After releasing veteran’s Roman Harper and Jabari Greer the Saints were left with two massive holes at the back end of their defense. What’s more, Malcolm Jenkins is set to become a free agent (and a pricey one at that).
On the bright side, second year phenom Kenny Vaccaro should be healthy come training camp, Keenan Lewis looks to be a solid option at cornerback, and Cory White shined in the slot as a nickel-corner (despite showing inadequacies out on the perimeter). However, that still leaves gaps at two very important positions: a safety to help patrol the back end with Vaccaro and a corner to play opposite Lewis.
My initial thought is that the coaching staff will first try out White at the number two corner spot, and personally I believe he has the talent to succeed. Some of my constituents respectfully disagree, and if they can find a better option I do agree that he’s better off in the slot.
A look at the free agent market for defensive back shows a fair amount of talent, as evident by cover32’s top ten free agent defensive back list. The Saints’ Jenkins rounds out the top ten, and anyone in the know realizes he’s been a key piece at the back end of the New Orleans defense as well as a guy entering the prime of his career.
Obviously the goal has to be to re-sign Jenkins, but should that fall through they are already testing the waters for a potential replacement.
According to ESPN’s Pat Yasinskas the Saints met with ex-Lions’ safety Louis Delmas last week, which could indicate an inclination to letting Jenkins walk. Delmas is a physical safety with natural ball-hawking tendancies, however he leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to coverage. In lieu of Jenkins, Delmas does provide an adequate option as a replacement, especially considering guys like Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward will attract the majority of the attention and dollars (leaving Delmas to be signed at a lower number).
As for a replacement at cornerback, there’s a chance the Saints will look to sign ex-49er Tarell Brown. Brown shows tremendous upside while still a bit of naivete in coverage (often inexplicably losing focus). He certainly won’t cost the same as guys like ex-teammate Donte Whitner or Vontae Davis, and he could provide a solid physical presence opposite Lewis.
To see where we ranked this year’s group of free agent defensive backs, click here.