New Orleans Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis will be awfully busy when the NFL's new CBA is settled.
Decisions need to be made about whether to re-sign the Saints unrestricted free agents numbering in the mid-20â€™s if the CBA calls for 4-year players to become free agents. Also, the quest begins for signing this year's undrafted rookie free agents, where the Saints have done so well in mining talent in previous years like running back Pierre Thomas (Illinois), running back Chris Ivory (Tiffin), quarterback Chase Daniel (Missouri), linebacker Jon Casillas (Wisconsin), and defensive end Junior Galette (Stillman), to name a few.
And, of course, Loomis needs to sign the draft choices. Plus, look for New Orleans to ink a couple of free agents from other NFL teams.
I think the Saints will try to re-sign about 14 of their current players:
- Linebacker Scott Shanle is a 9-year veteran who is well liked by defensive coordinator Greg Williams and has been a starter.
- Offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod is the starting left tackle and protects Drew Breesâ€™s blind side; there is not a proven starter behind him though hopes are high for last year's 2nd round draft pick Charles Brown, a good prospect coming off back surgery. Zach Strief, another back up from Northwestern, a 6th year veteran who is also an unrestricted free agent expected to return.
- Jon Goodwin is a 10 year veteran from Michigan and a solid starter. Last year's 5th round draft pick, Matt Tennant out of Boston College, is right behind him so it is questionable if Goodman will return at too high of a cap figure.
- Defensive tackle will be interesting. Anthony Hargrove is a 7-year player who has done well as a versatile performer in New Orleans. Remi Ayodele, a 5th year player from Oklahoma, is another player who the team would like to have back, but they also brought in 11-year veteran Shaun Rodgers has a lot of talent to demand a lot of playing time if he stays in shape. Defensive lineman Jimmy Wikerson, a 9 year player from Oklahoma, and defensive end Jeff Charleston, a 5th year player from Idaho State, would like to return but are question marks. Expect Charleston to re-sign while Wilkerson may seek a better opportunity to make a roster elsewhere.
- Other than Bushrod the players I think Loomis and head coach Sean Payton would most like to have back are wide receiver Lance Moore, now in his 6th year from Toledo and a favorite target of Drew Brees, and strong safety Roman Harper, a 6th year player from Alabama who was having a Pro Bowl season before a terrible game in the playoff loss to the Seahawks.
- Linebacker Marvin Mitchell, a 5th year guy from Tennessee, is a solid backup and special teams player who should be back.
- Tight end David Thomas, a 6th year veteran, is a solid backup who brings the ability to help as a blocker at H-back. Heath Evans, a well-liked fullback, would like to come back but is an 11-year player who may not be asked back if a younger veteran can be signed.
- Others who may be on the fence are 15-year safety Darren Sharper and Usama Young, a 5th year player from Kent State who can play anywhere in the secondary. But I would lean toward both returning in 2011.
- I think the rest of the free agents who probably move on are safety Pierson Prioleau, a 13 year veteran, kick returner Courtney Roby, in his 6th year out of Indiana, cornerback Leight Torrence, a 6th year guy Stanford made expendable by recent draft picks and running backs Julius Jones, Ladell Betts and DeShawn Wynn.
- Linebacker Danny Clark, in his 12th year out of Illinois, tight end Troy Humphrey (5th year Central Michigan), safety and special teams ace Chris Reis (5th year Georgia Tech), safety Matt Giordano (7th year California) and linebacker Kawika Mitchell (9th year South Florida) will only be back if there are injuries at their positions.
Undrafted highly-rated free agents are available to help bolster NFL rosters. Here are the top players by position who may spark interest from NFL teams:
Pat Delvin 6-4 218 Delaware -- He has the arm strength NFL teams require.
Scott Tolzien 6-2 Â½ 212 Wisconsin -- A smart prospect and a member of the National Honor Society.
Jerrod Johnson 6-5 244 Texas A&M -- Outstanding size, athletic ability, good character (team captain).
Taylor Potts 6-4 220 Texas Tech -- Another team captainwho understands the game.
Adam Weber 6-2 220 Minnesota -- An experienced quarterback as a four-year starter in the Big Ten.
Darren Evans 6-0 220 Virginia Tech -- Led his team in rushing in 2010 with 854 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Noel Devine 5-8 160 West Virginia -- A versatile player who can be a spot back and return man.
