New Orleans Saints Rumors & News

Saints, Nick Fairley Could Be Far Apart

  • Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley is likely to test free agency, and if he does, he could seek a contract worth around $10MM per year, writes Larry Holder of NOLA.com. The Saints would likely go to around around $6MM per annum for Fairley, suggests Holder. An annual average of $10MM would be a notable step up for a player who had to settle for one-year deals in each of the previous two offseasons. Fairley, 29, made $3MM last season in potentially his only year in New Orleans and totaled career highs in starts (16), tackles (43) and sacks (6.5).

Saints, Sterling Moore Have Mutual Interest

Pending free agent Sterling Moore wants to re-sign with the Saints and is certain mutual interest exists between he and New Orleans, as he told SiriusXM NFL Radio earlier today (Twitter link).Sterling Moore (Vertical)

[RELATED: Top 3 Offseason Needs — New Orleans Saints]

Moore, 27, has bounced around a bit in recent years, as he’s played for three clubs — the Cowboys, Buccaneers, and Saints — over the past three seasons. 2016 marked the first time that Moore was asked to serve as a full-time starter, however, as injuries to New Orleans’ defensive backfield forced Moore to start 12 games. Moore posted two interceptions, 13 passes defensed, and graded as the Saints’ best corner, per Pro Football Focus, which ranked Moore as the No. 65 CB league-wide.

After earning only $760K last season under the terms of a minimum salary benefit contract, Moore could be in for a raise in 2017, although he may not play such a key role on the Saints defense. Thanks to that aforementioned rash of health issues in the secondary, Delvin Breaux, Damian Swann, P.J. Williams, and Kyle Wilson (like Moore, a pending free agent) combined to play only 240 snaps last year, so if that group returns to full strength, Moore could theoretically see his snaps reduced.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 3 Offseason Needs: New Orleans Saints

In advance of March 9, the start of free agency in the NFL, Pro Football Rumors will detail each team’s three most glaring roster issues. We’ll continue this year’s series with the New Orleans Saints, who finished third in the NFC South after posting their third consecutive 7-9 record.

Depth Chart (via Roster Resource)

Pending Free Agents:

Top 10 Cap Hits for 2017:

  1. Drew Brees, QB: $19,000,000
  2. Cameron Jordan, DE: $12,047,000
  3. Terron Armstead, LT: $11,500,000
  4. Jairus Byrd, S: $11,200,000
  5. Coby Fleener, TE: $7,500,000
  6. Max Unger, C: $7,400,000
  7. Kenny Vaccaro, S: $5,676,000
  8. Mark Ingram, RB: $5,345,000
  9. Zach Strief, T: $5,100,000
  10. Thomas Morstead, P: $4,700,000

Other:

Three Needs:

1. Find an edge rusher to play opposite Cameron Jordan: The Saints ranked 29th in DVOA against the pass in 2016, and much of that poor showing can be attributed to the club’s lack of pass rush. Defensive end Cameron Jordan led the team with 7.5 sacks, defensive tackle — and pending free agent — Nick Fairley was second with 6.5, and no other New Orleans defender posted more than four quarterback takedowns. Overall, the Saints finished 27th in team sacks and 28th in adjusted sack percentage.

Edge rushers Darryl Tapp and Paul Kruger are both headed for the free agent market, and while one or both could be retained, neither should be viewed as a priority one item. Instead, the Saints are likely going to look towards free agency and the draft in order to bring in new talent, especially given that New Orleans head coach Sean Payton said adding pass rush help is a “must.” Typically up against the salary cap, the Saints have nearly $30MM with which to work this offseason, and could clear more room by cutting ties with veterans such as Jairus Byrd and Thomas Morstead.Melvin Ingram (Vertical)

Given that the Cardinals’ Chandler Jones and the Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul seem increasingly likely to be franchised by their respective clubs, the top edge defender on the market could be Melvin Ingram, who’s managed 18.5 sacks over the past two seasons with the Chargers. Ingram, 27, is also a candidate for the tag, but it’s unclear if a rebuilding Los Angeles team is willing to tie up ~$15MM in cap space on a single player. If he does reach the open market, Ingram should be the number one target for the Saints, who should have some familiarity with him given that former Chargers linebackers coach Mike Nolan now holds the same role in New Orleans.

