Taking A Look At The 15 Saints Eligible To Become Unrestricted Free Agents
The 2011 season is officially over for the New Orleans Saints, and now is the time to start preparing for free agency, which is set to begin in March.
The Saints only have 15 unrestricted free agents this year, but like everyone else, they have a few key players that are eligible, including quarterback Drew Brees, along with offensive lineman Carl Nicks, cornerback Tracy Porter, and receivers Marques Colton and Robert Meachem.
The team has $95 million committed to 2012, with some key decisions to be made.
Let's take a look at the list of Saints' players that are eligible to become unrestricted free agents:
QB---Drew Brees---It's obviously imperative that the Saints resign Brees, and I believe they will. Even if they don't, they could still slap the franchise tag on him. It wouldn't be what you want, but Brees will be a Saint in 2012. The 33-year-old Brees set career highs in 2011 for completions (468), completion percentage (71.2), yards (5,476), touchdowns (46), and quareterback rating (110.6).
WR---Marques Colston---Colston is going to be interesting. He's made waves about going where the money takes him, and there's a possibility the Saints may lose him. In his sixth-year in the league in 2011, Colston caught 80 passes, for 1,143 yards, and eight touchdowns. Colston, who will be 29 at the start of next year, has 449 career catches, for 6,240 yards, and 48 scores. The Saints will have to determine if they want to pay a high price for Colston, or if they want to let Robert Meachem try to slip into his spot.
WR---Robert Meachem---You get the feeling that if the Saints resign Colton, then they may lose Meachem, who was a 2007 first-round draft choice. Meachem has had his moments, but the Saints are going to have to determine if he's ready to become a consistent first or second option in the passing game, who can be used as a dependable receiver in clutch situations, and not just as a guy that stretches the field. The 27-year-old Meachem has been consistent over the last three years, with receptions totals of 45, 44, and 40, along with receiving yardage totals of 722, 638, and 620.
OG---Carl Nicks---The four-year pro from Nebraska is obviously one of the top guards in the league, but the SAints already have another guard (Jahri Evans) making good money, and there will be a few teams lining-up to pay Nicks.
CB---Tracy Porter---The oft-injured Porter actually played in the most games he's ever played in (14) in 2011. His number of tackles (52) however, was his lowest in three years, and he had only one interception. The Saints will probably try to resign Porter, but they won't overpay for him, with Patrick Robinson waiting in the wings to become a starter. Robinson had a couple of sub-par games, like his performances against the Texans, Lions, and Giants, but I thought he played real well at times, and has passed Porter.
K---John Kasay---Kasay served the Saints well in 2011, being successful on 28-of-34 field goal attempts. He'll be 43 next October however, so look for Garrett Hartley, or somebody else to kick for the team next year.
DT---Shaun Rogers---Rogers had a couple of nice games in 2011, namely against the Rams and Titans, but he was a disappointment. He can still be stout against the run, but I was expecting more.
DT--- Aubrayo Franklin---Speaking of disappointments. I expected a lot more of Franklin than his 17 tackles this year. Yes, he's a run stopper. He's job is to fill the gaps, occupy blockers, and allow the linebackers to make the tackles, and he was okay at that in 2011, but there was an obvious decline in his play, compared to previous years. Not that I don't think he can rebound, and contribute next year. Just proceed with caution.
TE---John Gilmore---The 32-year-old, ten-year veteran caught three pass in 2011, and is nothing more than a roster-filler.
WR---Courtney Roby---Roby had eight tackles on special teams.
OL---Pat McQuistan---The six-year pro out of Weber St. provides depth.
CB---Leigh Torrence---Torrence can be a solid back-up, and special teams guy, but he's 30 now.
DE---Jeff Charleston---Charleston went backwards, after a solid 2010 campaign. Of course injuries had something to do with that. He provides some depth on an under-performing defensive line.
DE---Turk McBride---Was it the scheme, the injuries, the players, or just coincidence, in terms of why the defensive line had so many disappointment in 2011? Rogers, Franklin, and McBride all under-achieved. McBride had only four tackles in eight games, but he's way better than that. Plus, it's so hard to grade defensive linemen, statistically.
LB---Jo-Lonn Dunbar---The Saints need to get better, and more athletic at linebacker, but the 26-year old Dunbar had a solid season, with 79 tackles. I think he can get better, and the Saints should resign him.
Drew Brees (above) is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent. But don't worry, he'll be back.