Now that the dust has settled a little from the 2013 season and the Saints have made their first offseason moves — terminating the contracts of Will Smith, Jabari Greer and Roman Harper — here are five areas of need with the start of free agency approaching. Teams can begin negotiating with potential free agents on March 8 and the signing period begins March 11:
1. Look for cornerback help
After releasing Greer on Feb. 12, the Saints are seriously thin at this position. They’re solid on one side with Keenan Lewis, their top free-agent acquisition in 2013, but former first-round draft pick Patrick Robinson, like Greer, suffered a serious knee injury. Third-year pro Corey White finished the season as the starter, but there isn’t much else there — especially if Robinson is slow to return. This has to be the top priority on that side of the ball, either in free agency or the draft.
2. Find another tackle
The Saints like what they have in third-round draft pick Terron Armstead on the left side. He struggled early after being inserted into the lineup in Week 16, but showed that he can be the guy there for a long time. The question is on the right side, where three-year starter Zach Strief is a UFA and could bolt if the right offer comes his way. Still, they could use help as former starter Charles Brown is a UFA and will likely look for a change of scenery and Bryce Harris is the only capable backup.
3. Add some depth at defensive end
With Cameron Jordan making the Pro Bowl this season after piling up 12.5 sacks and Akiem Hicks settling into a starting role in Rob Ryan’s 3-4 scheme, the Saints appear set with two young players as the cornerstones of the line. But they don’t have a lot of quality depth with the oft-injured Tom Johnson and Tyrunn Walker behind them. Rookie Glenn Foster showed some promise after making the team as an undrafted free agent, but the Saints may be able to find more suitable help in the draft.
4. Find a young receiver to groom for the future
Marques Colston and Lance Moore carry big salary cap numbers and both will be 31 when the regular season starts. The Saints may have already drafted their replacements in Nick Toon and Kenny Stills although Toon didn’t contribute much in 2013. Stills was a find in the fifth round and the Saints may get back deep threat Joe Morgan from a knee injury. Even if they really think Toon is going to blossom into a solid receiver, they may be looking for another youngster to groom for when they part with Colston and/or Moore.
5. Find another outside linebacker
With 12 sacks last season, Junior Galette showed that he is the real deal, but Parys Haralson will be an unrestricted free agent and may not return. The wild card is Victor Butler, who missed the entire season with a knee injury that he suffered last June. He’s ready to get back on the field and help out, but he could be a free agent after the 2014 season and the Saints don’t have a suitable replacement to plug in if he were to get a huge offer from another team after a big season.