While it makes sense that the New Orleans Saints would consider bringing back cornerback Tracy Porter in the event that they’re spurned by Nnamdi Asomugha, don’t be surprised to see both signed to the roster. Regardless of what decision Asomugha reaches, signing Porter would open up options for the black and gold in the backfield.
With the current pieces in the Saints backfield, Asomugha would likely walk in as a starter since he is an ideal fit for new Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. The veteran corner had the best years of his career under Ryan when they worked together with the Oakland Raiders. That would give New Orleans Asomugha, Keenan Lewis, Jabari Greer and Patrick Robinson rotating outside the numbers while leaving nickel duties to Corey White. Now suppose Porter were to join the mix. His size and skill make him a great fit for the nickel role patrolling the middle of the field. So what would become of White?
While White may have made a reputation for himself as a nickel corner this past season, that was not actually his primary position. When he was drafted last year in the fifth round, his primary position was listed on draft boards as strong safety. In fact, at last year’s combine White worked out as a safety. In his first year in the league, he showed that he can excel at covering the middle. He has also been highly praised for his skills against the run. If Porter makes a return to the team, look for White to get a shot at showing of his talents full-time with a move to starting safety.
Roman Harper has been working full-time at strong safety since 2007. After six seasons its time for a changing of the guard. Harper, now on the wrong side of 30, has been struggling for several years now with a knack for getting burned in deep coverage. A move to outside linebacker would help mask his deep coverage deficiencies and accent his gift for the blitz, but he is significantly undersized for the position. So with that in mind, it seems the time has come to say goodbye to Harper. With as much as the Saints have been looking at safeties this off-season its a change which was likely already planned. Freeing up White by signing Porter gives Ryan a proven option for the middle of his defensive backfield rather than taking his chances with a rookie. And let’s not forget the $3.6M-$5.35M in savings against the salary cap that can be used to sign other players.
Through many of the moves made by the Saints this off-season, it’s obvious the team is in a rebuilding phase on defense right now. Signing both Porter and Asomugha would be a great step in the right direction. Adding Asomugha would strengthen the rotation at cornerback, adding Porter would maintain the quality level at nickel and freeing up White to take over at strong safety should improve both the production and the value at the position while giving the team more cap space. Rather than being considered Plan B, perhaps Porter is actually part of Plan A.