The Saints’ championship defense crashed with a dramatic thud Saturday in Seattle.
In many respects, it could be the last game together for the Saints’ title team that was mostly brought back in 2010. The Saints could have up to 28 unrestricted free agents, and they need to re-negotiate with some stars. With a lot of help from James Varney of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, here are some of the changes to look for from the Saints.
Jeremy Shockey and Reggie Bush: Their names are bigger than their games at this point. Both players want to return, but have big contract numbers next year. They are Sean Payton favorites, but Shockey especially would be easy to replace with Jimmy Graham on the roster.
Darren Sharper: Saturday’s loss to the Seahawks could possibly be Sharper’s final NFL game, although he wants to return. He’s a free agent and there’s a good chance the Saints will move on. They need another safety to pair with Malcolm Jenkins that can cover because Roman Harper can be exposed and is a free agent.
Backfield: Chris Ivory is a keeper. Pierre Thomas is usually the team’s best running back, but he’s a free agent. Julius Jones probably won’t be back. At one point Saturday, the Saints had four running backs on injured reserve and their top two backs were hurt on the sideline.
Role Players: Here are just some of the valuable Saints role players that are likely to be unrestricted free agents: Wide receiver Lance Moore, tight end David Thomas, tackle Zach Strief, defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, linebacker Scott Shanle, and tackle Jermon Bushrod.
Coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams have complex systems that reward continuity. They’ll have to choose which roles players are most valuable wisely.
Defensive line: New Orleans had very little pass rush from their front four. Will Smith had a very disappointing year.
Drew Brees: Oh, by the way: Brees is entering a contract year. It’s going to be an expensive offseason for Saints owner Tom Benson.