Feb 29, 2008

NFL Free Agency Begins

Free Agency began this morning at 12:01 a.m., and the Saints have been active thus far. This past week, the team resigned WR Terrance Copper, K Martin Gramatica, OL Jonathan Goodwin and OL Jamar Nesbit. The team also parted ways with K Olindo Mare, after he refused a paycut. Now that free agency has official started, rumors of deals going down are flying around the league, and the Saints are involved in many.

Saints make a trade
The biggest deal that is being reported is the Saints trading a conditional draft pick (2009) to the Jets for LB Jonathan Vilma. The Saints have had their eye on Vilma ever since the 2004 NFL draft. Vilma was selected 12th overall by the Jets and went on to win rookie of the year. With the Jets switching to a 3-4 scheme, Vilma was out of place as a 4-3 middle linebacker. Adding to that frustration, he suffered a knee injury last year and his days in New York were numbered.

The Saints have been looking for a steady presence in the middle for years. They brought in Dan Morgan and Zach Thomas for visits and even offered Thomas a contract before he landed in Dallas. Getting Vilma, if healthy, should sure up the position for years. He is a young, active linebacker and will settle in nicely in New Orleans. The trade also opens up their draft options more, as they aren't tied to finding a starting LB in the draft now.

Saints resign two of their own
Two other signings are being reported for the Saints -- DT Bryan Young and LB Mark Simoneau. Young has been a steady DT for the Saints, but can't seem to stay healthy. The team is looking to bring in another DT, either through trade or in the draft, but Young has been a leader on the d-line and his signing is a good one. Resigning Simoneau is a more curious move. Simoneau had been a rumored target of the Dolphins and with the trade for Vilma, he looks to have lost his starting spot. He now gives the Saints good depth and experience off the bench, but I'm not sure why he didn't want to go somewhere else with a better opportunity to start. The move could also mean the end of Brian Simmons time with the Black and Gold. Simmons was signed last year to be the starting MLB, but failed to beat out Simoneau. He is too overpaid to be a backup, so the team may decide to part ways with him.

Tampa Bay raids the Saints
The Buccaneers have struck the biggest free agent deal thus far in signing Saints center Jeff Faine. The Saints saw this move coming as they resigned Goodwin earlier this week. Faine becomes the highest paid center in the league. While he was a good player for the Saints, that type of money was too much, especially when long-term deals need to be done with Marques Colston, Will Smith and Jahri Evans. The Bucs are also planning to bring in Saints RB Aaron Stecker for a visit, so they may raid the roster even more.

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