New Orleans Saints: parys haralson

METAIRIE, La. -- Jonathan Goodwin spent three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, and they went to the NFC Championship Game or beyond every year. Now that he's back with the New Orleans Saints, the 49ers are struggling at 4-4.

But Goodwin insisted that's just a coincidence.

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Goodwin
"I think highly of myself, but I don't think that highly of myself," said Goodwin, who remains questionable to play Sunday against his former team because of a sprained MCL he suffered three weeks ago. "So I'm definitely not gonna take any credit for that or anything. But I've got a lot of respect for a lot of guys in that locker room. They're 4-4, but they're a great 4-4 team, and I know what they're capable of."

It's not like the Saints and Goodwin have avoided hardships themselves. New Orleans is also off to a 4-4 start -- though it's now on the rise because of a two-game win streak.

Meanwhile, Goodwin has been plagued by injuries for the first time in his 13-year career. He battled through ankle, neck and elbow injuries early in the season before the sprained MCL finally sidelined him over the past two weeks -- ending an ironman streak of 92 consecutive regular-season starts.

It's especially a shame since Goodwin, 35, had found the fountain of youth this summer, saying it's the best he had ever felt in training camp in his career.

"It's one thing to go out and pull something, but I got rolled up like three times, so definitely unlucky, but what can you do about it?" said Goodwin, who was carted off the field twice this year -- after never having been carted off before.

Typically sprained MCLs require 3-4 weeks of recovery time, so Goodwin will be about as questionable as it gets this week. He and the Saints shouldn't feel too much pressure to get him back on the field since second-year backup Tim Lelito has played well in Goodwin's absence.

Goodwin said he'd love to play against his former team, "but at the same time if come Saturday it's not feeling right ... if it's not well enough to play, I don't want to have a setback."

"I want to be out there and play my best," Goodwin said. "I don't want to be out there if I have any doubts."

Goodwin said the idea that he should be able to offer New Orleans any insider info is overrated. He said the 49ers would likely change up any calls that he would recognize -- and that he wouldn't be able to hear them inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome anyway.

Goodwin also said he didn't need to tell his teammates much about the 49ers since they've gotten to know them well in three meetings over the past three seasons.

"This is the fourth straight year these teams have played, so I think guys in this locker room know, just like they know about us," Goodwin said. "Two great NFC contenders that have been right there the past few years for the most part."

Haralson reunion: Saints linebacker Parys Haralson will also be facing his former team for the second time since he was traded from San Francisco last summer. Haralson admitted he had to get through the initial shock at first, but he said it's worked out perfectly. Read more of his thoughts in this story by The Times-Picayune. Haralson is playing even more snaps this year as a part-time starter. He has 12 tackles and a sack.
A position-by-position look at the New Orleans Saints' roster through the Week 6 bye:

Snaps played: ILB Curtis Lofton 325, ILB David Hawthorne 176, ILB Ramon Humber 145, ILB Kyle Knox 1.

OLB Junior Galette 285, OLB Parys Haralson 137, OLB Kasim Edebali 46.

Key stats: Galette 18 tackles, 3 sacks; Lofton 40 tackles; Hawthorne 23 tackles; Humber 11 tackles; Haralson 8 tackles; Edebali 2 tackles.

Galette
My take: I never know where to list Galette in these things, since he essentially plays defensive end. But I'll keep him here since he's listed as an outside linebacker -- and since he's actually playing more as a true 3-4 outside linebacker at times this season. That part of Galette's game has been up and down (like the rest of the defense, he's struggled at times in the open field). But he has remained decent as a pass-rusher.

Galette hasn't been as consistently disruptive as last season, but he has certainly been the Saints' best pass-rusher. He made the biggest defensive play of the season with his safety in Week 5 against Tampa Bay, and he almost made another one but couldn't hang on to a potential interception. If that performance is a sign of things to come, the Saints will be in better shape going forward.

Lofton
Lofton has also been off to a very good start -- probably the best stretch of his three-year tenure with the Saints. He was the MVP of the Saints' first victory of the season against Minnesota. What has especially stood out with Lofton is how often he's made some aggressive, powerful hits at the line of scrimmage or behind the line of scrimmage.

Haralson has also had some nice moments while playing a lot more often than he did last season. Hawthorne and Humber have been more inconsistent, though, when it comes to tackling and open-field angles. And every linebacker, including Lofton, is just average in pass coverage.