Outside of the top few options, the free agent defensive end class is relatively barren, and the Saints could be forced to go bargain hunting. Datone Jones is still only 26 years old and has never seemed to fit in the Packers’ 3-4 look, but he could look to restart his career as an end in New Orleans’ 4-3 scheme. Ryan Davis posted 10 sacks for the Jaguars in 2014-15, and though his performance stalled last year, a move back to end could help. Veterans such as Julius Peppers and Dwight Freeney could be targets on one-year deals, while Elvis Dumervil could also intrigue the Saints if he’s released by Baltimore.Sheldon Richardson

If the Saints don’t find what they’re looking for in free agency, the trade market might offer at least one interesting solution in the form of Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson. Although New Orleans wasn’t among the list of teams that reportedly inquired on Richardson last year, the 26-year-old could be a nice fit as a defensive end under coordinator Dennis Allen. A player-for-player trade might even make sense — former first-round pick Stephone Anthony has apparently fallen out of favor with the Saints, and it’s possible New York would have interest in resurrecting his young career.

When April rolls around, New Orleans will have yet another opportunity to add edge players when the draft begins. The Saints hold the 11th overall selection, and figure to target a pass rusher with that pick. ESPN draftniks Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both see New Orleans drafting a defensive end, as Kiper recently mocked Michigan’s Taco Charlton to the Saints while McShay thinks Stanford’s Solomon Thomas will head east. Myles Garrett (Texas A&M) and Jonathan Allen (Alabama) won’t be available when the Saints’ turn comes up, but Derek Barnett (Tennessee), Charles Harris (Oklahoma), and Carl Lawson (Auburn) could be in consideration.

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Payton: Saints Always In The “QB Business”

The Saints have Drew Brees under contract for the 2017 campaign, but given that Brees in nearing 40 years old, New Orleans head coach Sean Payton admitted to SiriusXM NFL Radio that his club is always interested in adding quarterback talent.Sean Payton (vertical)

[RELATED: Nick Fairley Expected To Test Market]

“I think that topic exists and has existed because of the nature of the position,” Payton said. “I think we’re in the quarterback business always because they’re so difficult to find. And there’s been a year or two we’re close to drafting maybe a player (at the position) and he went a little before we were ready to pick. And certainly you pay attention to it when your quarterback’s older.”

Clearly, Payton is addressing the relative value of quarterbacks in contrast to other players that could be available, and isn’t specifically referencing the 2017 draft. However, his comments shed light on the Saints’ potential line of thinking, and perhaps indicate that the club isn’t simply counting on Brees, with whom New Orleans is not exploring another extension, to continually defy Father Time.

The Saints did take a chance on a quarterback in 2015 by selecting Garrett Grayson in the third round, but the former Colorado signal-caller was waived before his second NFL season began. This year, quarterbacks such as Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, and DeShone Kizer could be available when New Orleans picks at No. 11, while Patrick Mahomes and Brad Kaaya might be Day 2 considerations.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Payton: Saints Need Pass-Rusher

  • The Saints will look to upgrade their pass rush, Sean Payton told the team’s website. “It’s a must. We’ve got to find a pass-rusher,” Payton said. “Now, whether that comes from free agency or that comes from the draft, we have to be better at affecting the quarterback. Last year if you took hurries, sacks, pressures – a study of all three things that can happen with a rush – we were in the bottom third of the league and that has to get better.” The Saints ranked 27th last season with 30 sacks. Cameron Jordan remains under contract, but New Orleans has Nick Fairley (6.5 sacks last season) looming as a UFA and no surefire answer opposite Jordan. No other defensive end recorded two sacks, but promising rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins accrued four despite missing much of the season with a broken leg.
  • One veteran who served as part of the Saints’ defensive end equation wants to continue playing. Darryl Tapp would prefer to continue his career on a contending team, Alex Marvez of the Sporting News tweets. Tapp, 32, said he might re-sign with the Saints, although it’s not known if the interest is mutual, and is eyeing two more seasons before retiring. The veteran defensive end finished with just a half-sack last season but graded out reasonably well despite being a late-summer signing, coming in at 44th on Pro Football Focus’ edge defender rankings.

