Saints have needs on defensive line after free agency signing period begins

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, March 15, 2023

The onset of NFL free agency is a chance for teams to whip out their checkbooks and give out hefty new contracts to the talent they’ve pinpointed as attainable.

Unfortunately for the New Orleans Saints, much raiding was done on their defensive line group this week to start free agency.

Defensive lineman Shy Tuttle left New Orleans for a three-year, $19.5 million deal that included $13 million guaranteed at signing from the Atlanta Falcons.

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In joining an NFC South rival in Atlanta, Tuttle is reuniting with Ryan Nielson, who was recently hired by the Falcons to be the defensive coordinator, a role he previously shared in New Orleans.

Tuttle isn’t the only Saint going to play for the Dirty Bird in Atlanta. Former NOLA defensive tackle David Onyemata is getting a three-year, $35 million deal from the Falcons that included $24.5 million fully guaranteed.

Another former Saint joining the Falcons is linebacker Kaden Ellis. Ellis signed a three-year, $21.5 million deal with $11 million guaranteed.

For the diehards, the most frustrating deal of the day was the one that defensive lineman Marcus Davenport inked with Minnesota. The Vikings signed Davenport to a one-year, $13 million deal.

The Saints traded up 13 spots in the 2018 NFL Draft and sent a first-round pick to the Packers in order to acquire Davenport, a player that was up-and-down during his time in New Orleans and walks away as one of the biggest busts in recent draft history.

Several current members of the roster reworked their current contracts to free up salary cap space — Cam Jordan and Alvin Kamara among others — as New Orleans sits somewhere at $10 million under the cap at press time.

There was plenty of excitement over the weekend surrounding the Saints as new franchise quarterback Derek Carr came to town for his introductory press conference.

Carr spoke to the media about the process of being recruited to New Orleans by the organization and caught a Pelicans game with his family on Saturday night.

Veteran quarterback Jameis Winston is expected to return next season as Carr’s backup after agreeing to a new deal with the Saints on Sunday. The team also announced the resigning of tight end Juwan Johnson to a new deal.