I've had a chance the last week to really look at what's out there and I was able to come up with five players that I think could be a good fit in New Orleans. The Saints are currently about $15 million over the cap, but they can get just under by cutting Will Smith and Roman Harper. Even if they do that, though, they still have to sign Jimmy Graham to a long term deal, they still need to sign free agents and they still need to sign their draft picks. Translation: massaging the cap won't be easy and the Saints will need to be smart. Don't expect them to break the bank on a top tier free agent. They will look for talent but they will also look for fair prices. Keep in mind the needs will also depend on what they lose. For example, the signature of Ben Grubbs came directly following the loss of Carl Nicks, and the loss of someone like Zach Strief, Brian de la Puente or Malcolm Jenkins could exact a similar immediate response. Since we currently don't know what the losses will be, though, here's five guys the Saints could target:
1. Anthony Spencer, OLB, Dallas Cowboys: I mentioned this on twitter already this week and this one makes a lot of sense. Spencer was an absolute star for Rob Ryan in 2012. He was so good, in fact, that the Cowboys slapped him with the franchise tag last offseason and paid him about $9 million for a year. Problem is, his knee was a mess and after one game he had microfracture surgery and was placed on IR for the season. He's 30 and coming off a surgery that serious, a surgery that wasn't very successful for Jonathan Vilma and Darren Sharper, so he's not going to get franchised and he's not going to command a huge contract. I have a feeling he won't want to be back in Dallas, either, after how bad the defense was a year ago. The Saints have the talent that they can bring him along slowly and they don't *need* Spencer, but if he can get back anywhere close to normal he'd be a nice addition. I think his relationship with Rob Ryan would clearly be a beneficial factor in bringing him to the Saints.
2. Aqib Talib, CB, New England Patriots: Talib will be 28 next week so he's not young but he should still have a few years left. I think he views this as his last shot at a good contract. Last year he played on a one year deal with the Pats to prove himself because of a checkered past with conduct issues. He's not a prototypical locker room guy Sean Payton likes, but he had a good season in New England. In fact, there's talk they may franchise him. Talib might be a bit of a pie in the sky and a long shot, but the Saints saw up close and personal what he did to Jimmy Graham, completely shutting down the Saints' star tight end. On some level I think that raised a lot of eyebrows on the Saints' staff and if they were ever to take a risk on a guy, it might be Talib. Of course it will all depend on cost, and Talib may command more than the Saints are willing to pay. Based on the courtship of Tracy Porter and Nnamdi Asomugha last year and the injuries of Jabari Greer and Patrick Robinson, though, you can bet they will shop for possibly more than one corner in free agency.
3. Nick Folk, K, New York Jets: I think it's time the Saints invest in a rock solid kicker. I don't know that that can happen financially, and maybe the Saints will settle for giving Shayne Graham some young competition. But imagine getting a rock solid veteran that you know won't miss? There's three kickers on the market that could be available in Steven Hauschka of the Seahawks, Dan Carpenter of the Bills and Folk. All three of those guys are close to automatic. Hauschka is probably my favorite of the three, but the Seahawks will do anything necessary to keep him and they could franchise him. Even if they don't a Super Bowl winning kicker that's missed just two all year will get overpaid for sure on an open market. Carpenter is a possibility if the Bills franchise Jairus Byrd again. I'm not going to give the lazy argument that Folk kicked for Rex Ryan and that somehow makes him more likely to come to the Saints because his brother is the defensive coordinator. But if Sean Payton decides he's had enough of worrying about that position he'll consider this investment.
4. Quintin Demps, FS, Kansas City Chiefs: Demps is a bit of an NFL journeyman that will be 29 in June and only made $700,000 last year. He was a bit of a surprise in the Chiefs defense, though, with 4 interceptions. Malcolm Jenkins, by contrast, has had 6 interceptions in 5 seasons. I'm not saying Demps would be a huge addition, but I do think he's a veteran that knows how to play and he would give the Saints more playmaking ability on the back end than they've been used to. He shouldn't cost too much either.
5. Shelley Smith, G, St. Louis Rams: I remember when the Saints signed Jonathan Goodwin away from the Jets as a primary backup to Jahri Evans, Jeff Faine and Jamar Nesbit. At the time he was an interior backup that didn't seem like much but he turned out to be a borderline Pro Bowl quality center on multiple Super Bowl teams (Saints and 49ers). The Saints can't be in a position of throwing an undrafted rookie like Tim Lelito into a starting role if something happens to Jahri Evans or another interior starter again. The drop off was significant to say the least. The Saints have only carried one backup at the guard and center positions combined the last couple of years, and if they're going to do that again they need a trusted vet. Smith was a backup for the Rams that started two games and had a solid +7.0 grade for the season according to PFF. Coming into his fourth season he's a guy that's had spot starts and seems to keep improving and has developed into starter quality.