Saints Have Yet To Sign Free-Agent Starters

By: Larry Holder

Biloxi Sun Herald

Free agency opens in four days in the NFL and if the New Orleans Saints want to secure their potential free agents before the period begins March 1, they’ll have to act fast.
Five Saints starters remain unsigned: center Jeff Faine, tight end Eric Johnson, guard Jamar Nesbit, linebacker Mark Simoneau and defensive tackle Brian Young.
Nesbit said he’s talked with the Saints about a new contract. His sentiment is that he’d like to stay right where he is as the starting left guard in New Orleans.
“We’re in negotiations right now and I would like to not move my family, but we’ve got to look out for what’s best and make a decision from there,” Nesbit said Monday. “Sometimes these things aren’t in your control and we’ll have to see what happens.”
Nesbit and Faine helped form what turned out to be one of the more solid offensive lines in the league the past two seasons. The unit only surrendered a league-low 16 sacks in 2007 and 23 in 2006, the fourth fewest in the league.
“The O-line accomplished some really good things the past couple of years and so I’d like to still be a part of that,” Nesbit said.
Several other key players like wide receivers Devery Henderson and David Patten, running back Aaron Stecker, tight end Billy Miller and backup quarterback Jamie Martin are on the verge of free agency.
The only two free agents inked by the Saints are wide receiver Terrance Copper and kicker Martin Gramatica.
The Saints are on the same pace as last year as far as signing their own free agents as they secured linebacker Scott Shanle and defensive tackle Hollis Thomas before the open market began.
In an attempt to seal up their starting middle linebacker role, the Saints offered Zach Thomas a contract following his visit with the team last week. The deal was ill-fated as Thomas signed with Dallas on Saturday. New England also offered Thomas a contract.
Former Carolina middle linebacker Dan Morgan also visited New Orleans last week showing the Saints have some interest in the oft-injured defender.
Some of the hot commodities include wide receiver Randy Moss, cornerback Asante Samuel, linebacker Lance Briggs, guard Alan Faneca and wide receiver Bernard Berrian.
Saints coach Sean Payton has said several times during the offseason there will be a concerted effort to bolster the defense, which ranked 27th overall in 2007. The also has at least $30 million in salary cap room to play with.
Spending all that money seems unlikely with the prospects of wide receiver Marques Colston, defensive end Will Smith and right guard Jahri Evans all becoming coveted free agents following the 2008 season.
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