Saints aim to build on playoff momentum with reloaded defense

The addition of safety Kurt Coleman should help the Saints rise up from their 2017 regular-season finish of 17th in total defense. Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints ended their offseason program on June 14. Here's a look at how they fared:

Offseason goals: To cement themselves as legitimate Super Bowl contenders -- by being at least one-tenth as successful as they were in the 2017 offseason. Just about everything the Saints touched turned to gold last year, in both the draft (Marshon Lattimore, Alvin Kamara, Ryan Ramczyk, Marcus Williams) and free agency (Larry Warford, Alex Okafor, A.J. Klein, Ted Ginn Jr.). That massive haul helped them come one play away from the NFC Championship Game. So the goal this year was to keep building off of that momentum, while specifically looking to add help throughout the defense and in the wide receiver/tight end group.

How they fared: Average. They accomplished their goal by trading up to get edge rusher Marcus Davenport in the first round of the draft and signing linebacker Demario Davis, safety Kurt Coleman, cornerback Patrick Robinson, receiver Cameron Meredith and tight end Benjamin Watson in free agency. The only problem is they had to pay high premiums for most of them.

Move I liked: It's hard to call a two-year, $50 million contract a bargain. But that's exactly what the Saints' latest deal with Drew Brees was, considering the league's skyrocketing quarterback salaries. Brees didn't even listen to other suitors in free agency, and the Saints only had to guarantee a total of $27 million since the 39-year-old has agreed to the team's desire to pay him one year at a time.

Move I didn't like: I like just about every player the Saints added, but I was surprised how much a few of them cost -- especially Davis (three years, $24 million) and Coleman (three years, $16.35 million). Meredith (two years, $9.5 million) could be a huge bargain, but the Chicago Bears were too scared to even offer him one year and $2.9 million as a restricted free agent. Robinson (four years, $20 million) didn't break the bank, but he got paid for a career season after he had just signed a one-year, minimum-salary deal a year ago. And last but certainly not least, the Saints made history by trading two first-round draft picks to acquire Davenport at No. 14 overall.

No one will care what any of these guys cost if they pan out, though. And Davenport and Davis, in particular, have the chance to emerge as big-time playmakers for a front seven that needed them.

Biggest question still to be answered in training camp: Will Davenport or Okafor be ready to emerge as a top-tier defensive end in 2018? Davenport was already considered a raw developmental prospect even before he had to undergo minor thumb surgery following minicamp. And Okafor was sensational in his first year in New Orleans in 2017 before tearing his Achilles -- but that's a major injury he's still recovering from this summer. If one of those two lives up to his potential, the Saints should be in great shape.

Quotable: (a tie from the NFL's reigning Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year, vowing that neither will rest on his laurels):

"I'm trying to become a legend, year in and year out," Lattimore said. "I'm trying to build on everything I did last year. I'm trying to be 10 times better than what I was last year. Then next year I want to be 10 times better than I was this year."

"Last year was last year," Kamara said. "It's a new season, it's gonna be a new outcome. So we're focused on moving forward. All the things that happened last year were great. But we're focused on bigger and better things."

Salary-cap space: $7.2 million

2018 draft picks: Round 1. DE Davenport (Texas-San Antonio), 3. WR Tre'Quan Smith (Central Florida), 4. OT Rick Leonard (Florida State), 5. S Natrell Jamerson (Wisconsin), 6a. CB Kamrin Moore (Boston College), 6b. RB Boston Scott (Louisiana Tech), 7. C/G Will Clapp (LSU).

Undrafted rookie free agents signed: QB J.T. Barrett (Ohio State), TE Deon Yelder (Western Kentucky), WR Eldridge Massington (UCLA), WR Keith Kirkwood (Temple), FB Ryan Yurachek (Temple), OL Cory Helms (South Carolina), OL Nate Wozniak (Minnesota), DB Linden Stephens (Cincinnati), DB J.T. Gray (Mississippi State), LB Colton Jumper (Tennessee), LB KeShun Freeman (Georgia Tech), DT Henry Mondeaux (Oregon), DT Taylor Stallworth (South Carolina).

Unrestricted free agents signed: QB Brees (Saints), LB Davis (Jets), DE Okafor (Saints), S Coleman (Panthers), CB Robinson (Eagles), TE Watson (Ravens), FB Zach Line (Saints), G/T Jermon Bushrod (Dolphins), QB Tom Savage (Texans), WR Brandon Coleman (Saints), G/C Josh LeRibeus (Saints), DE George Johnson (Saints), WR Josh Huff (Buccaneers), LB Jayrone Elliott (Cowboys), DT Jay Bromley (Giants), DB Sharrod Neasman (Falcons), OT Michael Ola (Chargers), G Andrew Tiller (Chiefs).

Restricted free agent signed: WR Cameron Meredith (Bears).