big step). So did I miss anyone? Here’s a good look at everyone out there who’s currently available. Please let me know your thoughts!