Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Team Needs: New Orleans Saints

1. Cornerback
Mike McKenzie tore his ACL in week 16. He turns 32 and has only two years left on his contract. His future in New Orleans is uncertain. In the “glass half full” department: the four-year/$15.6 million contract the Saints signed free agent Jason David to last year included only a $3.5 million signing bonus. So they can cut ties with him any time they want, which might be advisable because David performed worse last year than “hole in zone” according to the game charting over at Football Outsiders. 2006 “toastee” Fred Thomas is a free agent not likely to return. The Saints will hope 2007 third-rounder Usama Young can step up and claim one of the starting spots; I think he'll be fine, but ideally he would have another year in sub packages before taking on the full starter's role. Jason Craft is a decent backup.

2. Middle Linebacker
Mark Simoneau is a free agent the Saints won't be asking back. Brian Simmons will be 33 by the time the season starts; he offered little production in 2007 and could be one and done in The Big Easy.

3. Center
Both starter Jeff Faine and backup Jonathan Goodwin are free agents. How good has Faine been these last two years in New Orleans? In 2006 he ranked first in Yakuza Rich's statistical rankings for centers and in 2007 he ranked second.

4. Tight End
Eric Johnson had a disappointing season and will be a free agent, as will backup Billy Miller. That leaves the Saints with only 32-year-old Mark Campbell under contract: a blocking tight end coming off of a back injury that cost him the entire season.

5. Weakside Linebacker
Scott Shanle has manned this spot for two years but it's time for an upgrade. Shanle's value resides in being a versatile backup. 30-year-old Troy Evans is primarily a special teamer.

6. Defensive Tackle
Brian Young is a free agent, even if the Saints bring him back, he will turn 31 this summer. Run stuffers Hollis Thomas, 34, and Kendrick Clancy, who will turn 30 this year, are up there in age. Even career-backup Antwan Lake will turn 29. A late-season addition, Orien Harris, the Steelers' 2006 fourth-rounder, hasn't been able to stick with a roster yet.

7. Wide Receiver
Marques Colston is great, but beyond that this is a position filled with question marks. Devery Henderson couldn't keep his starting job and will be a free agent, as will David Patten, the guy who replaced Henderson. The Saints are reportedly interested in bringing back Patten, as he did make some nice plays for them, but at this point he's really no more than a third or fourth receiver. Lance Moore looked good compared to Henderson, but he'll have to show more consistency in order to get more playing time. Even with the Saints' struggles at wide out, 2007 first-rounder Robert Meacham didn't show enough to the coaches to be active for a single game.

8. Defensive End
The Saints simply didn't get enough production out of ends Will Smith and, especially, Charles Grant, though some of that could be attributed to the atrocious play by certain members of the secondary. Renaldo Wynn is a capable backup and a free agent who could find himself back in New Orleans.

9. Quarterback
The backups are Jamie Martin and Tyler Palko. At the very least, the Saints should bring in competition for Palko as the developmental guy.

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