Now that the season is over, the next step is to figure out what to do with the existing roster before free agency opens at 3:00pm New Orleans time on March 12th. Here a few early ideas for adjustments to be made to improve the roster. Feel free to share your thoughts or add any additional ideas below.
DE: The elephant in the room at defensive end is Will Smith’s contract. With a cap hit of $14.5M this coming season, something must be done. He’s relatively healthy for a player of his age, but he’s not what he was when he was younger. Despite his age though, he still had the second most sacks on the team this year, behind only Cameron Jordan. It seems like the best resolution would be a restructure or extension that allows his money to be spread out paired with a move to defensive tackle. The only other option is to cut him.
As for Turk McBride, let him walk. The man has been largely useless in two years in New Orleans.
DT: You would never know this was a contract year for Sedrick Ellis by his play this year. Brodrick Bunkley certainly has not lived up to the contract he was given before this season. One of these two needs to be sent packing and the other needs to be serving as a cheap backup.
LB: With questionable knees and a cap hit of $6.5M in 2013, it’s time for Jonathan Vilma to go. Curtis Lofton is in place as his successor at middle linebacker and Chris Chamberlain will be back at weakside. It’s time to move forward with younger, healthier and cheaper options.
Jonathan Casillas and Ramon Humber are both free agents. Let them walk. Despite a decent season in 2012, Casillas is simply too fragile to be relied on long-term even as a backup. Humber has value on special teams but as a backup middle linebacker there are better options.
Scott Shanle is a free agent. With Will Herring still under contract, resigning Shanle for cheap would simply be a depth move.
CB: Between the decent free agent class this off-season and a seemingly deep draft class, there’s no reason to settle for mediocre at cornerback this year. Let Elbert Mack walk.
S: Roman Harper needs to be dealt with. With a cap value of $7.1M and $7.9M over the next two seasons, it’s time to do something and I’m not talking about an extension. Be it by trade or release, Harper needs to be moved.
T: Between the active roster, injured reserve and the practice squad, the Saints currently have seven offensive tackles. It’s understandable considering the injury issues that arose at tackle this past season, but now that number needs to be trimmed down. No more than three to four on the active (depending on how many guards there are) and one on the practice squad. Anything more is overkill.
TE: Mike Higgins has contributed little more than blocking. Between free agency and the draft, finding an upgrade is a near certainty. Let Higgins walk.
WR: While still very productive, the receiving corps is aging. Four receivers on the depth chart, including the top three, are at least 29 years old. Devery Henderson is the oldest of the group at 30. This season he recorded the second lowest number of receptions and average yards per catch as well as a career low in both total yards and touchdowns. It’s time to start working in some fresh blood at receiver.