Saints, Nick Fairley Want Reunion

  • Defensive tackle Nick Fairley and the Saints would both embrace a reunion, but Nick Underhill of The Advocate wonders if the two sides can make the money work. Following a season where he recorded 6.5 sacks, the writer believes Fairley could be in line to make around $9.5MM next year. While the Saints have the financial flexibility to make that work, Underhill wonders if they’d actually be willing to commit that kind of money.

    [SOURCE LINK]

Saints Likely To Pay Zach Strief's Roster Bonus

  • The Saints are likely to select an offensive tackle early in the draft, perhaps as early as Round 1, writes Mike Triplett of ESPN.com. Although Drew Brees‘ blindside is locked down by Terron Armstead, right tackle Zach Strief is now 33 years old and entering the twilight of his career. Strief is due a $1.5MM roster bonus later this spring, and New Orleans is expected to pay that figure if Strief definitely decides to continue his career, per Triplett. As such, the Saints likely won’t target a tackle in the free agent market, and the draft looks like a better avenue to find a new lineman.

Details On John Kuhn's Contract

  • Fullback John Kuhn‘s one-year pact with the Saints is a minimum salary benefit deal worth $1.08MM, tweets Nick Underhill of The Advocate. Kuhn will earn a $1MM salary and count $695K against New Orleans’ cap in 2017.

K’Waun Williams To Meet With Lions, Jets

Former Browns cornerback K’Waun Williams is already making the free agent rounds. As a rare February free agent, he has visits scheduled with the Lions on Monday followed by a meeting with the Jets, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Williams is also on the Saints’ radar, tweets The Advocate’s Joel A. Erickson, though he notes that other teams seem to have more interest in the defender.K'Waun Williams (Vertical)

[RELATED: Josh McCown Eyeing Future Coaching Career]

Williams, who had ankle surgery in November, was recently given full clearance by Dr. Robert Anderson. In theory, the young cornerback could sign with a team right away and give a club a quality option to consider in the slot.

Last summer, Williams was embroiled in a high-profile spat with the Browns organization. The Browns suspended Williams for “conduct detrimental to the team” when he said that he independently decided that he could not play in the team’s first preseason game because of the ankle condition. Ultimately, Williams had to have an operation to remove painful bone spurs and he is now pushing for the team to reimburse him for his 2016 $600K salary. In between all of this, Williams had an agreement with the Bears that was scuttled by a failed physical.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Nick Fairley Expected To Test Free Agency

Pending free agent defensive tackle Nick Fairley will explore the open market before considering a new deal from the Saints, according to Larry Holder of NOLA.com.Nick Fairley (Vertical)

[RELATED: Saints Re-Sign John Kuhn]

Fairley, 29, has hit free agency in each of the past two offseasons, but has been forced to settle for one-year deals on each occasion. In 2015, Fairley signed with a pact with the Rams that came with a base value of $5MM, but also included incentives and escalators. Last year, the Saints landed Fairley on a fully guaranteed, $3MM contract that will void 15 days prior to the start of the 2017 league year if the two sides don’t work out an extension.

In his sixth NFL season, Fairley appeared in all 16 games for New Orleans and racked up 6.5 sacks, grading out as the league’s No. 34 interior defender, per Pro Football Focus. Fairley, a former first-round pick, earned exceptionally high marks for his pass rushing acumen (13th among defensive tackles), and quarterback pursuits have always been Fairley’s strong point.

Fairley has indicated he’d like to re-sign with the Saints, but if the last two years are any indication, he figures to draw significant free agent interest. The Patriots, Texans, Eagles, Jets, and Bengals are among the clubs that were linked to Fairley during the 2015 and 2016 offseasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.