7 best available free agents on the market for Saints
The New Orleans Saints are not finished adding free agents in the 2018 signing period, and for good reason: there are some very, very talented players still available. Here’s the seven names they should prioritize most:
Jared Cook, Oakland Raiders
It was reported in the opening hours of free agency that the Saints scheduled a meeting with the top tight end on the free agent market, but nothing has come of it since. Whether the Saints have kidnapped Cook or he simply left their visit without a contract remains to be seen. Whatever the case, he’s unsigned, and the Saints still need someone besides Josh Hill at the top of the depth chart. Cook can catch the ball confidently away from his body and run away from defenders, and the Saints should make him a serious contract offer.
Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs
There’s going to be some hemming and hawing over Houston’s experience in a 3-4 defense against the Saints’ preferred 4-3 look, but in today’s NFL a pass rusher is a pass rusher is a pass rusher. Put Houston on the field against his opponent’s outside shoulder and trust him to win off the snap and turn the arc with speed. Including postseason games, he’s bagged 21.5 sacks and 36 other quarterback hits the last two years. Yeah, the Saints can use that talent.
Ndamukong Suh, Los Angeles Rams
Many fans are convinced that Suh is washed up, but he would have been the Saints’ second-best defensive tackle last year. And that’s not an affront to the guys behind Sheldon Rankins on the depth chart. Including the playoffs, Suh logged nearly as many sacks (6) and doubled the quarterback hits (24) as David Onyemata, Tyeler Davison, and Taylor Stallworth combined (7.5 sacks and 11 hits). He’s a talented player and the Saints could use his help.
Timmy Jernigan, Philadelphia Eagles
Jernigan may be a more realistic target for the Saints than Suh, from a financial standpoint. He lost most of the 2018 season to an ugly back injury and wasn’t himself until deep in the postseason. He could really use the chance to reset his market with a stop in New Orleans, filling in for Rankins at defensive tackle and (hopefully) earning the boost to his reputation with a Super Bowl victory.
Jordy Nelson, Oakland Raiders
The Saints scheduled a free agent visit with Nelson during the 2018 free agency signing period, but the Raiders didn’t let him leave. Then they paid his $3 million roster bonus early in December, as an act of good faith. Then they cut him in March to unnecessary salary cap penalties. Whatever the Raiders’ reasoning for another puzzling roster decision, Drew Brees is a better quarterback than Derek Carr, and Nelson could benefit from capping off his career with a finale in New Orleans.
Shane Ray, Denver Broncos
The Saints need a third pass rusher behind Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport. Preferably someone with some speed who can just give them a dozen high-energy reps on third downs in each game. Ray was a first-round draft bust in Denver, never matching his 2016 breakout numbers (eight sacks, 21 hits), but the Saints could take a bet on that productive guy still being inside him, somewhere. Ray won’t break the bank and shouldn’t prevent the Saints from looking at other options, if they signed him. Consider him a high-upside training camp candidate.
Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals
If the Saints are unable or uninterested in signing Jared Cook, it leaves Eifert as the best available tight end on the free agent market. And Eifert is a very good option, when healthy. He’s worked hard to stay on the field for Cincinnati but could really benefit from a change of scenery. If the Saints signed Eifert they should by no means go into the draft feeling like he was the whole answer — just part of it, with a talented rookie draft pick helping shoulder the load.