Having already retained the services of Kicker Shayne Graham and Linebacker/Defensive End Keyunta Dawson for an additional season, the New Orleans Saints have turned their attention to some of their more high profile soon-to-be unrestricted free agents. The representation of at least 3 of these players has met with Saints brass as recently as this week to discuss possible terms of potential agreements.
Like most teams, the Saints are killing two birds with one stone at the scouting combine in Indianapolis as they not only run a fine toothed comb over all draft prospects in attendance but also use the platform as an ability to hold exploratory meetings with the agents of some of their prospective free agents. Zach Strief, Parys Haralson and Robert Meachem are players who are believed to have been mooted as targets for the team to keep hold of as free agency approaches.
Meachem's camp is believed to have met with the Saints last Friday. After returning to the team that made him their first round draft choice in 2007, Meachem led the team in yards per catch at just over 20 yards a pop. Following a failed tenure in San Diego, Meachem returned to New Orleans in September and showed that he can still serve as a deep threat that can take the top off a defense. He is also well versed in Sean Payton's offense and has a rapport with Quarterback Drew Brees. A capable blocker with plenty of speed still to burn, Meachem should come at a team-friendly rate which would be good value to a team that is in such a delicate salary cap situation.
Haralson is another Saint who's future with the team has been discussed recently. Should the financial and contractual terms be ironed out to best suit both parties, the former 49er has a good chance at being back in black and gold next season. Haralson was a more than serviceable player in Rob Ryan's defense in 2013, coming over from San Francisco in a preseason trade and contributing as a rotational player on early running downs. He tallied 30 tackles and 3.5 sacks in his first season as a Saint following an injury riddled career in San Francisco. He was injured again during the Saints wildcard victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, missing the team's divisional round loss in Seattle, but should be healthy within a few weeks.Saints RT Zach Strief
Strief, a 7th round pick in 2006, Sean Payton's inaugural season in New Orleans, is also set to hit the open market but his future has been discussed amongst his representatives and Saints officials. One of the better Right Tackles in the league, Strief has expressed his hope of remaining in New Orleans, but also acknowledged the team's financial constraints which could prevent his return. Like Meachem and Haralson, if the right agreement can be struck, Strief could very well be back in New Orleans next season. The trick will be getting him a deal that is right for him and right for the team's cap situation, which could be a rubik's cube of sorts for G.M. Mickey Loomis and the Saints' front office. It is quite possible that Strief will be tempted with a lucrative offer on the open market from a team under the cap.
The Saints will have to make some shrewd decisions to make in the weeks and months ahead in order to balance their cap situation as they head into the meat of the 2014 offseason. Should they find a way to keep hold of players such as Strief, Haralson and Meachem it should provide a boost moving forward as the team also looks to re-sign Tight End Jimmy Graham. This won't be a cash splashing offseason in terms of bringing in new players for the Saints, but if they can retain their select few prized assets and snatch a couple of hits in May's draft, it should go down as a successful offseason.