Saints continue with aggressive approach

There’s a reason why the New Orleans Saints have been one of the NFL’s best teams the past couple of years.

Sure it helps that they have Drew Brees as their quarterback. But there’s more to it than that. What sets the Saints apart is their willingness to be aggressive -- on and off the field. The latest example came Tuesday night.

As much of the rest of the league sat around waiting for a possible labor lockout, the Saints were making some aggressive moves. They signed defensive tackle Shaun Rogers to a one-year contract worth around $4 million and they reached agreement on a five-year contract to keep kicker Garrett Hartley.

Think of the Rogers’ deal as being similar to the Saints acquiring linebacker Jonathan Vilma or tight end Jeremy Shockey in trades or signing cornerback Jabari Greer and safety Darren Sharper as free agents in the past. Those moves helped the Saints win a Super Bowl in the 2009 season.

With Vilma, Shockey, Sharper and Greer, the Saints identified players they felt they really needed. There was competition for each of those three and the cost wasn’t cheap. But none of that stopped the Saints. General manager Mickey Loomis approaches his job the same way coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams approach their jobs. Loomis goes out and makes sure he gets want he wants.

That’s what he did with Rogers, a guy who had some very good years in Detroit and Cleveland before being reduced to a role player with the Browns last season. The Saints have a definite need at defensive tackle. They have a good young player in Sedrick Ellis and not much else. They had been getting by with Remi Ayodele as the starter next to Ellis. But Ayodele was nothing more than a large body. He could help stop the run, but wasn’t capable of making big plays.

Rogers should bring that ability to the Saints. Plug him in next to Ellis and the defensive line suddenly could be very good. Even if it’s only for a year, this move could really help the Saints. Shockey and Sharper helped the Saints in the short term. Now, Shockey has been released and Sharper may retire or leave through free agency.

Rogers could be a one-year patch. Or he could be more. If he goes out and has a good season, the Saints will treat him the same way they have Vilma and Greer, who are part of their core. No matter how it works out, you can’t accuse the Saints of standing still.

The Hartley signing is slightly different because the Saints are simply retaining one of their own players. But a five-year deal for a kicker is an aggressive move. I’d expect nothing less from the Saints. They’ve had some kicking issues in recent years. But they feel Hartley has solidified that position, so they’re going ahead and locking him up for the long term.