If Saints sign any more veteran free agents, the defensive front is probably the way to go

May 8, 2019

The Saints enter the second wave of free agency much like they entered the NFL draft two weeks ago: not having a whole lot of holes to fill.

But will the team look to add any more pieces to the puzzle by signing some veteran free agents still on the market?

They could — and probably should — despite addressing most of their needs coming into the offseason.

They now have added not one but two centers (signing Nick Easton in free agency and drafting Erik McCoy) who can vie to replace Max Unger, who retired in the offseason.

They also signed tight end Jared Cook, who will fill in the role held last season by Ben Watson, who also retired at the end of the season. They added another tight end (Notre Dame’s Alize Mack) in the draft.

They also added depth at safety, drafting both Chauncey Gardner Johnson out of Florida and Saquan Hampton from Rutgers.

Latavius Murray is expected to replace Mark Ingram and Marcus Sherels is expected to give a boost to the return game.

And the team signed Malcolm Brown and Mario Edwards to help a defensive front, which seems to be the team’s biggest need right now.

And it’s there where the Saints will likely look if they try to sign a veteran in free agency.

If there are any question marks on a team that went 13-3 and was a “no call” away from possibly playing in the Super Bowl, it’s on the defensive front. (That’s assuming the receivers not named Michael Thomas give the Saints more production this season.)

Defensive end Alex Okafor is gone after signing with the Kansas City Chiefs. And defensive tackle Tyeler Davison is no longer around either, having signed with the Atlanta Falcons.

Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins is expected to miss the first part of the season after tearing his Achilles in the playoffs against the Philadelphia Eagles. And the status of another defensive tackle, David Onyemata, is still up in the air after he was cited in January for allegedly having marijuana delivered to his home.

So yeah, the Saints could still use some experienced help up front.

Fortunately, there is plenty of defensive line talent remaining in free agency.

Here is a look at the five best defensive linemen still available.

Ndamukong Suh: The Saints were interested in Suh last spring. He even met with Sean Payton in New Orleans last March and talked to Jermon Bushrod and Larry Warford about possibly becoming a Saint. Instead, he ended up signing with the Los Angeles Rams and helped them get to the Super Bowl. The price will probably be too steep for Suh, who will likely end up signing another one-year deal like he did with the Rams.

Ziggy Ansah: The six-year defensive end for the Detroit Lions is the most coveted edge rusher remaining. A shoulder injury plagued him most of last season when he played just seven games and finished with just four sacks. But he’s had two seasons where he put up double digits in sacks, including a career-best 14.5 in 2015. He’d give depth to a defensive end unit of Cam Jordan, Marcus Davenport, Trey Hendrickson and Edwards.

Corey Liuget: The defensive tackle missed most of last season for the Chargers, first for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs and then a quad injury. This will be his ninth NFL season.

Muhammad Wilkerson: Missed all but three games for the Green Bay Packers last season after injuring his ankle in the third week of the season. Played end in 3-4 defense, but is more of a hybrid who can play tackle as well. Had a career best 12 sacks in 2015 with the New York Jets when he was named to the Pro Bowl.

Danny Shelton: Could the Saints get another defensive lineman from the Super Bowl champion Patriots along with Brown? Shelton, who played one season in New England, is a run stopper whose best season was in 2016 with the Browns when he recorded 59 tackles, 1.5 sacks and six quarterback hits.

Will they sign one of the above guys? Or will they look elsewhere? Or will they work with what they have. Stay tuned.

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