4 restricted free agents the Saints should pursue in their next wave of signings
How much consideration are the New Orleans Saints giving to their projected compensatory draft picks in 2024? The team doesn’t usually pay much mind to how their moves in free agency cost them draft assets later on down the road, but if there’s a year to be careful about it, it’s this one. The Saints currently projected to receive three or four comp picks in the 2024 draft between rounds four, five, and six, which would do a lot to help them restock the roster with affordable depth on rookie contracts.
But signing free agents wipes out the comp picks you’d otherwise receive — most times. There are a couple of loopholes, though. For one thing, any free agents who were cut by their last team do not count (and we’ve highlighted four possible targets here). For another, players who carry restricted free agent status (usually those with just three or fewer years’ experience) also don’t count. So what’s the catch?
These are usually young players who haven’t earned a long-term extension with their last team either due to injury or inconsistent play; the Saints’ own list of unsigned restricted free agents includes wide receiver Marquez Callaway, defensive tackle Malcolm Roach, and linebackers Chase Hansen and Andrew Dowell.
There’s a tradeoff in signing them to guard future comp picks just like in signing veterans who were released by their last team due to their age, injury, or decreased production. But sometimes you can find a diamond in the rough. Here are four names who should be on the Saints’ radar:
WR Jalen Guyton
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Guyton was poised to break out in 2022 with the Chargers, but he missed the entire season with a torn ACL in September. But before that unfortunate injury, he caught 28 passes for 511 yards and 31 receptions for 448 yards in 2020 and 2021, scoring 6 touchdown catches along the way. He has fantastic athleticism for his size (having posted a 9.63 Relative Athletic Score coming out of college) and could be a great addition to the Saints receiving corps if healthy.
CB Myles Hartsfield
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Hartsfield, 26, mainly lined up in the slot for Carolina (669 snaps there over the last three years) but he played all over the field in their underrated defense. He’d be a good candidate to compete for the starting job in the slot for New Orleans, where as of the moment 30-year-old cornerback Bradley Roby is expected to start.
TE Mitchell Wilcox
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Wilcox doesn’t offer much as a pass-catcher, but he’s a competent blocking tight end who could help push Adam Trautman for snaps behind Juwan Johnson. He played a career-high 566 offensive snaps for the Cincinnati Bengals last season after entering the league as an undrafted free agent out of South Florida back in 2020.
DT Marquise Copeland
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Copeland was an important depth player for the Rams defense behind Aaron Donald and A’Shawn Robinson in recent years, but they were too cash-strapped to sign him to a restricted free agent tender. He could be a nice alternative for the Saints if they aren’t able to re-sign Malcolm Roach.