The extensive offseason workouts led by Saints quarterback Drew Brees created optimism regarding the team’s ability to navigate the unique challenges of the 2011 season and get back to the Super Bowl.
Now that the lockout has ended and the NFL has published the full list of free agents, the Saints may be attempting to win their second championship in three years with a much different cast of characters.
The Saints have 29 free agents.
The team’s 26 unrestricted free agents are nose tackle Remi Ayodele, running back Ladell Betts, tackle Jermon Bushrod, defensive end Jeff Charleston, linebacker Danny Clark, fullback Heath Evans, defensive back Matt Giordano, center Jonathan Goodwin, defensive tackle Tony Hargrove, defensive back Roman Harper, tight end Tory Humphrey, running back Julius Jones, linebacker Kawika Mitchell, linebacker Marvin Mitchell, receiver Lance Moore, defensive back Pierson Prioleau, defensive back Chris Reis, receiver Courtney Roby, linebacker Scott Shanle, safety Darren Sharper, tackle Zach Strief, linebacker David Thomas, defensive back Leigh Torrence, defensive tackle Jimmy Wilkerson, running back DeShawn Wynn, and defensive back Usama Young.
Guard Carl Nicks, rated by his peers as the 55th best player in the game, is a restricted free agent with a first-round compensation level.
Joining those 27 are linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar and linebacker Anthony Waters.
Like many teams in the weeks before the lockout, the Saints made no effort to sign any of their looming free agents. A cynic would say this was more about keeping the money in the teams’ pockets (and out of the players’ pockets) than it was about making good football decisions.
With a training-camp roster limit of 90 players this year and with so many guys unsigned, G.M. Mickey Loomis and company will be earning their keep, and then some, this week.