This begins our four part series on position groups the Saints are targeting in Free Agency. Check out our Saints Free Agency HQ throughout the week for breakdowns of the LB, DE, and G targets for the team.
The Saints defense was able to show slight improvement last year but fixing the league’s 30th ranked pass defense remains a top priority for 2017.
Sure the lack of a pass rush didn’t help but there were also a ton of injuries at the cornerback position. Expected starter Keenan Lewis could never get on the field during training camp and they lost Kyle Wilson and Damian Swann before the season ever started. Kickoff comes and then PJ Williams and Devlin Breaux go down leaving newbies Ken Crawley and De’Vante Harris to be thrust into action. Veterans B.W. Webb and Sterling Moore were brought in and provided some pretty solid play as well as a positive presence in the locker room. Both of those vets are unrestricted free agents but could return as role players.
The Saints may also opt to do a little high priced corner shopping in free agency. Here are 4 upper tier targets they could pursue:
A.J. Bouye 6ft, 191 lbs. - This 26 year old came out of nowhere to post a Pro Bowl season for the Houston Texans and now looks to cash in. Is he a shut-down corner on the rise or a one-year wonder? He showed a solid ability to break up passes and is a good tackler. It is believed that Bouye could command around $12 million a year on his new deal.
Stephon Gilmore 6ft1, 190 lbs. - This former 1st rounder should see top dollar on the open market and is likely shuffling on off from Buffalo. He was drafted 10th overall by the Bills in 2012 and will look to cash in with a contender. Gilmore tallied 5 interceptions last year and even managed to pick off Brees at the Pro Bowl.
*The Saints may want to steer clear of this guy though given their past history with FAs who came from Buffalo (see Jairus Byrd & CJ Spiller…but then again Jabri Greer)
Logan Ryan 5ft11, 194 lbs. – Sean Payton and his staff have had a chance to take a good look at this 26 year old over the last 2 seasons of joint training camp practices with the Patriots. Ryan has played outside or in the slot for New England and recorded 11 passes defended with 2 INTs this past year. His ability to line up at multiple positions along with being a solid tackler make him a tempting target to try and lure from Emperor Bellichik’s reign.
Prince Amukamara 6ft, 202 lbs. – This royal defender signed a one year contact with the Jaguars last year and proved he’s still got “it” despite a number of previous injuries while with the Giants. Amukamara’s speed and coverage skills could be a nice addition along with his veteran presence if New Orleans decides to not re-sign Webb or Moore.
Safety has recently become a bigger need for this Black & Gold ballclub with the ending of the Jairus Byrd experience after 3 years. The Byrdman’s time in New Orleans finishes with 33 games played in which he forced 2 fumbles and added 3 interceptions. Now, Vonn Bell, who is entering year 2, would be the guy starting with Kenny Vaccaro. That may prompt the Saints to add a more veteran presence for the free safety spot.
D.J. Swearinger 5ft10, 205 lbs. – He racked up 2 sacks, 3 interceptions, 8 passes defensed last season in Arizona. Swearinger was initially drafted in the 2nd round by Houston in 2013 but never lived up to expectations until this past season with the Cardinals. Maybe it was a product of the system in the dessert but still entering his prime at 25 years old.
Bradley McDougald 6ft1, 209 lbs. – Started all 16 games for Tampa last year and logged 91 tackles, 10 passes defended and two interceptions. Has shown improvement every year in the NFL since going undrafted out of Kansas in 2013. New Orleans staff pretty familiar with him having to play the Bucs twice a year.