NEW ORLEANS SAINTS / 2013 TEAM NEEDS
The spread attack on offense took some time to get going in 2012 and should benefit by having Sean Payton back in 2013. Pete Carmichael Jr. did not interview for another job and chose to stay with the Saints. QB Drew Brees is one of the best in the business, and the backfield is deep, but the Saints need to improve the group up front protecting Brees and possibly find him a backup.
TOP 3 OFFENSIVE NEEDS
OT — With OLT Jermon Bushrod heading to free agency, and ORT Zach Strief having some struggles this year on the field and staying healthy, the tackle position becomes a glaring need. Charles Brown is an in-house option, but the Saints will want more at that position if they do not re-sign Bushrod.
WR — The Saints make do without many big names at receiver outside the duo of Marques Colston and Lance Moore, but Drew Brees can never have too many options. Devery Henderson will be a free agent, along with Courtney Roby. Joseph Morgan showed flashes, but adding depth, and a potential No. 3 receiver, could be a draft target.
QB — Chase Daniel is going to be a free agent. The Saints have shown a commitment to Daniel as their No. 2 quarterback, but how comfortable would they be if he had to enter the game for an injured Brees? Even if they choose to re-sign Daniel, it wouldn’t hurt to add some competition at the backup spot, especially when it is not a QB-heavy draft, and there could be some options in the middle to late rounds. Brees is 34 — it’s not too early to think about the future if the right player is available.
After the Saints finished in the bottom of the league in several defensive categories, Sean Payton fired coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Payton said the unit will shift to a 3-4 scheme in 2013. The Saints’ defense already needed an upgrade in personnel, and now the scheme switch and salary-cap issues and free agency are more reason this group, especially in the front seven, will look much different.
TOP 3 DEFENSIVE NEEDS
NT —With the change to a 3-4 defense, the Saints will need a true nose tackle to plug the middle, assuming Brodrick Bunkley isn’t the answer. Defensive tackle was expected to be a need prior to the scheme switch. 2012 draft pick Akiem Hicks played inside last year, but if the Saints move him to the five technique, the nose tackle will remain a glaring need.
OLB — Jonathan Vilma is due $4.8 million in 2013, with a $1.1 million roster bonus, and he wasn’t as effective as he had been in the past during a tumultuous 2012 season. The Saints need to upgrade their pass rush, especially with the move to a 3-4 defense, and can do so by adding at weak-side linebacker, where backup Jonathan Casillas is entering free agency. At SLB, Scott Shanle will also be a free agent, so depth is an issue.
DE — Third-year DE Cameron Jordan is entrenched at one D-end spot in the 3-4 defense, and his versatility will be key, but the other spot is up in the air. Hicks could move outside and take it, but the Saints may want to go find someone in the draft to fill the void. Sedrick Ellis would have been an option here, but he is entering free agency.
2012 DRAFT REWIND
3rd round (89): DT Akeem Hicks / Regina (Saskatchewan) (GP/GS: 14/0)
Skinny: Earned spot in rotation. Role could expand next season.
4th round (122): WR Nick Toon / Wisconsin (GP/GS: 0/0)
Skinny: Durability concerns linger after spending season on I.R.
5th round (162): CB Corey White / Samford (GP/GS: 10/4)
Skinny: Showed playmaking ability before injury struck.
6th round (179): OG Andrew Tiller / Syracuse (GP/GS: 0/0)
Skinny: Could be battling for roster spot in return from triceps tear.
7th round (234): OT Marcel Jones / Nebraska (GP/GS: 0/0)
Skinny: Has to prove he can stay on field.
SUMMARY: It was not a bad haul for GM Mickey Loomis, but Saints will be fortunate if one or two of these players become a full-time starter.