<
>

Ranking Saints needs: No. 12 Specialists

A position-by-position look at where the New Orleans Saints stand heading into the 2015 offseason -- ranked from 1-12 in order of the team's need for upgrades or replacements.

Current depth chart:

P Thomas Morstead. Age 28, signed through 2018. 2015 salary and bonuses: $2.45 million. 2015 salary-cap number: $3.4 million.

K Shayne Graham. Age 37, unrestricted free agent.

K Dustin Hopkins. Age 24, signed through 2017. 2015 salary and bonuses: $510,000. 2015 salary-cap number: unverified, but likely $510,000.

LS Justin Drescher. Age 27, signed through 2016. 2015 salary and bonuses: $765,000. 2015 salary-cap number: $875,000.

Analysis:

Although I ranked this last among the Saints' needs, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see them shop for an upgrade at kicker -- either through free agency or the draft. It's just the last position group where I'd expect them to either use a high draft pick or spend big in free agency.

Graham was decent in 2014, making 19 of 22 field-goal attempts and even winning a NFC special teams player of the month award. But he seemed to be on a short leash by season's end, when he missed two December field goals while the Saints auditioned potential replacements.

The Saints signed Hopkins to their practice squad after that audition because they like his potential. The two might wind up battling it out in training camp if the Saints decide to re-sign Graham. But it wouldn't be surprising to see them look for an upgrade at a position where they've never had much consistency in the Sean Payton-Mickey Loomis era.

On the flip side, Morstead is as consistent and reliable as it gets. He had another standout season for a Saints team that quietly ranked first in the NFL in punt coverage (opponents averaged just 4.1 yards per return). Morstead's net average of 42.9 yards per punt was second in the league.

Drescher has also been solid throughout his five-year career with the Saints, so there's no reason to expect any change at long snapper.