Derrick Locke 5-8 190 Kentucky -- A productive SEC player with 4.38 speed.
Brandon Saine 6-1 220 Ohio St. -- A nice-sized back with decent speed in the 4.48 range.
Terrence Toliver 6-3 Â½ 211 LSU -- A big, tall receiver who had a solid college career and came on strong in the Cotton Bowl.
Armon Binns 6-2 211 Cincinnati -- A nice size prospect with upside who can get open and move the chains.
Weslye Saunders 6-6 270 South Carolina -- Has great potential because of his height and weight, good hands, catches away from his body.
Mike McNeill 6-4 237 Nebraska -- Has natural hands, a good receiver, has enough speed to stretch a defense.
Charlie Gantt 6-3 Â½ 254 Michigan St. -- A strong, weight-trained athlete with good size, long arms and the frame to get bigger.
Kris Oâ€™Dowd 6-5 300 USC -- A good technique lineman who is smart and takes good angles. Strong in the upper body, has a good work ethic, plays hard.
Alex Linnenkohl 6-2 300 Oregon St. -- An experienced prospect, he has been a starter for three seasons. Quick and athletic, a team leader.
Kevin Kowaiski 6-4 300 Toledo -- Strong in the upper body, aggressive and a smart team captain.
Zane Taylor 6-2 300 Utah -- A mature prospect who is married and had a good college career. Has a wrestling background. Smart, has a good work ethic and a passion for the game.
Ryan Bartholomew 6-2 298 Syracuse -- A strong drive blocker who gets good movement and comes off the line quickly.
Ryan Tolar 6-5 294 Washington -- A versatile lineman who may also project to the center position.
Kyle Hix 6-7 320 Texas -- A tall lineman with the long arms scouts like. Has the frame to get bigger and stronger, good upside.
Pierre Allen 6-5 270 Nebraska -- A mature 24 year old married prospect, he has been productive and durable.
Steven Friday 6-4 240 Virginia Tech -- Has quickness and pass rush ability with enough speed to project to the linebacker position.
Adrian Taylor 6-4 300 Oklahoma -- Very strong in the lower body, can stuff the run and will clog the middle.
Cedric Thornton 6-3 294 Southern Arkansas -- Has been dominant at a lower level of competition and is a hard worker.
Brandon Blair 6-6 275 Oregon -- Had a good week of practice at the East-West Shrine game and has a large wingspan to block passes and overwhelm blockers.
Scott Lutrus 6-3 240 UConn -- Has the speed and skills to be effective dropping into pass coverage, is instinctive and flows well to the ball.
Josh Bynes 6-2 240 Auburn -- A big strong prospect with enough speed to be effective in the middle, this kid was the quarterback of the Tigers defense.
Alex Wujciak 6-3 245 Maryland -- An intense competitor who is instinctive with a non-stop motor. Strong at the point of attack as a good run defender.
Mark Herzlich 6-4 240 Boston College -- A gutsy player who has come back from cancer to have a productive season in 2010. Intense, quick and gives his all on the field. Could be a major steal.
Elijah Joseph 6-2 240 Temple --- A versatile prospect who can also project to the inside linebacker position. Quick and a hard hitter, he has some pass coverage ability as well.
DeAndre McDaniel 6-1 210 Clemson -- A very productive college safety, physical performer was his team's defensive MVP in 2010. He stood out as a gunner covering kickoffs.
Deunta Williams 6-1 Â½ 210 North Carolina -- Experienced, solid character has been durable. Has good hands for the interception and fine leaping ability. A playmaker.
Will Hill 6-1 205 Florida -- A gunner on kick coverage teams, versatile back has played some nickel corner. Likes to hit and plays physical.
Jeron Johnson 5-11 195 Boise St. -- Team leader in tackles has been productive. Experienced and athletic.
Duke Ihenacho 6-1 210 San Jose St. -- Plays aggressive, can cause turnovers and has good movement skills as a solid in-the-box safety.
Joe Lefeged 6-0 205 Rutgers -- A tough well liked player, good locker room guy. A team captain, plays physical.
Kendric Burney 5-9 190 North Carolina -- A tough durable prospect, he understands pass coverage, gets in good positions to make plays, and can also return punts.
Darrin Walls 6-0 185 Notre Dame -- A quick corner with some speed, can put heat on the quarterback.
NOTE: These prospects are in limbo until the CBA is settled.
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