Last week, we started our review of the New Orleans Saints offseason by looking at the trade of wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the New England Patriots for draft picks. This week, let’s take a look at the Saints free agent activity.
For the first time in years, the Saints had nearly twenty million dollars in cap space thanks to a rising salary cap and a Drew Brees contract extension that has him counting $18 million against the cap next year regardless of whether he’s on the roster. Flush with cash, the Saints spent it like a tourist at Mardi Gras, stumbling into one good deal and three bad ones.
Signed G Larry Warford to a four-year contract worth $34 million with $17 million in guarantees.
This is the most sensible free agent contract that the Saints have handed out in some time. Warford is young (25) and has been the starting right tackle for the Detroit Lions the past four seasons. Warford, a 2013 third round pick, replaces the aging Jahri Evans who played competently last year, but is well past his prime. While $17 million may seem like a lot of money for a guard, the Saints rely on their interior linemen more than most other teams. Because Drew Brees is so short, he relies on his center and guards to keep the space in front of him clear so he can see downfield. The presence of Warford alongside Max Unger, Terron Armstead, and Andrus Peat should keep the pressure off Brees and allow him to carve up opposing defenses.
|An effective Nick Fairley against the Broncos.|
Signed DT Nick Fairley to a four-year contract worth $28 million with $14 million in guarantees.
Fairley, a former first round pick (13th pick overall), played four largely disappointing seasons in Detroit. He followed that with another subpar season with the Rams. Last season, New Orleans signed Fairley to a low-risk one-year, $1.4 contract, hoping that Fairley might finally play up to his potential. They were rewarded with 6.5 sacks and the first complete season of Fairley’s career. Rather than moving on, however, the Saints decided to overpay for Fairley’s one good season by signing him to a four-year extension. Now Fairley will have to replicate the one good season of his career (out of six) in order to justify his contract. In other words, the Saints invested significant cap space into a veteran coming off a career year just like they did with the recently released Jairus Byrd—how’d that work out?
Signed LB A.J. Klein to a four-year contract worth $24 million with $9.4 million in guarantees.
While the Saints are certainly in need of help at the linebacker position, who were they competing with to pay a backup linebacker starter money? Were other teams lining up to pay nearly ten million in guarantees to a guy who started six and seven games over the past two seasons? Like the Fairley deal, New Orleans continually refuses to learn from their past. They try to spend their way to defense competency and burden their salary cap with overpaid, underperforming veterans. Have we already forgotten last year’s unfortunate signing of James Laurinaitis who was supposed to provide “veteran leadership” and was released halfway through the season?
Signed WR/KR Ted Ginn Jr. to a three-year contract worth $11 million with $5 million in guarantees.
We covered this a little last week, but it’s worth reiterating. Ted Ginn Jr. is not good. He’s never been good. He’s fast and that’s it. He’s never had 800 receiving yards. He’s caught double digit TD passes once (10 of them) in 2015. He’s never started 16 games in a season. His catch percentages hover in the dangerously low 50-60% range. He’s ostensibly the replacement for Brandin Cooks, except he’s older, worse, and more expensive. Great job, Mickey Loomis.
So out of the Saints biggest free agent signings, they managed to bring in a much-needed guard, paid for an outlier season from a busted draft pick, overpaid a backup linebacker, and gave $5 million in guaranteed money to a guy who can’t catch the football. 7-9 here we come again!