The Saints' run defense hit rock bottom in Week 4 against Dallas and DeMarco Murray. But they responded great with a borderline-dominant performance against Tampa Bay's run game in Week 5.

ESPN scouting Insider Matt Williamson's take: "I think Galette's been good. I think (the other linebackers) are just a bunch of guys. I don't see big qualities there. It wouldn't blow me away if they used an early-round pick on an athletic, coverage second-level defender next year, somebody that can really run in the dome. ... I think Lofton's a good player. I don't think he's special, I don't think he's a Pro Bowler, but I think he's an above-average linebacker. I think their linebackers are OK. I think you're fine if your D-line is playing like it did last year and the secondary is playing up to their capabilities. But when things aren't going well, those guys look pretty average."
I was even more impressed by the New Orleans Saints' defensive performance after reviewing the tape of their 37-31 overtime victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Saints had some terrible lapses over the course of three drives in the middle of the game, so it wasn’t perfect by any stretch. Cornerback Corey White especially struggled at times, and the pass rush remains a work in progress.

But the Saints started fast and finished dominant. Their run defense was downright stifling -- thanks in large part to safety Kenny Vaccaro. And two of those touchdown drives came after bad breaks when the Saints nearly got off the field much earlier (a roughing-the-passer penalty against Junior Galette and Galette’s almost interception).

Here are more thoughts after breaking down the play-by-play:

Galette
Dominant finish: Galette’s sack for a safety midway through the fourth quarter might have been the defense’s biggest play of the season to date. He was lined up as a true 3-4 outside linebacker outside of end Cameron Jordan (something the Saints have done more often this season). The Saints ran a stunt, with Jordan consuming both the left tackle and left guard while Galette cruised inside on a delayed rush after the fullback went out for a pass.

However, that wasn’t the Saints’ only big play over the final 10:14 as they finally “finished.” Tampa Bay’s next series ended with a holding call and three straight incomplete passes. The pass coverage deserves most of the credit, since Tampa Bay quarterback Mike Glennon couldn’t find anyone open. Keenan Lewis was especially good against Vincent Jackson on some of those plays. The Saints also got decent pressure on Glennon with a four-man rush.

Dominant/lucky start: The Buccaneers also went nowhere for the first 28 minutes of the game, gaining 94 yards with three points over their first five drives. The Saints got lucky a few times, since tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins dropped a pass on the first third-and-8, and both a 32-yard catch by running back Doug Martin and a 27-yard catch by Louis Murphy were nullified by illegal formation/shift penalties. Still, the Saints didn’t give up many legal big plays.

Robinson
And the Saints -- finally -- made their own badly needed big play when cornerback Patrick Robinson made an outstanding diving catch for an interception in the second quarter. Robinson had tight coverage on Murphy, located the ball in the air and made a terrific basket catch over his shoulders -- Willie Mays style. Glennon couldn’t quite step all the way into the throw because of blitz pressure.

Vaccaro lights fire: Vaccaro was flying all over the field as the Saints got off to that fast start, often cruising into the backfield on run blitzes. He missed once or twice, but throughout the day he helped stop Martin for gains of 3, minus-5, 1, 2 and 0. Vaccaro also flew in to hit Seferian-Jenkins to help break up two passes on the first two series. Vaccaro did, however, draw two penalties for illegal hands to the face on a blitz and illegal contact.

More run stuffs: Linebacker Curtis Lofton had at least three big-time run stuffs, Jordan had two, and linebackers David Hawthorne and Parys Haralson had one each as Tampa Bay finished with a total of just 66 rushing yards on 21 carries (and one of those was a meaningless 16-yard run by Martin as time expired in regulation).

The Saints did have one ugly breakdown when Bobby Rainey walked in for a 9-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Hawthorne looked like he might have been held, but the play was so well-blocked that it might not have mattered.

White
White’s struggles: The worst play for the Saints’ defense was a 20-yard TD pass to Murphy on third-and-7 before halftime. Blitz pressure didn’t get anywhere near Glennon. And White let Murphy get two full yards behind him in the end zone -- after first being flagged for holding Murphy earlier on the route.

White also gave up an ugly 32-yard gain to Jackson when he allowed too much cushion on a deep comebacker, then missed an easy tackle as Jackson got up to run. And White later whiffed on a tackle against Jackson that allowed him to gain at least 15 extra yards.

White didn’t get picked on too much in coverage, though, and he did have one nice breakup on a deep throw and one big hit on Martin after a short pass.

