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Saints FA

Recapping Recent Saints Free Agency Classes



WWL's Mark Menard reporting-
If the Sean Payton/Mickey Loomis regime were to call it quits today and never spend another day in the NFL, they would still be remembered for one of the greatest free agency signings in pro football history. The fact that they brought quarterback Drew Brees to New Orleans in 2006 and helped him reach Hall of Fame level greatness is something that can never be taken away.
 
But  in the immortal words of Janet Jackson (and more recently Bobby Hebert), "What have you done for me lately?"
 
The Saints made the playoffs in five of the first eight seasons they played under Payton, but last reached the postseason in 2013. Since then, they've had a trio of 7-9 campaigns.
 
As those playoff-tested and Super Bowl winning roster members aged out of the lineup or had their careers cut short by injury, the black and gold have largely failed to replace them with the same caliber of talent, whether that be in the draft or through free agency.



 
Let's go back to the 2013 offseason, the year that Payton returned from his suspension to lead the Saints to their most recent playoff berth, and look at players that were both re-signed by the Saints to remain on the roster and those who were lured to New Orleans from other teams. Among those 22 contracts that were doled out, only four recipients currently reside on the Saints' roster, and two of those contracts went to back quarterback Luke McCown. He's accompanied by offensive tackle Zach Strief and running back Mark Ingram, two men who were drafted by the Saints and have never played elsewhere.

Meanwhile the list of outright failed signings is long; Victor Butler, Kenyon Coleman, Chris Carr, Jason Smith, Jairus Byrd, Erik Long, Brandon Browner, C.J. Spiller, and Anthony Spencer.

Moving on to last year's crop, we find a mixed bag of talent among the new additions, and a host of players who ended up on injured reserve.
 
The Saints 2016 free agency triage ward looks like this: cornerback Kyle Wilson, safety Jamarca Sanford, tight ends Michael Hoomanawanui and Josh Hill, and linebackers Tony Seward and James Laurinaitis.
 
The team also cut kicker Kai Forbath in favor of rookie Will Lutz.
 
So who does that leave from 2016's batch of signings? Among the players who were already in New Orleans that the team chose to keep, guard Tim Lelito lost his starting role to Andrus Peat, running backs Travaris Cadet and Tim Hightower remain serviceable members of the rushing attack, and of course, there's the always steady Luke McCown.
 
Of the six players brought in from outside the organization, Seward and Laurinaitis made no impact and ended the year in street clothes due to injury. Tight end Coby Fleener underwhelmed in the Saints' passing attack, plagued by frustrating drops. But three players did prove their worth.
 
Linebackers Craig Robertson and Nate Stupar initially were thought of as depth signings but both quickly emerged as starters as the Saints rebuilt that position group. Robertson eventually took over as the "quarterback" of the defense by year's end. And defensive tackle Nick Fairley rose like a phoenix in New Orleans, resurrecting his reputation as an agent of chaos in the middle of the defensive line.
 
Unfortunately, Fairley is once again a free agent who the Saints have to woo. Still, when it comes to hiring from outside the organization, the Saints only completely whiffed on two out of six, though that number could rise to three if Fleener does not improve on his 2016 season. After the utter failures of the previous two seasons, 50% is a drastic improvement. Time will tell if last year's crop was a blip on the radar or the beginning of a legitimate trend upward for the black and gold.

And with actual space under the salary cap for the first time in years and a sense of urgency as Drew Brees' tenure in the Big Easy starts to wind down, it's important that the Saints make this offseason count.

 

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