The Saints are turning to a familiar face to solidify the secondary.
After seeing many of the top cornerbacks fly off the market at high prices, New Orleans turned to former Saint Patrick Robinson to help solidify the secondary by signing him to a four-year deal, according to a source.
The expectation is that Robinson will cover the slot, which is now a need for the defense since safety Kenny Vaccaro is expected to sign elsewhere in free agency. And Robinson, 30, has become one of the better players in the NFL in that department since departing the Saints following the 2014 season.
Playing last season in Philadelphia, Robinson allowed 21 receptions on 44 targets for 284 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. His passer rating against 64.96 ranked behind only Kendall Fuller (38.58) and Tyrann Mathieu (61.75) from that position, according to Sports Info Solutions. New Orleans couldn't have done much better if it plans to keep Robinson inside, which seems likely with Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley already on the roster.
That should solidify the one weak spot in the passing defense. New Orleans allowed a passer rating against of 94.23 last season when covering the slot, with Vaccaro (83.75), Vonn Bell (98.67) and P.J. Williams (85.52) logging the majority of the targets from that position.
Robinson was often maligned by fans when he was here the first time, and perhaps for good reason at times. He often played outside and struggled from that post, which led to criticism and growing pains. At one point during his tenure, he admitted that his confidence had become rattled and he was trying to work through some things. That no longer seems to be an issue for him.
He started to come into his own during his last season here, allowing a 57.6 passer rating against from the slot in 2014 -- on a bad defense, no less -- and has continued to blossom since leaving. He posted a 67.7 passer rating against from the slot for San Diego in 2015, suffered through an injured season in Indianapolis in 2016, and then bounced back again for the Philadelphia Eagles last year.
If he continues to perform up to the same level in New Orleans and is used in a role that benefits his talents, which should be the case, the Saints will again have a very strong group of cornerbacks. Lattimore emerged as a bona fide shutdown cornerback last season, Ken Crawley has proven to be a solid No. 2. With Robinson in the slot, and Williams as the top reserve, this group should be hard to beat.
The addition of the 2010 first-round pick also means the team has brought in the pieces necessary to cover the loss of Vaccaro, who was a multifaceted weapon with a unique set of skills that very few players could replace by themselves. But with Robinson and safety Kurt Coleman, who signed earlier this offseason, New Orleans might be better set with the duo. Coleman is a more flexible safety, while Robinson brings better coverage skills from the slot.
The Saints are going a little bit deeper into the market for this one, signing Robinson after cornerbacks like Malcolm Butler and Aaron Colvin were signed to much bigger deals earlier this week, but he fills a specific need and costs much less. It's a sensible move for a team that could address several areas on defense but doesn't have one overwhelming need.
And it continues a trend from the early portion of the offseason. New Orleans was rumored to have interest in players like Butler, and certainly did in tight end Jimmy Graham. But the organization set their prices and were not willing to go exceed the bar. That might not placate those who are thirsty to be big-money signings and have big names come into the building, but those moves often end in regret.
Sometimes it's better to go with the guy you already know.