With the signings of Keenan Lewis and Ben Watson, I'm not ready to say cornerback and tight end depth are set by any means, but I feel better about those positions. That said, the Saints are still looking strongly at Nnamdi Asomugha which proves they are maybe still not satisfied with the talent at the former position. That said, with Jabari Greer, Patrick Robinson and Keenan Lewis, three guys that are at least capable of starting, cornerback is not as pressing of a "need" for the team. Here's where I believe the Saints' current roster shakes out and what holes are left to fill.
1. Left Tackle: If the season starts today, Charles Brown is the starting left tackle. That sounds awful. He needs competition at the very least. Ideally I'd prefer someone else starting. I listened to Mickey Loomis on WWL radio yesterday suggest competition of some form will definitely be brought in and that Charles Brown "won't be handed" the job. Thank God for that.
2. Outside Linebacker: It looks like Jonathan Vilma will play mostly on the outside in the scheme, at least according to Sean Payton earlier this offseason. I'm not sure how I see that working out. Beyond that it's just Martez Wilson and Junior Galette. While in a perfect world those two guys wreak constant havoc on passing downs and rack up sack totals as starters, I think it's fair to suspect that maybe one of the two won't work out at the very least. And either way, I'm not convinced any of the three players I just listed will be a "difference maker". The Saints need an explosive pass rushing guy. I want that guy to be the 15th pick overall. I'd understand if they went left tackle, but how do you pass up on Barkevious Mingo or Bjoern Werner if they are available? I wouldn't. That's not mentioning Jarvis Jones, Dion Jordan and the slew of other guys I also like as rookie 3-4 outside linebackers.
3. Defensive End: Cameron Jordan is an improving player and he may be an event better fit as a 3-4 end, honestly, because run support is his strength and he won't be relied on as much in pass rushing. Will Smith will also be back, which helps, and at this stage of his career he's probably aging into a 3-4 end anyway. I could also see Akiem Hicks and Tom Johnson both being moved to end on running downs in a 3-4 scheme, so the Saints have some potential here but I'm not sold on them getting any pressure whatsoever unless Hicks develops into a quality starter which is still possible.
4. Nose Tackle: It looks like Brodrick Bunkley is the guy now that he's restructured. I'm not sure he's big or wide enough to be the right fit, but he should be adequate. Behind him there's not much. Tom Johnson, Akiem Hicks and Tyrunn Walker are the only other tackles on the roster and they all three strike me as better fits in a 4-3. The Saints need to get a really big wide body in the mix that can plug the middle.
5. Cornerback: The Saints could go into the season with what they have now and it wouldn't be a total disaster. Lewis, Greer and Robinson is a decent top three. Obviously adding Asomugha massively upgrades the quality. I'd still love to see Elbert Mack back and don't forget Corey White who's currently the #4 but could be bumped down to #5 if a vet is signed.
5. Quarterback: Drew Brees is currently the only quarterback on the roster, though I'm sure Sean Canfield will be brought back to compete in camp. If Canfield ends up being the #2, though, we're in real deep trouble if anything happens to Brees. That's probably a given regardless of who the backup is, but I have never been impressed with Canfield even as a project. In fact, you might as well assume the Saints are going winless without Drew with Canfield under center. Starter is definitely not a need, of course, but his primary backup is a huge one.
6. Inside Linebacker: Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne are the starters, for sure. I have a hard time seeing the Saints add anyone that would unseat them. Ramon Humber is mostly a special teams guy but can offer the team some depth. Chris Chamberlain is probably the primary backup. With Hawthorne and Chamberlain being health concerns based on last year I'd love another guy in the mix even if it's a late round rookie.
7. Wide Receiver: Colston and Moore are the starters, but they'll both be in their 30s this year. Behind them there's a lot of uncertainty. Devery Henderson is a free agent and may not return, Joe Morgan is a promising development, and the jury is still out on Nick Toon. I'd love to see the team add speed because I always felt the offense was at it's best with two field stretchers (Henderson and Meachem). Right now Morgan is the only one that qualifies and he's still a work in progress.
8. Safety: Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper are the starters, I guess. Don't love either. Isa Abdul-Quddus and Rafael Bush are the backups. I do love that. I think the depth quality is almost better than the starting quality here. If the Saints could add a Kenny Vacarro or an Ed Reed, they should seriously consider it based on the upgrade involved. That said, safety has depth and talent, so while I do consider it a "need", it's less pressing.
Then there's the positions I view as set:
– Special teams in general: Thomas Morstead and Garrett Hartley are great and locked up, Courtney Roby is coming back, Ramon Humber is back and Justin Drescher just got a four year deal. The Saints also have Travaris Cadet and Darren Sproles to help in the return game. Special teams can always use help with capable tacklers, blockers and runners, but the bones are there and this unit in general feels very stable.
– Running back: The Saints need no help here. Between Ingram, Ivory, Pierre, Sproles and Cadet they have more good players than they know what to do with. The Saints typically keep one fullback, too, and Jed Collins is the man.
- Interior Line: Between the starters, Evans, De la Puente and Grubbs, the Saints could not be more set. Eric Olsen is a passable backup and I still like Andrew Tiller a lot too. I don't really see adding someone as a necessity.
– Right Tackle: Zach Strief, when healthy, is a good starter. I actually feel fine about Charles Brown as a backup at that position. Marcel Jones could turn into a good player, too, and he's a nice project.
– Tight End: With Ben Watson and Jimmy Graham I feel incredibly secure here now. Don't forget the Saints like to use a tackle on the edge in jumbo sets, too, and Olsen and Brown both have experience doing that from last season.