Other low points: Safety Rafael Bush was trailing on the easy 9-yard touchdown pass to Robert Herron in the fourth quarter, but Glennon had too much time to throw against a three-man rush. ... Bush also let Jackson get behind him for an unreal 34-yard gain that seemed to happen in slow motion when Glennon floated a pass across his body under heavy pressure on a second-and-20 play. ... Hawthorne also whiffed on a tackle against Martin after a check-down pass that turned into a 20-yard gain.

Other high points: Haralson and Galette should’ve made the play of the year with Galette’s near interception in the third quarter. Haralson shot past tight end Luke Stocker on a blitz to nail Glennon, who made a horrible decision to try and shovel the ball away (sound familiar?). The ball bounced off guard Logan Mankins' helmet and popped in the air, but Galette couldn’t hang on while Mankins grabbed at his feet. ... Lewis was matched up against Jackson often and held up very well. The only one of Jackson’s big plays that came against Lewis was a 17-yarder against too much cushion. ... End Glenn Foster had a handful of nice pass rushes -- often when he and end Tyrunn Walker were being used inside as tackles. ... Linebackers Ramon Humber and Kyle Knox had two big solo sticks on kickoff returns.

Saints' Week 1 snap counts

September, 8, 2014
Sep 8
9:05
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A look at the New Orleans Saints' snap counts in their 37-34 overtime loss at the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1:

OFFENSE (75 snaps)
Quarterback: Drew Brees 75
Running back: Pierre Thomas 34, Mark Ingram 20, Travaris Cadet 12, Khiry Robinson 12
Fullback: Austin Johnson 7, Parys Haralson 2
Receiver: Marques Colston 64, Brandin Cooks 52, Joe Morgan 49, Robert Meachem 19
Tight end: Jimmy Graham 66, Benjamin Watson 28, Josh Hill 10
Offensive tackle: Terron Armstead 75, Zach Strief 75
Guard: Jahri Evans 75, Ben Grubbs 75
Center: Jonathan Goodwin 75

Thoughts: It’s always surprising to see the low totals for the tailbacks -- but that’s unavoidable since they typically play one at a time. For the most part, they all made the most of their touches. Expect a similar distribution all year. ... Morgan clearly started the season as the No. 3 receiver with Stills out. Although he wound up with no catches, expect him to remain active ahead of Meachem and Nick Toon when Stills comes back. ... Haralson’s two snaps were pretty interesting -- especially considering he successfully served as a lead blocker on a touchdown run by Robinson on his first snap. Haralson, a linebacker by trade, said it was a new wrinkle the Saints added this week, and he had never played fullback at any level in the past.

DEFENSE (72 snaps)
Cornerback: Corey White 66, Patrick Robinson 64, Keenan Lewis 63
Safety: Kenny Vaccaro 72, Jairus Byrd 70, Rafael Bush 27, Vinnie Sunseri 2
Outside linebacker: Junior Galette 60, Kasim Edebali 10, Parys Haralson 7
Inside linebacker: Curtis Lofton 65, David Hawthorne 63, Ramon Humber 12
Defensive end: Cameron Jordan 67, Akiem Hicks 63, Tyrunn Walker 14, Glenn Foster 8
Defensive tackle: Brodrick Bunkley 33, Brandon Deaderick 26

Thoughts: White supplanted Bush as the Saints' nickelback -- not a huge surprise after White played so well this summer, but a change from last season. White was the Saints' third cornerback, but he wound up playing the most snaps because of minor injuries that temporarily sidelined Robinson and Lewis. ... Young backups Brian Dixon, Ronald Powell and Kyle Knox played only on special teams.

