METAIRIE, LA. -- The New Orleans Saints aren't planning to tender restricted free agent defensive lineman Tyrunn Walker, according to a league source, though they've still shown interest in bringing him back at a lower rate.
The decision isn't a huge surprise, since the minimum RFA tender would have required a one-year, $1.54 million offer from the Saints. And it would have come with no draft-pick compensation since Walker was an undrafted rookie out of Tulsa in 2012.
But losing Walker would put a dent in New Orleans' defensive line depth. And now the Saints will risk that by letting Walker hit the open market -- where he could generate some interest as a versatile end/tackle with both size (6-foot-3, 294 pounds) and pass-rush ability (2.5 sacks and a forced fumble last year).
Walker, who turns 25 later this month, has been a nice, solid backup for the Saints because of his versatility. He's played end and tackle in both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, holding his own as a run stuffer and pass-rusher.
He's not a dominator. And it's hard to give much credit to anyone on the Saints' defensive front after last season, when their pass rush was far too anemic and their run defense far too inconsistent. But as I wrote earlier this week, Walker is a young player who has shown improvement each year -- a good trajectory to be on.
Walker's role expanded from seven games played in 2013 to 16 games played in 2014, where he averaged 18 snaps per game and finished with a career-high 19 tackles. He popped up on my film studies with a handful of big plays, including a sack-fumble against San Francisco, an assist on Junior Galette's sack-fumble at Carolina and some key third-down pressures at Pittsburgh. And Pro Football Focus was especially high on him last season, grading him 21st among 81 eligible defensive tackles.
Walker is one of three restricted free agents for the Saints, along with running back Travaris Cadet and offensive tackle Bryce Harris. All three might be in the same boat, with the Saints seeking more financially friendly deals to bring them back.
There has been no tender offer yet for Cadet. Agent Jimmy Gould said Cadet loves playing in New Orleans, loves the fans and his teammates, but wants to go where he has the opportunity to play and contribute most.