A position-by-position look at where the New Orleans Saints stand heading into the 2014 offseason -- ranked from 1-12 in order of the team’s need for upgrades or replacements.
Current depth chart:
Keenan Lewis. Age 27, signed through 2017. 2014 salary and bonuses: $3.35 million. 2014 salary-cap number: $4.55 million.
Jabari Greer. Turns 32 next week, signed through 2015. 2014 salary and bonuses: $4.5 million. 2014 salary-cap number: $6.825 million.
Corey White. Age 23, signed through 2015. 2014 salary and bonuses: $570,000. 2014 salary-cap number: $614,125.
Patrick Robinson. Age 26, signed through 2014. 2014 salary and bonuses: $1.36 million. 2014 salary-cap number: $2.8 million.
Rod Sweeting. Age 23, scheduled to become a restricted free agent in 2016. 2014 salary and bonuses: $495,000. 2014 salary-cap number: $496,666.
Trevin Wade. Age 24, exclusive rights free agent.
Terrence Frederick. Age 23, scheduled to become a restricted free agent after three accrued seasons. 2014 salary: $420,000.
This was an easy No. 1 for me since I think the Saints need both immediate help and long-term help at a position that is absolutely critical in today’s pass-happy NFL. And that’s more about basic common sense than the idea of trying to copy the Seattle Seahawks’ model. … But either way, it’s the right idea.
The good news is that New Orleans found a bona fide No. 1 cornerback in Lewis last year in one of the best free-agent signings anywhere in the league. He’s a bigger, long-armed cornerback with good speed, and he was able to lock down the best receivers in the league on a weekly basis last year. He should have made the Pro Bowl -- something I imagine will be corrected in the near future.
Beyond Lewis, however, there are several question marks. Greer was also playing very well last year before he suffered a major knee injury in November that now leaves his future in doubt. I think Greer has been maybe the most underrated star of the Saints’ golden era since 2009, and I’d love to think he can come back for more quality seasons. But he’s in the midst of a significant rehab, he’s about to turn 32, and he’s due to make a lot of money for the cap-strapped Saints. So I think Greer would have to agree to a pay cut to get that opportunity. And even then, it’s unclear if he can get back close to 100 percent by the start of the season.
Robinson is a question mark for many of the same reasons after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. Robinson struggled as a starter in 2012, but I have to imagine the new defense under Rob Ryan would be a better fit for him (like it was for just about everyone else last year). I still think the speedy former first-round draft pick has potential. But Robinson’s salary is just big enough to make him a potential cap casualty if the Saints decide they can’t afford to gamble on that potential this offseason.
White was decent as a replacement starter for Greer this past season. The physical second-year pro had some rough games, but he also gained some valuable experience. I think he should still be a good fit as part of the rotation going forward. And he’ll get a chance to compete for a full-time starting job -- though he might fit better as a nickel/slot corner.
Sweeting is another young guy who could bloom into a greater role after impressing enough to earn a roster spot as an undrafted rookie last season. Wade and Frederick were late-season signings that we never got a real good feel for. I could see both of them back in camp this summer, along with young guys on the current expanded roster like Derrius Brooks and A.J. Davis.
So the young depth is decent, but I think the Saints definitely need to add at least one more starting-caliber player.