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Ranking Saints needs: No. 7 Offensive tackle

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:

Zach Strief. Age 31, signed through 2018. 2015 salary and bonuses: $2.1 million. 2015 salary-cap number: $3.2 million.

Terron Armstead. Age 23, signed through 2016. 2015 salary and bonuses: $615,000. 2015 salary-cap number: $769,359.

Bryce Harris. Age 25, restricted free agent.

Nick Becton. Age 24, scheduled to become exclusive-rights free agent in 2016. 2015 salary and bonuses: $585,000. 2015 salary-cap number: $585,000.

Analysis:

The good news is the Saints don’t have an urgent need for a starting offensive tackle, since Strief and Armstead are both still playing well, and Armstead looks like a long-term cornerstone on the left side. However, the cupboard is awfully bare behind them -- especially at left tackle, where Harris struggled in a handful of games as an injury replacement for Armstead this season. And Strief turns 32 in September.

Ideally, the Saints would address both of those issues with one player -- by drafting or signing a young free agent capable of backing up both guys this year and eventually replacing Strief in the starting lineup. That might prove easier said than done, though, since the draft is a crapshoot and young offensive tackles with starting potential make good money in free agency.

The Saints may elect to re-sign Harris, who played well in the past as a fill-in right tackle and extra blocker in jumbo packages. But they’d be better served to keep Harris in those roles since he wasn’t nearly as effective when used on the left side for the first time this season. I’m not sure what the Saints have in Becton, a midseason signing, since he never saw the field.

ESPN scouting insider Matt Williamson’s take:

“I think the tackles are good. I think they have somebody in Armstead, and he’ll only get better. We know he was a small-school guy, crazy combine numbers, crazy athleticism, super raw. You know, he’s only played less than 20 NFL games. So I think they have their franchise left tackle. I think Zach Strief is one of the more underrated right tackles around. He’s solid, he’s not a Pro Bowler, but he’s fine.”

Previous rankings:

No. 12: Specialists

No. 11: Quarterback

No. 10: Tight end

No. 9: Running back

No. 8: Safety