With quarterback Drew Brees announcing he plans to hold off on retiring, one of the New Orleans Saints’ biggest offseason concerns has now been addressed. That, in turn, means it’s time for them to focus on their next biggest need: bolstering the cornerback rotation.
Last year’s Saints team, while a rock-solid 13th in points allowed per game, began showing signs of decline in the secondary. They were pretty good at limiting the average yards per passing attempt and forcing turnovers, but they finished 21st in passing touchdowns allowed.
New Orleans isn’t getting back to the Super Bowl level without making some changes. The NFC South Division remains theirs for the taking, with neither the Tampa Bay Buccaneers nor Atlanta Falcons nor Carolina Panthers poised to do any real damage. But if they want to do more than churning out regular-season victories, they need to playoff-proof their packages in the secondary.
The Saints are better off addressing their sluggish cornerback rotation in both the draft and free agency. They’re in need of that much more optionality.
Damon Arnette from Ohio State is an option that has been tossed around for the draft. He’s not the most well-known prospect, but he can turn on a dime to break up passes and has the physicality and speed to stack up at the line of scrimmage in ultra-aggressive blitz formations. His style would fit right in with how New Orleans prefers to defend.
Looking at the free-agent market, the Saints could stand to kick the tires on Jimmy Smith of the Baltimore Ravens. He’s not the splashiest addition, but he’s played well for the Ravens over the past nine seasons and shouldn’t cost too much money.
In theory, if the Saints wanted to, they could draft a corner like Arnette, pick up Smith and still have the financial flexibility necessary to keep Janoris Jenkins. His $11.3 million cap hit is an overpay given how poorly he finished last season after coming over from the New York Giants, but he still has the chance to be an above-average corner, and spending less money on the other two additions would free the team to spend a little more on him.
Perhaps that’s too much depth-chart equity at the cornerback spot alone. Then again, the Saints’ secondary only wore down as last year progressed. They need to prioritize impact and depth if they want to make the most of Brees’ remaining window.