Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
When I do these team-by-team mailbags, I try to mix up the order to keep fans of the NFC South teams happy. Sometimes, I go in alphabetical order, sometimes I go in reverse alphabetical order and some times I just pick randomly.
I'll make a confession here and let you know why I'm putting the New Orleans Saints second on the list today. After already doing the Panthers' mail and looking ahead at the Bucs' mail, I honestly need a break from all the Julius Peppers and Jay Cutler talk.
The Saints aren't going to be players for either of those two, so let's mix it up a bit. We'll get to your questions on Cutler and the Bucs a bit later.
Shawn in Philly writes: I never seem to get a question answered but here we go. Pierre Thomas seems to be a capable back but there seems to be allot of positive press on him. But do the saints really like him as their starter? I mean didn't they kick the tires on Fred Taylor and had interest in LT. Are they looking at any backs in the draft or FA. Seems like they are holding a spot for someone.
Pat Yasinskas: Shawn, I'm going to start with your question today. Just a note to everybody who writes to the mailbag: I can't answer every question. Many of them are very similar and I try to pick questions that represent what's on everyone's mind. Anyway, let's move to Shawn's question. The Saints like Pierre Thomas very much and he played well last season. He's definitely in their plans -- and so is Reggie Bush, for that matter. But there's always a need for depth at running back and Bush is more of a specialist than an every-down player. The Saints need one more running back in this mix and I think you'll see that come later in free agency or the draft. I strongly suspect this running back will be someone with good size to handle the short-yardage situations. But, no matter who else comes, Thomas is going to be a big factor next season.
Terry Lafayette, La., writes: Greetings Pat!!! As an avid student of pro football, and having played collegiately, I appreciate your expertise more than all other columnests. Keep up the good work!!! What is your opinion of my Saints drafting Wells/Moreno with their 1st round pick, as it looks like Sharper will fill FS hole? If not RB (big need)how would Cushing or Matthews fit Williams' new system?
Pat Yasinskas: Obviously, there's speculation out there about the Saints and running backs. But I'd be surprised if they used their first-round pick on that spot. As I said above, I think they already have one solid runner in Thomas and can add some depth later in the draft or free agency. As it stands right now, the Saints only hold four draft picks and I think their bigger needs are on defense. The linebackers you mentioned could be possibilities, but I think the bigger need is in the secondary.
Allan in Fayetteville, Ark., writes: The Saints continue to add depth to the roster through free agency despite the minimal cap space they are working with. With the draft getting closer they are going to need to generate some cap space at some point. Who is going to have to take a pay cut or maybe just be cut?
Pat Yasinskas: Good point. The Saints have done a nice job making some moves with limited cap room. But they're going to have to make more. Let me point out that contract restructures can be done without pay cuts and there are a number of veterans the Saints could approach to help them out with the cap. In these situations, it's beneficial to the player because he's getting money up front that was scheduled to be paid to him in the future. That said, I still think you should keep an eye on veteran cornerback Mike McKenzie. He's making big money and is coming off his second major injury. Something could happen here.
Kerry in New Orleans writes: It appears the Saints are waiting on something or someone to address the safety issue. Might be a salary issue with Sharper, but I can't understand why this hasn't been addressed. Are they anticipating an upcoming roster move with a player they value more? Can't see Jenkins/Young as the answer.
Pat Yasinskas: I think safety Darren Sharper joining the Saints still is a good possibility. Coach Sean Payton told the New Orleans Times-Picayune on Monday that talks are continuing and he expects the situation to play out in a week or two. Even if they sign Sharper, I think Malcolm Jenkins could be a first-round possibility as a cornerback or a safety. Not sure that you'd want a guy learning the safety position to play right away and Sharper could ease that transition. I know there's been talk of moving cornerback Usama Young to free safety, but I think you'll see a veteran like Sharper on this roster before long.
Matt in Westbrook, ME, writes: Pat, I am a Rams fan, but I have a question about the Saints. They STILL have not figured out how to utilize Reggie Bush to his full potential. To me Bush seems like Marshall Faulk (without the toughness and perhaps the smarts) type. Imagine if the Saints had Mike Martz running the offense there, Bush would be putting up pro bowl numbers year in and year out, and fans would fill the seats to see an explosive Martz offense..your thoughts?
Pat Yasinskas: Well, the Saints already fill the Superdome and have an explosive offense. But I agree with your point that they haven't figured out how to use Bush -- so far. But Payton is a very good offensive mind and I think he's well aware of the fact that there's more he can get out of Bush. I'm sure that's something he's thought lots about this offseason and I suspect there may be a few new wrinkles in Bush's role for next season.