The New Orleans Saints have worked their math magic before to get under the cap, but this offseason will be their ultimate masterpiece to once again accomplish that goal. The Saints have already started to release and restructure players on their talented roster in an attempt to free up almost $100 million to get them cap compliant by the time the new league year starts.
It’s been tough to determine just what the needs on the team would be, knowing some big cuts were coming. But now after they restructured Drew Brees, cut Nick Easton, cut Emmanuel Sanders, released Janoris Jenkins, and much more, they have some spots on the roster they can address.
The Saints also still have some unrestricted free agents that they’ll have to make some decisions on. Pass rusher Trey Hendrickson feels like the big one, and he might be too much money for their cap space to take on. There’s also defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, who could be on the move out of New Orleans. Plus, the loss of Alex Anzalone (pending free agent) and Kwon Alexander (to be released) leaves a big need at linebacker next to Demario Davis.
Though on paper they don’t appear to have much space to make signings, they are the Saints, and we know that a few numbers on a piece of paper or a league email has never stopped them before. So here are three defensive free agents the Saints could have their eyes on.
Tyus Bowser, EDGE, Baltimore Ravens
Projected AAV: $8-10 million
Bowser being on this list is a bit of a projection, but it could work. They drafted Zack Baun last season, who plays in more of Bowser’s role as a stand-up pass rush type. So perhaps they have a plan moving forward to emphasize that more (since they didn’t play Baun much in 2020). After playing sparingly in his first two seasons with Baltimore. Bowser had five sacks in 2019 which led to even more playing time in 2020; Bowser played in more than 50% of the defensive snaps for the first time in his career.
This also depends on Bowser’s price tag. If it’s closer to $10 million, it will be close to what Hendrickson would command, who they would likely rather just re-sign. But if they can get him cheaper, we know the Saints are trying to save money anywhere they can.
Denzel Perryman, LB, Los Angeles Chargers
Projected AAV: $4-6 million
The Saints likely need a change of scenery at linebacker, and by that I mean a change of scenery in how their salary books look with their current linebackers. While Perryman is strongest at playing in the middle and playing downhill against the run, he doesn’t have the matching athleticism in coverage. This is why his playing time was cut this past season in favor of rookie Kenneth Murray, who the Chargers drafted in the first round in hopes that he could be an upgrade over Perryman’s limitations. The Saints will need a change and a cheaper option, and Perryman could be the best to grab for his experience and price tag.
Shelby Harris, DT, Denver Broncos
Projected AAV: $5-7 million
Harris would be a very nice pickup for the Saints if they were to lose Rankins. Harris has been a late bloomer in his career, and that’s what would make him so valuable for New Orleans. They would need a veteran defensive tackle to help their younger interior guys who will still be on the roster. They will have David Onyemata, but Harris playing next to him would keep that middle of the defensive line strong. Again, this one all depends on the price tag—as is the situation with Rankins. But if the Broncos don’t put the full-court press on Harris, the Saints would be a team that could utilize everything he brings to the table.
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