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.
Wednesday: Defensive Line
Left end: Alex Brown, Jimmy Wilkerson, Junior Galette
Nose tackle: Remi Ayodele
Defensive tackle: Sedrick Ellis, Anthony Hargrove
Right end: Will Smith, Jeff Charleston
Smith is signed through 2013 with a voidable year in 2014 before becoming a free agent in 2015. His numbers were down in 2010 but a groin injury kept him out of the Arizona game and limited during the weeks ahead of the Cleveland game and the first Tampa game. Still, he was second on the team with 5 1/2 sacks as well as quarterback hits with 10. In other words, he's not going anywhere.
Brown came as an offseason pickup for New Orleans and provided the team with a good run-stopper off the edge. Problem is, they needed a good pass-rusher. Brown had only two sacks, though he did lead the team with 11 quarterback hits. Nevertheless, he's on the books for another year. We expect him back.
Ellis has two seasons left on his rookie contract. For the first time in a Saints uniform, he played every game of the season and while he didn't have Pro Bowl numbers, he had big boy numbers. He was fifth on the team with 78 tackles and led the Saints with six sacks. His five tackles for a loss led the team. Does anyone really think he won't be back? He will be.
Ayodele is an interesting case. He has worked his way up into a constant contributor. His bulk in the middle and increased lower body strength is one of the main reasons the Saints improved their run defense this season. But he's a free agent and the Saints could go younger in the draft. But we doubt it. Ayodele showed enough this season that another year of focus on conditioning will show more improvement on the field. He'll be back.
Wilkerson wasn't very impressive, but then again, he was playing less than a full year after destroying his knee. By the end of the season when he was in full shape, he began to show improvement. But he signed only a one-year contract and we think with the problems the Saints had in rushing the passer, Wilkerson is likely expendable. We don't see him around this coming season.
Hargrove is a free agent and missed three of the final four games with a knee injury. Head coach Sean Payton wasn't sure if Hargrove was going to need surgery to clean up his knee, but it was obvious late in the season the center front missed his presence when he was out. He only took a trip to Detroit last offseason and we're not sure he'll get a bunch of visits this season, either. We expect Hargrove to be plying his trade in black and gold for another season.
Charleston is a guy who if you didn't know any better, you'd see him in the mall and wouldn't realize he's a professional football player. He slipped onto the roster out of training camp and proved to have the highest motor of anybody on the defensive line by the end of the season. He had three sacks, two passes defended, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and three tackles for a loss. He's the type of player Gregg Williams loves all heart and full speed ahead. It may take some work, but we think he'll find his way onto the roster.
Galette, or as we like to call him, a message board All-Pro, seemingly has tons of upside. The question is this can he mentally make it in the league? He has the physical tools but he needs to be better in learning schemes and reading the game to make an impact. The coaching staff likes what he could potentially be. He'll be back as a Who Dat.