by Kristian Garic, Kristian@wwl.com,posted Mar 15 2012 8:13AM
The Saints are getting the ball rolling on free agents. League sources confirm the team will visit with three players Friday. Two of the three players are on defense. Linebackers David Hawthorne (Seattle Seahawks) and Joe Mays (Denver Broncos) are intriguing players that could provide for a nice fit under new Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Tight end Joel Dreesen (Houston Texans) will also be in town on Friday.
Hawthorne led the Seahawks in tackles the last three years with over 100 tackles in that time. He turns 27 this season and has the versatility the Saints love, starting games at middle linebacker and weakside linebacker. During the first four years of his NFL career Hawthorne has amassed 350 tackles, 6 sacks, and 7 interceptions. Hawthorne is a bit undersized at 6'0, 246 lbs.
Mays also turns 27 in June. He started 12 games last season in Denver. In 2011, Mays finished with a career high 75 tackles. He was originally drafted in the sixth round by the Philadelphia Eagles, before being traded to Denver in 2010. Like Hawthorne, Mays is a bit undersized at 5'11 and 250lbs. Both linebackers are athletic and could provide good insurance if the Saints lose Jo-Lonn Dunbar in free agency. Don't read to much into the Saints looking at players with middle linebacking experience, Jon Vilma is safe for now.
Joel Dreesen won't supplant Jimmy Graham as the team's main tight end, but he's been solid in his six seasons in the NFL, the last five with the Houston Texans. Dreesen's best season came in 2010 with 36 receptions and 518 yards receiving. Houston's offense is similar to that here in New Orleans, and Dreesen would fit well with the Saints pass first offense and provide solid depth behind Graham. Dreesen is an athletic tight end, very similar to current back up David Thomas. The Black and Gold might be concerned with Thomas' concussion history that caused him to miss most of last season.