Although it feels like a sure thing that the New Orleans Saints will re-sign quarterback Drew Brees in the coming weeks, it's quite the opposite with their other high-profile free agent -- Kenny Vaccaro.
The versatile safety was a great first-round draft choice by the Saints in 2013, especially considering how many duds came out of that year's class. At times over the past five years, Vaccaro has played like a Pro Bowler and one of the MVPs of New Orleans' defense.
However, Vaccaro has never fully realized his lofty potential over a full season, thanks in part to a handful of injuries -- including the groin surgery that ended his 2017 season early in December. And it feels like a change of scenery might be on the horizon since the Saints have not aggressively worked to re-sign Vaccaro before now and since other teams might be willing to pay more for his potential.
But the position is still a big-time priority since New Orleans uses three-safety formations so often. So the Saints might wind up bringing back Vaccaro if the price remains reasonable. Otherwise, they'll have to find someone to replace him in either free agency or the draft.
That's why safety comes in at No. 6 in my position-by-position ranking of New Orleans' offseason needs:
Current depth chart:
Kenny Vaccaro. Age 27, unrestricted free agent.
Marcus Williams. Age 21, signed through 2020. 2018 salary and bonuses: $748,655. 2018 salary-cap number: $1.42 million.
Vonn Bell. Age 23, signed through 2019. 2018 salary and bonuses: $811,118. 2018 salary-cap number: $1.08 million.
Rafael Bush. Age 30, unrestricted free agent.
Chris Banjo. Turns 28 on Feb. 26, signed through 2018. 2018 salary and bonuses: $1.7 million. 2018 salary-cap number: $1.8 million.
Rickey Jefferson. Age 23, scheduled to become exclusive rights free agent in 2019. 2018 salary: $480,000.
Williams' rookie season obviously ended on a very sour note with the missed tackle at Minnesota, but before that he had an outstanding year at free safety -- starting all 17 games he played and finishing with five interceptions, including the playoffs.
Bell has been solid as well, starting 26 games over the past two seasons, including the playoffs. He has the ability to play deep in coverage but has become an even better fit closer to the line of scrimmage, where he had 5.5 sacks and 100 tackles last season, including the playoffs.
The Saints would probably be OK if they don't re-sign Vaccaro and those guys remain the starters going forward. But they would be awfully thin -- especially since they have preferred to use three safeties instead of three cornerbacks in so many of their nickel packages.
Vaccaro and veteran backup Bush are both restricted free agents. Banjo proved he could step up when needed because of injuries -- getting his first career interception and first career forced fumble last season -- but is primarily a special teams ace.
So chances are, the Saints will make it a high priority to add depth here this offseason. The only question is whether they will settle for minor investments, swing big for a free agent like Vaccaro, Eric Reid or Lamarcus Joyner, or use a first-round draft choice.