In the last five seasons, the New Orleans Saints have finished at the mark of 7-9 four times and are finally beginning to improve their defense.
It’s no secret, the defense is the number one priority this offseason after ranking 27th in yards allowed in the 2016 season (6,006) which marked the fourth consecutive year that they have ranked 27th or worse in that category. On top of the yards allowed, the Saints allowed the second most points in the league (454), behind just the San Francisco 49ers and worse than the dare I say (it), Cleveland Browns.
Here is how the Saints are fairing in the free agency thus far:
Retain: Nick Fairley
On Thursday, the Saints re-signed defensive tackle Nick Fairley to a four-year deal reportedly worth $30 million
The 29-year-old is coming off what was by far, his best season of his career. In 2016, Fairly finished second on the team in sacks (6.5) finishing just one sack behind Cameron Jordan (7.5) and 43 tackles.
While Fairley wasn’t necessarily strong against the run, the Saints were impressed by his reemergence and now New Orleans finally has decent depth at the position with David Onyemata and promising second-year tackle Sheldon Rankins filling the line.
Add: A.J Klein
Former Carolina Panthers linebacker, A.J Klein was signed by the Saints to a three-year $15 million contract on Thursday. The 240-pound linebacker will be joining the Saints for their 2017 campaign after spending the majority of his four seasons in the backup role behind Luke Kuechly. Klein appeared in 60 games (23 starts) and totaled 137 tackles (93 solo), four sacks, an interception and four forced fumbles.
Add: Larry Warford
Arguably their best signing of the 2016 offseason, the Saints announced on Thursday that guard Larry Warford has been signed to a four-year deal worth $34 million with $17M in guarantees.
Warford was a third-round pick in 2013 to the Detroit Lions and earned his job as a starter at right guard from day one. While the guard has had some minor injuries in his first four seasons, he has been often viewed as the team’s most consistent lineman after starting in 57 games since he’s been drafted.
Warford will have some tough shoes to fill as he will replace one of the premier guards in NFL history — six-time Pro Bowl right guard Jahri Evans.
Add: Ted Ginn Jr.
The veteran wide receiver, Ted Ginn Jr. signed a three-year deal worth $11 million, with $3 million guaranteed.
The former Carolina Panther recently emerged as one of quarterback Cam Newton’s favorite targets and is coming off two of the most productive seasons of his 10 year NFL career.
Ginn registered a career-high 10 touchdowns in 2015 and pulled in 54 catches for 752 yards and four touchdowns last season. Look for the veteran to get a lot of touches in the 2017 season after the Saints decided to part ways with their star receiver, Brandin Cooks.
Trade: Brandin Cooks
The 23-year-old receiver is on his way out of New Orleans and headed to the New England Patriots. While it is hard to believe that Brandin Cooks will be playing for a better quarterback than Drew Brees, Tom Brady is arguably one of the only quarterbacks that can prove that statement.
The Patriots are sending their first-round pick (No. 32) overall, and a third-round pick (No. 103) to New Orleans for Cooks and a fourth-round pick (No. 118).
Early reports stated that the Saints were looking to acquire Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler in the Cooks trade but at the time, were hesitant to complete the deal.
According to Adam Schefter, Cooks is due a $781,599 roster bonus on Monday, which is now the Patriots’ responsibility.
Cap space prior to free agency: $27.4 million
Current cap space: $21.5 million