The Saints secondary had its struggles early on in the year last season. They got torched by the Buccaneers in Week 1 and almost gave up enough to get upset by the Browns the week after. A change from Ken Crawley to PJ Williams was still not enough to fix things and the loss of Patrick Robinson just made matters more difficult. Enter the likes of Eli Apple in a trade with the New York Giants and things changed for the better. Having him opposite Marshon Lattimore proved to be a complete transformation to how good this defense could be as a unit. Vonn Bell had a stellar year and pretty much solidified the strong safety spot opposite Marcus Williams, who seemed to be out of place more times than not all season long. Not much will change from this unit except for a few depth pieces.
Cornerbacks: Marshon Lattimore | Eli Apple | Patrick Robinson | PJ Williams (FA) | Ken Crawley (Tender) | Justin Hardee | Josh Robinson (FA)
Safeties: Marcus Williams | Vonn Bell | Chris Banjo | JT Gray (PS)
The top three corner spots are set with Lattimore, Apple and Robinson. Williams would be nice to bring back but given that he got arrested after the notorious no call, it will be seen if he garners any interest or is brought back. Crawley received a low end tender from the Saints but in all honesty, he needs a fresh start somewhere else. Hardee re-signed for another year and is one of the best gunners in the league. Robinson was a solid role player on special teams and could be brought back to compete for a spot. Gray was a surprise making the original 53 man roster and having a role as a special teamer. It will interesting to see if he provides depth as a playing safety. Also, Kurt Coleman was released before the start of free agency and it is unclear if he will be brought back at a much cheaper rate.
Free Agent Targets
Eric Berry | Chiefs
As unrealistic as it may sound, this could be an intriguing piece to the defense. Berry’s injury history is enough to draw a red flag but he would not be required to play a full time role. Even though he is still capable of being a starter, coming to New Orleans and being a situational safety would open up the playbook to keep Bell in the box at times in a three safety look. Again, just wishful thinking given there are not a lot of depth safeties on the market.
Does not seem like an option unless there is a guy out there on a roster worth trading for.
Again, not a position of need and will probably look to undrafted free agents for depth.
Having Apple with a full off-season to work with Dennis Allen should give him even more confidence than he had before. This unit definitely has the potential to be one of the best in the league. The biggest change will have to be the trust factor and staying healthy. When Robinson went down, it changed things dramatically but these guys know they are up for the challenge.
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