Since the Saints were one of the final eight teams this season, their hands have been somewhat tied in pursuing unrestricted free agents. Wilkerson will fill the one slot created when linebacker Scott Fujita signed with Cleveland. The Saints would have to lose another unrestricted free agent before they could sign any more.
They already signed defensive Alex Brown, who does not count in the final eight plan because he was released by Chicago, and he’s likely to start at the defensive end spot opposite Will Smith. That spot was held last year by Charles Grant, who was released after the season.
Under normal circumstances, Wilkerson, who spent the last two seasons with Tampa Bay, would be a candidate to compete with Brown for the starting job. But Wilkerson tore an ACL late last season and it probably will take him some time to get fully healthy.
Still, Wilkerson gives the Saints a quality backup. He’s a decent pass rusher, who I thought could have been a lot more productive if Tampa Bay had any quality in its interior defensive line. Wilkerson also plays the run very well.
This leaves the Saints with plenty of depth at defensive end. Reserves Bobby McCray and Jeff Charleston also remain on the roster. This move probably allows the Saints to let Anthony Hargrove focus solely on playing defensive tackle, after getting time on the inside and outside last season.
With that kind of depth, defensive end no longer is a big priority in the draft. But don’t rule out the possibility of the Saints taking a defensive end because Smith, Wilkerson and Brown aren’t young and the Saints might want to develop a pass rusher.