The New Orleans Saints didn’t do a ton on the open market, but the team is slightly better off—if anything—after about three weeks of 2013 NFL Free Agency and looks to be in better shape than at least half of the teams around the league at the start of April. Let’s examine the Saints’ updated team needs heading into the 2013 NFL Draft (in no particular order).
1. Defensive Back
The addition of former Pittsburgh Steelers corner Keenan Lewis is a big boost to the Saints’ secondary. But New Orleans still desperately needs to improve along the front seven and at the back-end of the defense, as the Saints finished next-to-last in the league in passing and scoring and dead last in rushing and total defense in 2012. The team was third in scoring, second in total yards and led the league in passing on offense.
After last year’s showings from Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper, the Saints would be smart to select two new prospects in the early to middle rounds of this year’s draft to compete for the two starting jobs at safety. Among the potential safeties who could could be suiting up for the Saints in 2013 include Phillip Thomas, Matt Elam, Kenny Vaccaro, Eric Reid and Tyrann Mathieu.
2. Defensive Line
Switching from a 4-3 front to Rob Ryan‘s new 3-4 defense could create some initial inevitable growing pains for the Saints.
Though Cameron Jordan should have a very smooth transition and Rob Ryan just brought in a couple of pieces from Dallas—defensive lineman Kenyon Coleman is about to turn 34-years-old and Victor Butler has very little starting experience. Butler, 25, has appeared in 63 contests with just two starts and registered a total of 89 tackles with 11.0 sacks and four forced fumbles in three NFL seasons.
New Orleans may not need to make any more major upgrades at 3-4 DE or at linebacker after re-signing of Junior Galette and Ramon Humber and the addition of Butler, but unless the team believes the 6-2, 306-pound Brodrick Bunkley can hold down the fort, a new nose tackle will be needed in the middle of the defensive line. Some solid early to middle options might be available at the position, which could include Kwame Geathers, John Jenkins, Jesse Williams, Brandon Williams and Montori Hughes.
3. Offensive Line
Another one of the Saints’ top needs this spring is providing star signal-caller Drew Brees with better protection along the edges.
If the Saints opt to take one of the top 3-4 rush linebackers like Jarvis Jones or Barkevious Mingo, one of the top defensive linemen like Sylvester Williams or Johnathan Hankins or one of the top defensive backs like Matt Elam, Jonathan Cyprien or Kenny Vaccaro in the first round, look for the team to upgrade its offensive line on the second day of the draft.
Jordan Mills, Chris Faulk, Brennan Williams or even Terron Armstead could be solid options in the third round. If the team decides to go with one of the top offensive tackles with its first pick, look for D.J. Fluker or Menelik Watson to wind up competing for the starting job at left tackle after letting go of Jermon Bushrod, who has since signed with the Chicago Bears.
Related Team Needs:
Michael Gartman is a College Football and NFL Senior Writer, the AFC South and NFC West Lead Writer and the Founder, CEO of GridironGrit.com. He’s also about to start reporting on topics across all sides of the political spectrum and analyze important issues in the liberty movement for a political website. Follow him @_MichaelGartman on Twitter. Be sure to ‘like’ Gridiron Grit on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @GridironGrit to keep up with the latest coverage on college football, the NFL and more!