What's buzzing:

NFL Draft preview: Saints' secondary was primary in offseason

The SportsXchange

METAIRIE, La. -- Although they weren't flush with salary cap dollars in early March, the New Orleans Saints have done about as well as can be expected through the first part of the free agency signing period.

Because they had a little more than $7 million tied up with All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham's franchise tag to start with, everyone assumed the Saints weren't going to be active players in the market.

But they surprised a lot of people when, right out of the gate, they signed free safety Jairus Byrd to a six-year, $54 million contract to bring more bite to a secondary that already includes cornerback Keenan Lewis and strong safety Kenny Vaccaro.

Of course, the Saints needed help in the back end after releasing Roman Harper and allowing Malcolm Jenkins to walk in free agency. But they certainly made a big splash with Byrd, the highest-rated safety on the market.

After that, they signed fullback Erik Lorig from the Tampa Bay Bucs to upgrade that spot even though former practice squad player Jed Collins, who is now with the Detroit Lions, did a commendable job in his three seasons as the starter.

Finally, they were able to get future Hall of Famer Champ Bailey to sign a two-year deal that gives them a quality cornerback to pair with Lewis, their big free agent pickup a year ago, to further solidify the secondary.

The Saints also managed to keep one of their hidden jewels in the secondary when they matched an offer sheet that restricted free agent safety Rafael Bush signed with the Atlanta Falcons.

The Saints had three safeties on the field a lot last season and Bush, whom defensive coordinator Rob Ryan described as an "ascending player," saw extensive action when Jenkins, Harper and Vaccaro missed time with injuries.

Considering they could have lost Bush to another team in their division, and a hated rival at that, retaining his services was like a double win for the Saints.

Besides Bush, the Saints managed to re-sign several of their key contributors from last season -- most notably three-year starting right tackle Zach Strief to a five-year contract.

Linebackers Parys Haralson, Keyunta Dawson and Ramon Humber; backup quarterback Luke McCown; kicker Shayne Graham; wide receivers Robert Meachem and Joe Morgan; and tackle Bryce Harris were all brought back.

As a result, the Saints don't have a lot of holes to fill as they prepare for the draft. Using the "best player available" philosophy they've employed in the past, they should be able to more depth to the roster with seven picks in the first six rounds.

"I don't know that I would say we've got no holes, but I feel we have a good team," said Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis at LSU's Pro Day on April 9. "We're going to draft the best players available that fit our club."

Instantly join a new league.

League type:
Free Yahoo League
League size:
10 players
Draft time:
Sep 3 9:00 am
View Comments (9)