Bradley Handwerger / Eyewitness Sports
With the Super Bowl set for Sunday, we thought it’d be a good time to look at the roster the Saints ended the season with and give our two cents into what players should stick around and which players should go.
You know, because this is the end of the NFL season. Also, fans continue to clamor for information and opinion on the Saints.
So, this week, we’ll go by position groups (secondary, linebackers, defensive line, offensive line and skill players) daily and give our beliefs on who should return and who shouldn’t.
It should be noted that this is all with the assumption that A) the collective bargaining agreement, or lack thereof, doesn’t kill the 2011 season and B) a new CBA doesn’t drastically alter roster or free agency rules.
Strong Safety: Roman Harper, Pierson Prioleau, Matt Giordano
Free Safety: Malcolm Jenkins, Darren Sharper, Usama Young
Cornerbacks: Jabari Greer, Tracy Porter, Patrick Robinson, Leigh Torrence
Nearly 18.9 percent of the roster is made up of secondary. I don’t expect that to change much next season – should there be a season – because of the multiple positions on the field these guys play. Between nickel, dime and special teams, these guys are utilized in most games.
Greer is under contract through the 2012 season and that’s a good thing. He’s the team’s best cover corner and at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, one of its most athletic. The team won’t be cutting ties with this guy anytime soon.
Porter has one season left on his rookie contract, one that will net him $630,000. Expect him to get paid by the Saints after this season. Like Greer, he’s one of the more athletic players on the roster and hard to replace.
Jenkins is locked down until at least 2013. After that, he has a voidable year (should he reach certain levels of production, play, etc., he can void the final year). I don’t think Jenkins will be leaving the Crescent City anytime soon.
Harper is a free agent. He’s a two-time Pro Bowler and one of the big components of the Saints’ secondary. Fans may flog us for saying this, but he’s not as replaceable as you think. Williams loves Harper and this past week in Mobile, Ala., he said re-signing Harper was of the utmost priority. He’s aggressive and hard-hitting, both of which Williams covets. We expect him back for 2011 and beyond.
Robinson showed great improvement in his initial season in Gregg Williams’ defense and the tough-love defensive coordinator likes what he sees from the former Florida State standout. There’s lots of upside with Robinson.
And now, we get into the interesting part. Who in the last five should return and who shouldn’t?
Sharper signed a one-year contract prior to the 2010 season largely because no team would touch him after he underwent microfracture surgery in the offseason. He was out the first six weeks on the physically unable to perform list, came back for two games, then missed two weeks with a hamstring injury. In the Wild Card playoff loss to Seattle, a game in which he was forced into action because Jenkins was hurt, he appeared a step slower. Whether due to age or the bum knee, it doesn’t matter. We don’t foresee Sharper being on the Saints roster again.
Prioleau is a Gregg Williams favorite. He was the team’s special teams all-star after the team cut Troy Evans and was a constant on kickoff and punt coverage. He filled in well when he was forced into action during games. There’s a reason Prioleau has stuck around the league for 12 seasons. Williams trusts him and he knows his role. We expect him to somehow find a way onto the roster one more time.
Giordano was the new Chris Reis. In fact, he was signed after Reis went down with a shoulder injury. But he’s completely expendable. He came up with only six tackles in nine games and he was inactive in the playoff game.
Young was drafted by New Orleans in 2007 and has played in 52 games, including six starts. This past season, he played in 11 games, but largely was a special teams stalwart. But he has never truly found his footing in New Orleans and while he’s one of the nicest guys in the locker room, we don’t see him returning. That means the Saints will be down to only Jenkins at free safety, but they can likely find a fix in whatever free agency there is.
Torrence is a career backup who can start in a pinch. In his five years, he has been on rosters in Washington, Atlanta, Green Bay and New Orleans. But like Prioleau, he’s a Williams disciple and that means a lot. He’s the perfect guy for the roster – he can be constantly cut to make roster room when needed and no one is going to pick him up, but he’s smart enough and good enough that the coaches are comfortable with him. We expect Torrence to be on the roster in the fall.
The IR crew:
Randall Gay and Reis.
Gay’s season was finished after the Oct. 10 game at Arizona, though it was truly done when he had a concussion in the Sept. 20 game at San Francisco. We don’t expect him back and in fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if he retired.
Reis is a wild card. He’s not the most talented player nor does he have the biggest size. But he has a big heart and plays harder than most people on the field. He’s exactly the type of guy the Saints’ fan base loves. Not sure if the coaches care about that. Right now, we’d label him as off the roster but wouldn’t be surprised if he found a way to fight his way on it.