5 best free agent destinations for Saints DE Marcus Davenport

There might not be a more intriguing New Orleans Saints free agent than Marcus Davenport. The big defensive end is full of unfulfilled potential and comes with a lengthy injury history, but there aren’t many more players with higher upside on the free agent market. He’s going to draw a lot of attention from teams and coaches who think they can get more out of him than the Saints did the last five years.

But which teams could be in the hunt for Davenport’s services? We took a look at his connections around the NFL, the outlook for various teams’ salary cap situations, and which defenses could most need the help off the edge. Here are five of the best free agent fits for Davenport if he’s on the outs with New Orleans:

Atlanta Falcons

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It has to start with Atlanta, right? The Falcons hired Davenport’s old position coach Ryan Nielsen as their defensive coordinator this offseason, and they’re also projected to be one of the biggest spenders in free agency. Only the Chicago Bears have more resources than Atlanta’s $57.7 million in effective salary cap space (which budgets for their rookie draft class). The Falcons did just re-sign edge rusher Lorenzo Carter, but they could look to make a splash and keep Davenport in the NFC South after their defense posted the second-fewest sacks in the league last year (21).

Houston Texans

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New Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans has helped players with sky-high athleticism and unmet potential play their best football before; just look at Charles Omenihu and Samson Ebukam on the San Francisco 49ers defense a year ago. He’s building things from the ground up in Houston and could see Davenport as an ideal player to buy into what he’s selling. Playing closer to home (Davenport’s family is from San Antonio) wouldn’t hurt.

Cincinnati Bengals

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The Saints let Trey Hendrickson walk away in free agency a few years back because they believed Davenport would flourish with more opportunities — now, there’s a chance he could join Hendrickson in Cincinnati. The Bengals are looking to beef up their defensive ends rotation behind Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard, and it’s possible that Davenport could do well as a third-downs pass rush specialist playing at his college weight (265) rather than the near-300 figure he hit the field at last season. Cincinnati currently has $31 million in effective cap space, fourth-most in the league.

Las Vegas Raiders

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Maxx Crosby has been more-or-less doing it alone up front for Las Vegas, with the Raiders not getting what they expected from their investment in Chandler Jones last season. Maybe they’ll look to use some the $36.9 million they’re working with this offseason to get younger opposite Crosby at defensive end. Davenport fits the heavier prototype the Raiders prefer out on the edge.

Chicago Bears

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No team gathered fewer sacks than the Bears last year (20 in 17 games), and no team has more money to spend in free agency than Chicago ($69.9 million). They could outbid any offers Davenport sees on the open market. That doesn’t necessarily mean they should, though; the Bears are poised to get one of the top defensive prospects in April’s draft after trading down to No. 9 overall with the Carolina Panthers, and they’ll need to invest in many different position groups before they’re ready to compete.

Story originally appeared on Saints Wire