Will the New Orleans Saints be big spenders in free agency again this year? They have a ton of work to do in reaching salary cap compliance before they can worry about signing players away from other teams, but we should still expect the Saints to be active as always with Mickey Loomis as their general manager and Khai Harley working around the cap. If there’s a player the Saints covet, we know they’ll move mountains to go get them.
That’s not to say we should anticipate a spending spree. The Saints still need to be conscious of their cap situation and the extensions they’ll be working on with young stars in the future. It’s got be a careful balancing act. Still, it’s good to know your options. With the 2023 free agency cycle on the horizon in March, Pro Football Focus named one offensive and defensive target for each team. PFF’s Brad Spielberger suggested New Orleans go looking for help at wide receiver and defensive tackle:
Offense: WR Allen Lazard
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Here’s what Spielberger had to say in making the case for Lazard:
“Lazard’s relationship with the Packers appears to be fractured, and Green Bay appears to have found their starting wide receiver duo on the outside going forward in rookies Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs, with resources better spent elsewhere this offseason.
The Saints have two lighter, speedier options at wide receiver in rookies Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed, so they add an element of physicality here with the 6-foot-5, 227-pound Lazard. His elite run-blocking ability would be a great asset, and although he is coming off a career-low run-blocking grade by a drastic margin in 2022, his 78.2 mark from 2019-21 ranked seventh among wide receivers.
Lazard is more than just a blocker, setting new career highs in targets, receptions and receiving yards in 2022, with his 73.9 receiving grade also a top mark despite the increased volume.”
Lazard would bring a new element to the receiving corps as a big target who can win on contested catches — he’s had 17 of them the last two years, which is an area of weakness for New Orleans. And his skills as a blocker on running plays would help keep specialists like Tre’Quan Smith off the field and avoid tipping the offense’s hand to the defense. Free agent contracts for receivers are skyrocketing these days, so it’s unlikely the Saints can meet Lazard’s price, but the vision here is clear enough.
Defense: DT Larry Ogunjobi
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And here’s what Spielberger has on linking Ogunjobi to New Orleans:
“The Saints are potentially set to lose interior defender David Onyemata and edge defender Marcus Davenport this offseason and will have more turnover on their defensive front over the next few years with future Hall of Famer Cameron Jordan nearing the end of his career as well.
Ogunjobi signed a three-year, $40.5 million deal with the Bears last offseason that ultimately fell through after they had concerns during his physical examination, but he landed in a good spot with the Pittsburgh Steelers and earned a 61.7 overall grade, his best since his rookie season. While he’s not going to consistently win one-on-ones as a pass-rusher, Ogunjobi has 70 quarterback pressures over the last two seasons.
With general manager Mickey Loomis saying during his end-of-season press conference that the Saints are going to “try to get back to the middle” with respect to their aggressive salary cap approach, Ogunjobi represents a solid addition who won’t break the bank.”
No complaints here. Ogunjobi can play, and he’s exactly what the Saints need inside as a disruptive presence who can move quarterbacks off their spot. Their only defensive tackle under contract for 2023 is Prince Emili, who is returning from the practice squad, so at some point New Orleans needs to just sign anyone with a pulse. But it sure wouldn’t hurt to be proactive and look for upgrades over last year’s group. Onyemata should re-sign, but pairing him with someone like Ogunjobi would be even better.