The New Orleans Saints continue to explore ways to improve their 32nd-ranked defense through free agency.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported Tuesday the Saints may be interested in signing former Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney, a three-time first-team All-Pro selection and seven-time Pro Bowl pick.
Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis didn’t respond to an email seeking confirmation of the team’s interest in Freeney, or if the Saints have scheduled a visit with the 11-year veteran.
Freeney was released by the Colts on Feb. 15, just four days before his 33rd birthday. He recorded 1071/2 sacks in his 11 years with the team, but was hampered in recent seasons by ankle problems.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos could also be in the hunt for his services.
Freeney could be used as a rush outside linebacker in the Saints’ new 3-4 scheme that they’ll use under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, but the former Syracuse star had only five sacks last season when the Colts switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4.
The Saints signed former Steelers cornerback Keenan Lewis on the third day of the free-agency signing period and had former Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha in for a visit as well.
Asomugha, who played for Ryan with Oakland from 2004-08, is reportedly trying to decide between the Saints and the San Francisco 49ers.
Outside linebacker Victor Butler, who played the past four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, also met with team officials before subsequent visits with the Cleveland Browns and Eagles.
Like Asomugha, Butler played for Ryan the past two seasons when Ryan ran the Cowboys defense.
Saints draft picks
The NFL has announced the complete pick-by-pick order for all seven rounds of the draft that will be held April 25-27.
The Saints have five selections after forfeiting their second-round pick as part of the bounty scheme penalties and traded a seventh-round choice to the Seattle Seahawks for linebacker Barrett Ruud, who was later released.
Barring trades, the first pick for the Saints will be the 15th in the first round. They’ll also have single selections in the third (No. 75 overall), fourth (No. 109), fifth (No. 144) and sixth (No. 183) rounds.
Payton delivers baskets
Saints coach Sean Payton’s Play it Forward Foundation teamed up with Basket of Hope to deliver 250 gift baskets Monday to patients and their families at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans.
Payton handed out “Super Baskets of Hope” and visited with 25 pediatric patients ranging in age from newborns to teenagers during his visit, according to NewOrleansSaints.com.
The baskets were filled with toys, board games, stuffed animals and books, while parents received inspirational and faith-based publications to help them with their challenges.