Saints Try To Maintain the Balance

With 26 free agents on the roster the Saints hope to replicate last season’s offseason success.

With the Super Bowl over and kickoff of the 2018 season six months away, it seems like March would be an odd time to talk about the Saints, but c’est la vie, this is New Orleans, where there is no ceasing to love the Black and Gold. The Saints have 26 free agents on the team — nearly half the active roster — including quarterback Drew Brees, who, due to contract stipulations, cannot be tagged as the team’s franchise player. While the team has had some success in free agency, the term also gives fans the heebie-jeebies.

The 2018 league year begins March 14. With it comes a litany of dates important for teams in balancing their roster and salary cap figures before next month’s draft. Teams have to designate their franchise or transition players on March 6.

Between the 12th and 14th, teams may negotiate contracts with players who will enter the league year as unrestricted free agents. On the 14th, they must submit a minimum salary tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2017 contracts who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agency credit and complete 2018 option clauses on all players. At 3 p.m. CST, the 2018 league year begins, which means teams must be under the 2018 salary cap, a trade window opens and free agents may begin signing deals.

Under the current collectively bargained player deal, there are three levels of free agency. Exclusive rights free agents have fewer than three years of playing experience. In this case the team can offer a contract, but the player may not negotiate with other teams. Restricted free agents have three years of experience and may negotiate with other teams, however their team could match the offer and keep the player. Unrestricted free agents have four years of experience or have been cut by their team. They are free to sign with any team without restriction from their last team. The Saints have 20 unrestricted free agents, four restricted free agents and two exclusive rights free agents.

The team did well last year in free agency by adding veteran players who helped to build depth across the roster. Their 12-6, NFC South Division winning season wiped away the morass of three straight 7-9 seasons. While the team had an amazing draft in 2017, fans know terrible transactions in the free agent market in previous years led to those consecutive losing seasons.

Obviously, the biggest piece of the puzzle is Brees, who at age 39 is still an elite player and easily among the top five quarterbacks in the league. There will be whispers of Brees going for a huge payday with another contender. If the team had struggled in 2017, there may be credence for them, but after the success the team had in 2017, it doesn’t appear either party is ready to move on without the other. While Brees is the star of the show, he was able to share the stage with an amazing rushing attack from Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram and a defense that moved from the bottom of the league to middle of the pack. The onus will be on management to keep moving forward in a positive direction through solid signings and impactful draft selections.

Saints Free Agents
for the 2018 League Year
ERFA = Exclusive Rights Free Agent
RFA = Restricted Free Agent
UFA = Unrestricted Free Agent

Jack Allen OL 25 1 ERFA
Delvin Breaux CB 28 3 RFA
Drew Brees QB 39 17 UFA
Rafael Bush S 30 7 UFA
Audie Cole LB 28 6 UFA
Brandon Coleman WR 25 3 UFA
Chase Daniel QB 31 9 UFA
Kasim Edebali LB 28 3 UFA
Jonathan Freeny LB 28 6 UFA
Clay Harbor TE 30 8 UFA
Gerald Hodges LB 27 5 UFA
John Hughes DL 29 6 UFA
George Johnson DE 30 6 UFA
Senio Kelemete C/G 27 5 UFA
John Kuhn FB 25 12 UFA
Josh LeRibeus G 28 5 UFA
Zach Line FB 27 5 UFA
Michael Mauti LB 28 4 UFA
Tony McDaniel DT 33 12 UFA
Sterling Moore CB 27 7 UFA
Alex Okafor DE 26 5 UFA
David Parry NT 25 3 RFA
John Phillips TE 30 8 UFA
Willie Snead WR 25 2 RFA
Kenny Vaccaro S 26 5 UFA
Zach Wood LS 25 1 ERFA

Chris Price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football. Price also authors the Friday Sports Column at