It's not going to be the biggest deal in the next week, but the New Orleans Saints' decision to re-sign Junior Galette, a restricted free-agent defensive end, to a new three-year contract on Saturday could be a major one in the long term. The terms of the deal are not yet disclosed. The re-signing is a big step for a Saints defense that was terrible in 2012, and is trying to regroup under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Under Steve Spagnuolo last season, New Orleans ranked dead last in Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted metrics, and allowed an astonishing 440.1 yards per game -- more than 50 yards per game more than the second-worst New York Giants.
Gallete, however, was a standout when healthy. In just 12 games, he amassed a career-high five sacks, and ranked fourth overall in Pro Football Focus' Pass-Rushing Productivity statistic among 4-3 defensive ends. He put up 30 total pressures on just 187 pass-rush snaps, and can be expected to grab a more prominent role in Ryan's more aggressive and multi-front defense. This despite missing four games late in the season with a sprained ankle. The 6-foot-2, 257-pound Galette should be expected to see time at defensive end and pass-rushing outside linebacker.
"You sit there and look and Junior Galette and Martez Wilson and think, 'Man, if we could get these guys on the field as outside linebackers, we could have a 3-4 front and we could have Will [Smith] at defensive end,' " Saints linebacker Scott Shanle said after Sean Payton made the call to fire Spagnuolo. "We just had so many combinations that a 3-4 package would make sense. Obviously, Steve wasn't going to do that. That's what he's never done."
Galette was signed by the Saints as an undrafted free agent out of Stillman College in 2010. He transferred there from Temple after a violation of team rules led to a suspension.
Wilson, who had a breakout campaign as a wild-card rusher in 2012, could be another player benefitting from the new Ryan scheme.