The Saints recently signed DT Nick Fairley to a contract. The New Orleans Saints and general manager Mickey Loomis have managed to make numerous significant free agent signings with little cap space. Cameron Jordan, Thomas Morstead, and Mark Ingram have had their contracts restructured, and this has allowed for the Saints to make the moves they’ve made. Thus far, the Saints have signed LB James Laurinaitis, LB Craig Roberston, LB Nate Stupar, TE Coby Fleener, and DT Nick Fairley; they’ve also re-signed several of their own players. One of the most important signings may just be DT Nick Fairley. Today, we will look at why this signing is of such great importance.

Nick Fairley is a native of Mobile, Alabama, and he attended Auburn. He was drafted in the first round of the 2011 draft. Fairley started off his career with the Detroit Lions, but last year he was a member of the St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams. Over the course of the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Fairley racked up 11.5 sacks and 69 tackles. There was a definite drop-off over the past two seasons as he only managed to get 1.5 sacks.

Nick Fairley sacks Aaron Rodgers

I’m sure Saints fans have seen varying descriptions and opinions on Fairley. The statistics over the last two seasons aren’t exactly encouraging. Looking at and analyzing the film from Fairley’s last season with the Rams give a better picture of what he can do and what he does on a regular basis.

One of the most important things to note is Nick Fairley was overshadowed by a dominant defensive tackle in Aaron Donald. Fairley was simply a rotational player on the Rams defensive line. Nick Fairley will get significantly more playing time on the Saints defense as the Saints defensive line is significantly weaker than the Rams defensive line. The Saints defense only managed to sack opposing quarterbacks 31 times; the Rams managed 41 sacks.

Nick Fairley sacks Matthew Stafford

Photo courtesy of Getty Images by Michael Thomas

Nick Fairley definitely displays great pass rushing skills at times and is likely a player who could have a 5-7 sack season. Quickness off the snap along with good hand usage allows him to beat guards. The pressure he creates forces opposing quarterbacks to flush out of the pocket, and occasionally he will get to the quarterback himself. He manages to create a significant push on the pocket. Interior pass rush was nearly nonexistent for the Saints last season. The addition of Fairley should help Cameron Jordan and Hau’oli Kikaha; basically, the Saints edge rushers should be able to come away with more sacks.

Fairley’s run defense is by no means poor. In the film I watched, he was rarely taken out of plays completely. He isn’t an elite run stopper, but he will certainly be an upgrade over Tyeler Davison, John Jenkins, and Kevin Williams. The addition of Fairley should help a Saints defense that allowed 129.8 rush yards a game.

The biggest problem with Nick Fairley is he isn’t the most consistent player in the world. He doesn’t give you the results you’d want on a weekly basis. There have been some concerns about Fairley’s level of effort,  and these concerns are warranted. He appears to give up on some plays, but there are other times where he chases down running backs who are looking to make big gains. The Saints are likely hopeful the 1-year deal will serve as motivation for Fairley.

I believe this signing could prove to be the most important signing of the offseason for the Saints. The contract didn’t break the bank as the deal is for essentially a 1-year $3 million dollar deal with incentives worth up to $1.75 million. Fairley has certainly shown his potential; it is simply a matter of whether or not the Saints can tap into it. If he is able to play like he played in the 2012 and 2013 seasons, the Saints will have hit big. He could be the piece the Saints have been looking for at defensive tackle.

Only time will tell if this signing was worth it. For the time being, however, I believe this signing is a good one. Fairley is by no means a transcendent player, but he certainly has the potential to be a big upgrade for the Saints.