Handwerger: Saints have done their job in free agency

Handwerger: Saints have done their job in free agency

Credit: (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Benjamin Watson #82 of the Cleveland Browns stiff arms Miles Burris #56 of the Oakland Raiders during the first quarter at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 2, 2012 in Oakland, California.

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wwltv.com

Posted on March 18, 2013 at 5:14 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 19 at 10:32 AM

Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
Email: bhandwerger@wwltv.com | Twitter: @wwltvsports

Benjamin Watson and Keenan Lewis aren’t exactly household names.

One is on the downward slope of his career. One is on the upward slope.

New Orleans re-signed Justin Drescher, Ramon Humber and Courtney Roby.

These aren’t exactly the moves that will lead off ESPN’s NFL Live or NFL Network’s Around The League.

I’ll tell you what type of moves they are, though. Winning ones.

The big, splashy moves are sexy. Certainly teams want the best players.

And yet, those moves rarely pay off.

When the Saints won the Super Bowl for the 2009 season, they were the best team. There were good individuals having great seasons, not great individuals having good seasons.

General Manager Mickey Loomis worked some accounting magic to get beneath the salary cap. They’re still there and more moves are expected.

Up to now, though, the moves are good.

There were some losses, namely Jermon Bushrod at left tackle.

But the gains and keeps have been equally as important.

Watson is a quality tight end who can easily take on the “David Thomas” role, blocking when needed, playing fullback and also catching the occasional pass.

He was rated by Pro Football Focus as one of the top 15 tight ends in the league a season ago for those players who saw at least 50 percent of their team’s snaps. He only had three dropped passes in 74 passes targeted towards him.

Lewis, meanwhile, led the NFL in his first year as a starter with 16 passes defended. Quarterbacks finished with an 80.7 rating to his side. Better yet, they finished completing just 52.7 percent of their passes thrown against him.

You can’t look past the re-signings of Drescher (one of the bright young special team players), Roby (the team’s best special teams players) and Humber (a key special teams piece). You have to have consistency to win the NFL and keeping the minor pieces is exactly that.

Go back to 2009.

New Orleans didn’t make a splash in free agency. Sure, after-the-fact, Darren Sharper appeared to be a coup. But no one hailed him as the guy who would change the team.  He was at the tail end of his career and few knew exactly what he had left in his tank.

They signed Jabari Greer, Anthony Hargrove and Heath Evans. All important players, sure, but none were names who would lead off any of the national TV programs.

Other free agents in 2009: Pierson Prioleau, tight end Darnell Dinkins and long-snapper Jason Kyle.

Sound familiar?

The point is, don’t worry if New Orleans doesn’t get Nnamdi Asomugha or Elvis Dumervil or any other of the “name” free agents.

Would they help? Chances are yes. But the real winning comes in building from within.

In other words, Loomis and his salary cap/scouting gurus have done well with what they could.

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