1st & 5:
Free Agency First 2 Days: Saints Make Big Moves, but No New Faces
Free Agency is no doubt one of the most highly anticipated events of the NFL Season. It marks the official launch into the 2013 season. For the Saints, most everyone knew where we stood, facing a deadline of 3PM to make the final adjustments to gear up to be ready. It came down to the wire, to say the very least of clichés.
Among the casualties for Day 1 included Will Herring’s release, which saved the Saints roughly $1M in cap space. Herring wanted a bigger role, and didn’t want to accept less money to stay. Chase Daniel was lured away to the Chiefs, which is fitting enough, as he played his college ball at Mizzou. Jermon Bushrod cashed in on a huge deal, as he was signed by the Bears, locking him up for the next 5 years.
The big win of the day came at the hands of the restructured contracts of Jonathan Vilma & Will Smith. Both showed a ton of humility, as Vilma moved his base salary down to $1M (Saving the Saints $4.8M). Vilma will get an increase in his workout bonus of $100K. He is entering the last year of his contract, and it was a great move for him to stay. Smith took a $6M pay cut, lowering his base to $3M….counting $8.5M against the Salary Cap instead of the nearly $15M it would have been. Smith, 31, has one more season left, where he will be due $10.4M in 2014. Personally, I believe this will be his last season in the Black & Gold, unless something crazy happens. Remember that Coach Payton has publicly praised the leadership that these two bring to the table, and I also firmly believe that Rob Ryan would have been strongly opinionated if he didn’t want the services of these two. A lot of people continue to dwell on the fact that Vilma wasn’t a good fit for a 3-4 Defense in the Jets, but that 2007 people. Give the man a chance to learn, and know that his role may not likely be a starting one, but definitely will provide depth & be a good situational player. Vilma has something left in his tank, and I fully expect him to show it come this season.
The two moves alone saved the Saints nearly $11M, and gave a little bit of wiggle room in the larger scheme of things. The Saints have about $6M to play with, and that’s not even counting the fact that there is still buzz of Marques Colston, Drew Brees, and Roman Harper possibly restructuring their contracts.
The departure of Bushrod is a tough thing, as the Saints tend to lose anchors in their Offensive Line each offseason (Goodwin, Nicks, Bushrod to name a few). However, just remember that this means the Saints either feel really confident about Charles Brown (2nd Round Pick in 2010), and/or feel that the draft pool of OTs will be a good thing. We will know more about that once Pick #15 is in. The main question that we have, or should have, is who will backup Drew Brees? Daniel was the lone backup for the Saints for years, and Payton likes to have only 2 in the system on an active roster. You can’t really blame Daniel for leaving, as he has a real chance to possibly have a bigger role within the Chiefs. As far as the FA talent in the QB market, there isn’t a lot. Many are thinking we could potentially land recently released Ryan Fitzpatrick, but that all seems to be speculation at this point.
As far as today, we were just hit with news that Jonathan Casillas was signed by the Bucs for a 1-year deal, which will be worth $3M. Justin Drescher was retained, and he's the long snapper for those who don't know sadly, for the next 4 years. From the confirmed side, the Saints are reportedly bringing in Corners Keenan Lewis, formerly of the Steelers, and Derek Cox, formerly of the Jaguars. Lots of players are rumored to be on the Saints radar, and/or highly interested, or would be a that good fit (Harrison, Spears, Asomugah, Reed). However, when it comes to likely moves that will come in Free Agency, I hope you aren’t expecting a ton. There are all sorts of reports that the Saints are interested in this player, that player, or would be a great fit for the team….but the Saints have to get into a better cap situation to be in that spot. The likeliest of scenarios I see happening at this point is bringing in a veteran cornerback or two, and quite possibly a LB for the 3-4 scheme. Only more time will tell however.