Saints have been rock solid in free agency

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The New Orleans Saints have filled many needs in free agency, which really was necessary because they only have just one high draft selection (a second round pick at No. 63 overall).

The biggest need was a proven receiving threat to go with Michael Thomas, and the Saints eventually signed tight end Jared Cook. An All-Pro receiving threat, he is really a big strong wide receiver in a tight end’s frame. A better receiver than blocker, Cook can get deep and stretch a defense.

New Orleans still can use another wide receiver so the front office may look to the draft for one. However, I don’t think it happens in round two.

Depth at defensive tackle was paper thin until the Saints signed Patriots tackle Malcom Brown, a former No. 1 selection in 2015. In my 2015 Draft Day Report publication, I had him rated as the third best defensive tackle.

Brown really looks the part, a wide body with great size at 6-3 and 320 pounds. He has good movement skills for a big man and shows both good range and change of direction. Brown can make plays in space away from the line as well and can handle the double-team block. He’s versatile also, having lined up at defensive end as a two-year starter at Texas. Brown can rush the passer and has a good motor.

Even at this point in his career, Brown needs some technique work. He tends to play too high and lose leverage at times so he needs to keep his pads at a better level.

Also versatile, defensive end Mario Edwards (6-3, 295 from Florida State), was signed after Brown. Looking back to my 2015 draft guide, Edwards was the sixth rated defensive end. He was a 2nd round selection in 2015 by the Redskins.

Long arms and strong hands to control blockers help Edwards play with power on contact. He has good balance and body control, while very strong in the upper body. However, he shows limited range and is not real quick off the line. Edwards is prone to take some bad angles on running plays and still needs to develop more pass rush moves.

I still think the Saints need another big defensive tackle in the draft, perhaps with their second round selection. A versatile prospect with interior pass rush skills can help a team that does not know if Sheldon Rankins (Achilles) will be able to contribute in 2019.

New Orleans signed running back Latavius Murray to replace Mark Ingram. The Saints remember how Murray some problems when they played the Vikings. Maybe another cheaper veteran is signed or late round back is drafted to provided another option behind Murray and the electric Alvin Kamara.

Helping fill another position where the team was not very effective in 2018 was the signing of punt returner Marcus Sherels who has been a consistent returner for the Vikings. Hard not to like the move.

Resigning quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was big, since he adds a quality backup for Drew Brees and has the talent to replace him if Brees decides to retire after the 2019 season.

Wide receiver and another versatile offensive lineman may still be needed with the latter ranking higher in priority. A tackle with the ability to also play inside at offensive guard and perhaps even center, even though they signed ex-Vikings center Nick Easton in free agency to replace retiring Max Unger, makes some sense.

The Saints have done well with lower round draft selections because the front office does their homework. Even though most of the third day picks last year fell by the wayside, the team should be able to add more depth to this young football team with five picks in the final three rounds this month. Those picks could end up as trade ammo as well.

On special teams, the Sherels signing added to the returns of kicker Will Lutz, linebacker Craig Robinson and safety Chris Banjo on new deals keep that unit strong. Title contenders must be solid on special teams.

New Orleans will not have to reach for a position of need in the draft because they have added depth where needed in free agency. However, they would be well served to look on their lines first to boost depth and potential. Like solid special teams, strong line play is a hallmark of championship teams.

My Draft Day Report book has been mailed out but for information on receiving a copy, email me at adupuy1@cox.net.

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