The Saints made the playoffs as defending champs, but never quite seemed the same is they were in their ’09 title year. The offense fell from first to eleventh in points. The defense improved overall, but stopped forcing turnovers.
Most core players remain from the championship year, but this is a team in transition. With a lot of uncertain free agent situations, the Saints have plenty of needs and have to re-load.
DE: Will Smith’s career arc is starting to mirror Charles Grant’s career and that’s not a good thing. He’ll stick around, but he needs help. The team only got 10.5 sacks from defensive ends last year. Jeff Charleston and Jimmy Wilkerson are free agents. Alex Brown is a stop-gap player. There is very little here to build off for the future.
OLB: The position was unremarkable last year, and now the team may lose Scott Shanle via free agency. JoLonn Dunbar and Jonathan Casillas would probably be the starters if the season started today. The Saints have too many JAGS in the front seven.
OL: Right tackle Jon Stinchcomb is coming off a rough year and is a little overrated. Tackle Jermon Bushrod and center Jonathan Goodwin are prospective free agents. G.M. Mickey Loomis has done a nice job drafting offensive linemen and planning ahead for departures, but they need to keep adding talent.
WR: It’s time to start developing another wideout. Devery Henderson is replaceable, Lance Moore is a free agent, and Robert Meachem is a free agent after 2011. Sean Payton likes to have a four wideout rotation and give his receivers a redshirt year, so he could plan ahead with a mid-round pick.
Overview: The Saints have more free agents than any team in the league, including key players like Reggie Bush and Roman Harper. Either the Saints seriously draft for need in April or they will lose leverage and be desperate at a few positions when the lockout ends.