Ranking Saints needs: Safety, linebacker, specialists, cornerback among lower priorities

We know quarterback is the Saints’ No. 1 priority this offseason – and ideally they’ll address it even before free agency starts on March 15. But where do their other needs rank? And how can they fill them?

We’ll break them down in descending order as we count down to the start of the new league year.

No. 9 Cornerback

Current depth chart:

• Marshon Lattimore. Age 26. Signed through 2026.

• Paulson Adebo. Age 23. Signed through 2024.

• Alontae Taylor. Age 24. Signed through 2025.

• Bradley Roby. Age 30. Signed through 2024.

• Chris Harris Jr. Age 33. Unrestricted free agent.

• Vincent Gray. Age 23. Signed through 2023.

• Troy Pride Jr. Age 25. Signed through 2023.

• Isaac Yiadom. Turns 27 on February 20. Unrestricted free agent.

Analysis: I can’t believe we’re ranking this last considering how vital the cornerback position is to every NFL team – and how often New Orleans has proven the axiom that “you can never have too many.” But nowhere else on the roster do the Saints have this combination of talent, depth and youth, thanks to the rookie breakouts of Adebo and Taylor over the past two years. Of course it’s possible the Saints could still draft another corner as early as Round 1 because of the importance of the position. But it doesn’t have to be a must-fill priority in free agency unless the Saints consider trading a top player.

If the Saints keep each of the top four guys on this list, it will be fascinating to see who gets the No. 2 outside starting job across from Lattimore, who plays in the nickel and who starts the season on the bench.

No. 8 Specialists

Current depth chart:

• K Wil Lutz. Age 28. Signed through 2023.

• K Alex Quevedo. Age 23. Signed through 2025.

• P Blake Gillikin. Age 25. Restricted free agent.

• LS Zach Wood. Age 30. Signed through 2023.

Analysis: We could have ranked this last, considering the Saints have proven players available to be retained at each spot – and considering it wouldn’t cost any major resources in free agency or the draft to replace anybody. However, we wanted to illustrate that these positions are more unsettled than usual.

The Saints could consider moving on from Lutz or Gillikin since they will cost premium prices but are coming off of down seasons in 2022. Lutz is already one of the highest-paid kickers in the NFL (due $3.7 million in salary and bonuses in the final year of his contract). And Gillikin will cost at least $2.6 million to retain as a restricted free agent (unless the Saints work out a more affordable long-term extension with him).

No. 7 Linebacker

Current depth chart:

• Demario Davis. Age 34. Signed through 2024.

• Pete Werner. Age 23. Signed through 2024.

• Kaden Elliss. Age 27. Unrestricted free agent.

• Zack Baun. Age 26. Signed through 2023.

• Andrew Dowell. Age 26. Exclusive rights free agent.

• Chase Hansen. Age 29. Restricted free agent.

• D’Marco Jackson. Age 24. Signed through 2025.

• Nephi Sewell. Age 24. Signed through 2024.

• Ryan Connelly. Age 27. Signed through 2023.

• Ty Summers. Age 27. Unrestricted free agent.

Analysis: The Saints are in great shape with the top three names on this list – but it will be fascinating to see if all three return for the 2023 season since the Saints typically feature only two linebackers on the field at a time.

Elliss feels like a no-brainer to re-sign in free agency after his breakout performance in 2022. And Davis will eventually need to be replaced in the starting lineup since he turned 34 in January. However, as long as Davis keeps dominating Father Time, he remains one of the best bargains in the NFL (due just $8.5 million this year).

Beyond the Big Three, the Saints could certainly look to keep supplanting their depth and special-teams prowess through the draft. Baun has become a valued role player, even though he hasn’t lived up to loftier expectations as a third-round draft pick in 2020. And the jury is still out on 2022 fifth-rounder Jackson after he spent his rookie season on injured reserve.

No. 6 Safety

Current depth chart:

• Tyrann Mathieu. Age 30. Signed through 2024.

• Marcus Maye. Turns 30 on March 9. Signed through 2024.

• P.J. Williams. Age 29. Unrestricted free agent.

• J.T. Gray. Age 27. Unrestricted free agent.

• Daniel Sorensen. Turns 33 on March 5. Unrestricted free agent.

• Justin Evans. Age 27. Unrestricted free agent.

• Smoke Monday. Turns 23 on February 19. Signed through 2024.

Analysis: The Saints aren’t in “must” mode here yet since both of their new veteran starters came on strong toward the end of last season and remain under contract for two more years. However, they need to get younger and start planning ahead for the future, considering the starters’ age and Maye’s injury history. And they obviously need to re-sign or replace a ton of depth at the position – especially Gray, who has been their most valuable special teams coverage specialist.

I wouldn’t expect the Saints to target any expensive free agent safeties, but it could be a top priority in the draft. Alabama’s S/CB Brian Branch is the only prospect widely considered as a first-rounder at this point, but Texas A&M safety Antonio Johnson is among the possibilities at pick 29 or 40.

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