Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
The New Orleans Saints are next in our team-by-team mailbags.
Tom in SC writes: In your mailbags and columns you have repeatedly mentioned that the Saints, since they are very limited by the salary cap this off season, will go after some mid level or reasonably priced free agents rather than the big name guys. Can you actually give some specific examples of these reasonably-priced, lesser players that you speak of that the Saints would target, rather than just generalizing the group of "mid level" free agents?
Pat Yasinskas: Tom, that's a good point. Let me explain why I do generalize on this issue. We're still almost two weeks away from the start of free agency and that means things can change dramatically between now and then. You can look at the free-agent lists today and they're going to be very different on Feb. 27 because some teams are going to re-sign their own guys and teams are going to cut players to create salary-cap room. Also, the mid-level hasn't really been determined yet because we don't know what's going to happen with the top guys. For instance, if Julius Peppers and Albert Haynesworth get franchised and don't become free agents, suddenly the guys who we're all thinking are mid-level could become high level. We have rules about speculating, even in blogs, and I try to keep it as responsible as possible and not go wild with speculation until we actually get close to free agency. With that in mind, I'll push the rules just a bit to at least whet the appetite of you and others who are thinking ahead to free agency. I don't think it's any big secret New Orleans' biggest needs are in the secondary. A couple of guys in the division fit the profile. That's Tampa Bay safety Jermaine Phillips and cornerback Phillip Buchanon. Again, I think there's a decent chance the Bucs re-sign those guys, so this all could be moot. If you want another name, how about cornerback Leigh Bodden? He's already a free agent because he was released by Detroit.
Alex in Texarkana writes: With the Saints having so few draft pick choices available, and salary cap still the big issue of the free agency, is it possible for the team to solve both issues by trading players, like Deuce, for mid to late round picks?
Pat Yasinskas: Don't get your hopes too high on that one. It's not likely Deuce McAllister is going to have much value in the trade market. It's pretty obvious to the rest of the league that he's not in the Saints' plans and a lot of people around the league expect him to be released. That may be the most-likely scenario. I wouldn't totally rule out the Saints trading Deuce for something. But I think the best you can hope for might be a sixth- or seventh-round pick.
Mike in Conroe, Texas writes: Hey Pat, love reading your stuff first off. What are the chances of the Saints landing either Atogwe from the Rams or Leonhard from the Ravens at FS? I know it's a long shot as far as money goes, but someone has to be somewhat interested in trying to come and help the defense (especially with Williams as D-Coordinator) because of the opportunity our strong offense creates for them.
Pat Yasinskas: Again, this is why I don't like to get two specific about potential free agents this far out from the start of free agency. I like Oshiomogho Atogwe and think he could be a very nice fit in New Orleans. But the reports out of St. Louis are that the Rams still are trying to re-sign Atogwe and there's some thinking they might use the franchise tag on him. So he could be a moot point. Also, if Atogwe does make it to the open market, he's probably at the upper end of what the Saints want to spend on a free agent, so it might be difficult to get him.
Rob in Washington DC writes: Any idea who the Saints are planning to put the franchise tag on? And, based on the possible difficulties of resigning Vilma, why not just use it on him?
Pat Yasinskas: The good news is I doubt the Saints will use the franchise tag on anyone. Aside from Jonathan Vilma, none of their potential free agents are the type of player that would merit a franchise tag. As far as Vilma, he wants to return to the Saints and they want him back. I suspect you'll see him re-sign with the Saints very soon after the start of free agency.
Tim in Bastrop, La writes: Hey Pat I see all of the guys asking about the defense defense defense. Quiet frankley I'm tired of hearing it. Because the way I see it is yes, we have the number 1 offense in scoring and just about every catagorey as far as that is concerned, but the one we need number 1 in the most is rushing. I want to know what are the chances the saints would possibly go after a "BEANIE WELLS" in the draft. I mean i like Pierre and Bush but the truth is you just can't trust neither one of them when it is 3rd and 3 or less. And i feel like if we were to get a back like that. It would help to keep the defense off the field. Which keeps the defense rested to play better. If you were to look back at all the games this season. Our defense was on the field was on the field way too much. And when that happens 75% of the time any defense is going to get burned. Because they stay wore down, and that will create lack of pressure on the qb. Not giving our line any credit this year B/c they never got pressure.
Pat Yasinskas: That's an interesting perspective and you make a very good argument that getting a running back might help the defense more than anything. I don't argue with that a bit. It's obvious ball control was an issue for the Saints last year. I wouldn't rule out the possibility of the Saints going for a running back early in the draft, but that would mean Sean Payton would have to make a stronger commitment to the running game and it might impact how the team uses Reggie Bush. Also, keep in mind, the Saints have only four draft picks at the moment and they do have to find some new bodies for the defense. But I would like to see them get a power runner at some point in free agency or in the draft.