The New Orleans Saints ended their offseason program on June 15. Here's a look at how they fared:
Offseason goals/grade: The Saints' offseason couldn't have gone much worse from a health standpoint. Stellar left tackle Terron Armstead is expected to be sidelined four to six months with a shoulder injury, and it remains unclear if defensive tackle Nick Fairley will be able to play at all because of a heart issue. Those two losses could undermine all of the personnel moves New Orleans made in a busy offseason.
Injuries aside, the Saints' offseason is a bit tricky to grade because they never made that big-splash move to address one of their two most glaring needs at edge rusher or cornerback. If they had pulled off the trade for New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler, for instance, it would have been the signature move of New Orleans' offseason. However, the Saints decided that quantity was better than lavish overspending -- especially when it came to the draft, where they loaded up with six picks in the first three rounds.
The Saints had to give up receiver Brandin Cooks to get the No. 32 pick in the draft. But he was the only major loss of the offseason. Meanwhile, they added RB Adrian Peterson, WR Ted Ginn Jr., G Larry Warford, QB Chase Daniel, LBs A.J. Klein and Manti Te'o, DE Alex Okafor and rookies such as CB Marshon Lattimore, OT Ryan Ramczyk, S Marcus Williams and RB Alvin Kamara. The size of that haul can't help but make this team better. Grade: B-
Move I liked: Signing Okafor to a one-year deal worth between $2 million to $3 million. We haven't seen these guys in pads yet, but the 6-foot-4, 261-pounder sure looks the part as a big, athletic pass-rusher -- and he has done it before, with eight sacks in just 13 games for the Arizona Cardinals in 2014. Nagging injuries have been Okafor's biggest issue, but he is still just 26 years old and has a chance to be a free-agent steal.
I also loved the Lattimore pick at No. 11, since he filled a glaring need and was widely rated as a top-five draft prospect. But that was the easiest choice the Saints' front office made all offseason.
And I'll give honorable mention to the Peterson signing, since it has created such tremendous buzz -- not just outside of the locker room, but inside, where new teammates have been almost in awe of his physical traits. I'm still hesitant to predict a major impact from Peterson at age 32, since so many other teams passed on him. But he absolutely has my attention.
Move I didn't like: As much as I like Okafor's potential, I wish the Saints had convinced themselves to find a game-changer at defensive end. I understand why it didn't happen: The best guys on the free-agent market (Jason Pierre-Paul, Melvin Ingram and Chandler Jones) all got franchised, and the Saints would have been passing up value if they had drafted a defensive end like Derek Barnett ahead of Lattimore. But I still look at this defense that was so badly in need of a talent upgrade and wonder how much different they're going to be in the front seven this year.
I don't have any issue with the players New Orleans did sign (though I was surprised Klein was so expensive at three years, $15 million). And I didn't love the value the Saints got in the Cooks trade, but I'm still confident they can field a top-three offense without him.
Biggest question still to be answered in training camp: How much better did the defense actually get? Like I said, I don't see a major overhaul coming in the front seven -- especially with concerns that Fairley might not be able to play. However, I do think second-year DT Sheldon Rankins has monster breakout potential, and linebackers like Klein and Alex Anzalone should help.
The good news is that New Orleans can't help but improve in the secondary now that last year's starting cornerbacks, Delvin Breaux and P.J. Williams, are back healthy; safety Kenny Vaccaro is back from a four-game suspension; and Lattimore, Williams and veteran safety Rafael Bush have been added to the mix.
Salary-cap space: 8,664,476 (source: Overthecap.com)
Undrafted rookie free agents signed: WR Travin Dural, WR Justin Thomas, RB Trey Edmunds, FB John Robinson-Woodgett, C Cameron Tom, CB Arthur Maulet, LB Sae Tautu, DT Devaroe Lawrence, LS Chase Dominguez.
Unrestricted free agents signed: RB Adrian Peterson, WR Ted Ginn Jr., QB Chase Daniel, QB Ryan Nassib, G Larry Warford, G/C Josh LeRibeus, OT Khalif Barnes, OT Bryce Harris, TE Clay Harbor, LB A.J. Klein, LB Manti Te'o, LB Adam Bighill, DE Alex Okafor, DT Tony McDaniel, S Rafael Bush, LS Thomas Gafford.