Saints looking hard at defensive free agents
The Saints' forays into the free-agent market took a more deliberative turn Saturday, as they continued to explore possible defensive additions but didn't pull the trigger on any new deals.
Eliot Kamenitz / The Times-PicayuneFree agent linebacker David Hawthorne worked out for the Saints on Saturday.After landing Pro Bowl guard Ben Grubbs on Thursday, General Manager Mickey Loomis began close examination of three defensive prospects with the possibility of asking a fourth to visit New Orleans.
Denver defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley reportedly came to New Orleans on Saturday as the Saints tinker with options in the interior of their defensive line. Both Sean Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin, free-agent defensive tackle acquisitions last season who never established themselves as consistent playmakers, are both unrestricted free agents.
Bunkley has caused considerable uncertainty among those who rank the free-agent market. Experts slot him anywhere from 10th to 71st among the best players available in 2012. He is primarily a run-stuffer, and Bunkley, a first-round pick by the Eagles in 2006, had arguably his best season in 2011 with the Broncos, making 43 tackles.
At linebacker, the Saints continued to assess what's available. David Hawthorne, a four-year veteran from Seattle who turns 27 in May, ended his visit Saturday at around the same time Joe Mays, a starter at middle linebacker for Denver last season, began his, according to league sources.
Of the two, Hawthorne would appear to be the more dynamic choice. Over the past three seasons, he was a player Saints new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo studied closely as head coach of the St. Louis Rams, a divisional opponent of Seattle. In his career, Hawthorne, 6 feet, 246 pounds, who played at TCU, has six sacks, five forced fumbles, seven interceptions and defended 15 passes.
Hawthorne had an excellent 2011 season in which he made 115 tackles, with two sacks and three interceptions.
Mays, on the other hand, is cut from more classic middle linebacker cloth. A 5-11, 250-pound former North Dakota State player, he had 75 tackles and two passes defended in 2011. But during his three years with Philadelphia and Denver, Mays has not had a sack and has forced one fumble. He will be 27 in July.
Two other names are also floating in the Saints' mix, however. One of them, Falcons middle linebacker Curtis Lofton, is slated to visit New Orleans late today when Spagnuolo returns from an overseas trip and the entire Saints coaching staff is on hand, according to a league source.
Like Mays, Lofton, 6 feet, 241, would appear to lack the high-impact ability that Hawthorne and a fourth possibility, Chris Chamberlain, have made. Nevertheless, Lofton, 25, has been a solid starter for Atlanta and was a player many Falcons analysts identified as a priority for the team to keep in the offseason. He had a monster 2011 campaign with 147 tackles, one sack, two interceptions, seven passes defended and a forced fumble.
It remains unclear if Chamberlain will make an official visit with the Saints, but he has a solid relationship with Spagnuolo after spending all four of his years in the NFL in St. Louis. A special teams ace, Chamberlain has two sacks, forced three fumbles and has an interception since coming to the NFL out of Tulsa. He will be 27 when the season starts.
New Orleans Saints looking hard at defensive free agents - New Orleans Saints Football NFL News - NOLA.com
I hope we can sign one of them!
I still like what I hear about Hawthorne the most. Everybody else looks like an upgrade.
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