Ranking Saints needs: No. 9 Special teams

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
2:30
PM ET
A position-by-position look at where the New Orleans Saints stand heading into the 2014 offseason – ranked from 1-12 in order of the team’s need for upgrades or replacements.

Current depth chart:

P Thomas Morstead. Age 27, signed through 2018. 2014 salary and bonuses: $2.285 million. 2014 salary-cap number: $3.235 million.

K Shayne Graham. Age 36, unrestricted free agent.

K Derek Dimke. Age 23, exclusive rights to Saints through 2016 if he makes roster. 2014 salary $420,000.

RS Darren Sproles. Age 30, signed through 2014. 2014 salary and bonuses: $3.5 million. 2014 salary-cap number: $4.25 million.

RS Travaris Cadet. Turns 25 on Saturday, scheduled to become restricted free agent in 2015. 2014 salary and bonuses: $570,000. 2014 salary-cap number: $571,668.

Analysis:

Call me crazy, but I think the Saints should bring back veteran kicker Shayne Graham in 2014. Although he missed both of his field goal attempts in the season-ending playoff loss at Seattle, they were both very difficult kicks into heavy wind from 45 and 48 yards. Up until that point, Graham impressed me as a poised veteran. And he proved he was clutch, going 4-for-4 in a playoff victory at Philadelphia.

Every kicker will miss from time to time. The key is trusting that they’ll make 80-plus percent of them, and I think Graham is as trustworthy as any other candidate the Saints could find.

I think it’s possible the Saints feel the same way. As coach Sean Payton said after the season, “I think it is tough to evaluate a certain player such as a kicker, especially, in those kinds of conditions. I thought he came in and really did a great job for us when we signed him. But with regards to that position, it will be like anything else. We will have a chance to discuss and evaluate not only Shayne, but the future and other prospects that might be out there.”

The Saints might prefer to find a younger kicker that they could have in place long-term – like what they tried to create with Garrett Hartley during his turbulent six-year tenure in New Orleans. One possible candidate is Dimke, whom they signed to a futures contract earlier this month. Dimke spent time with the Lions, Jets and Buccaneers during the past two offseasons, making 8 of 9 field goal attempts in the preseason. But he hasn’t cracked an active roster yet.

The Saints are set with Morstead at punter. But they could certainly look to upgrade the kick return spots, which have been average at best in recent years. It might be worth using a draft pick or making a modest investment in free agency on an explosive return man who could create a spark in that department.

Mike Triplett

ESPN New Orleans Saints reporter

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