Saints Camp Report: Day 13

August, 11, 2014
Aug 11
5:35
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A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New Orleans Saints training camp:
  • Are people tired of hearing about Brandin Cooks' daily exploits yet? I honestly don't think that we in the media are over-hyping the Saints' rookie receiver. He simply makes one or two of the biggest plays on the practice field every day. As quarterback Luke McCown said Monday, "He's got next level speed ... and quickness. We find him in positions where he's just separating from guys regularly." That was absolutely the case again Monday during an otherwise-sloppy practice in the rain. As Cooks said, he's from Corvallis, Oregon, so he's used to this weather. Cooks had two breakaway plays for big gains on short passes -- once cruising about 75 yards for a touchdown on a screen pass. Cornerback Keenan Lewis valiantly gave chase the whole way but didn't really have a chance. "He's a special player," McCown said. "I think that's easily recognized for any amount of time you spend watching him. He's a smart, heady player that you only have to teach a certain route or step or technique once, and he's got it down, and he begins to operate like a veteran. So the sky's the limit for that kid."
  • Two other rookies who haven't made an overwhelming amount of highlights during camp had arguably their biggest moments to date Monday -- safety Vinnie Sunseri and linebacker Khairi Fortt. Sunseri made a great diving interception during full-team drills (after Fortt probably would have had a sack on the same play if they were live tackling). Sunseri also broke up a deep pass intended for tight end Josh Hill. Fortt also had another would-be sack.
  • While we're on the subject of guys operating in the shadows, I'll give a little love to defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley and linebacker Parys Haralson. Bunkley had a great run stuff early in practice to add to his sack from the other night in the preseason game. Although Bunkley hasn't made quite the impact the Saints were hoping for when they signed him in 2012, he was probably playing his best football yet in New Orleans during the second half of last season. Haralson, meanwhile, has stormed inside for would-be sacks on each of the past two days of practice in full-team drills.
  • Monday's practice made me second-guess my decision to add undrafted rookie tight end Nic Jacobs to my projected 53-man roster in place of receiver Joe Morgan. Jacobs had a rough practice, dropping one pass and having a ball stripped away from him by safety Pierre Warren after a catch. But then again, it's the 6-foot-5, 269-pounder's prowess as a blocker and special teams asset that made me put him on the 53-man roster in the first place. … Meanwhile, Morgan had two great catches in practice Monday -- especially impressive on a rainy day. As I said Monday morning, I'm not ruling Morgan out of the battle against Nick Toon and Robert Meachem for the fourth or fifth receiver jobs by any stretch. I just don't think the Saints will keep all three of those veteran receivers, so I decided to omit Morgan.
  • The Saints could get a chance at a do-over in the rain Tuesday. There's more rain in the forecast for their scheduled 8:50 a.m. ET practice. They also have a walk-through scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
A position-by-position look at the New Orleans Saints' 90-man roster heading into the start of training camp. Players report on Thursday and will hold their first practice Friday at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia.

Current depth chart:

Outside linebacker: Junior Galette, Parys Haralson, Victor Butler, Keyunta Dawson, Ronald Powell, Kyle Knox, Chidera Uzo-Diribe, Kasim Edebali, Marcus Thompson
Inside linebacker: Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne, Ramon Humber, Kevin Reddick, Khairi Fortt, Todd Davis

Gone from last year: OLB Will Smith, ILB Jonathan Vilma, ILB Will Herring

Key roster battles: Lots of them! This is among the toughest position groups to project on the entire roster since it's so deep now with Butler returning from injury and Fortt and Powell being added in the draft. At least one or two very good linebackers won't make the team. But it's still too early to predict whether that could be a proven veteran or a young talent.

Technically, you could say that Haralson and Butler are battling for the No. 2 starting job at outside linebacker across from Galette. But they really play different roles, with Haralson more of a run defender and Butler more of a pass-rush specialist. The bigger question I have is whether we'll actually see four linebackers on the field together much this year now that the Saints have so many more options.

Last season, the Saints essentially used a 4-2-5 formation as their base package, and I expect a lot of the same this year. But if Butler delivers on his potential as a dynamic pass-rusher -- or if young athletes Powell and Fortt earn significant playing time early -- we could see some tweaks.
A position-by-position look at the New Orleans Saints' draft needs, ranked in order of importance from 1-12:

Current depth chart:

Junior Galette, signed through 2015
Parys Haralson, signed through 2014
Victor Butler, signed through 2014
Keyunta Dawson, signed through 2014
Rufus Johnson, scheduled to become restricted free agent in 2016
Kyle Knox, scheduled to become restricted free agent in 2016

Draft possibilities: The Saints have a decent amount of depth here. But they could always find a way to make room for another dynamic pass-rusher. Players like Missouri's Kony Ealy, Auburn's Dee Ford and Boise State's Demarcus Lawrence could be intriguing possibilities in Round 1.

The Saints spent most of last season playing with a four-man front, with Galette and defensive end Cameron Jordan manning the edges. Haralson was used as more of a run-defending outside linebacker than a pass-rusher. However, the Saints will have more pass-rushing options this year with Butler returning from injury and Johnson having another year to develop after spending most of last season on the practice squad.

It will be very intriguing to see how Butler fits into the Saints defense. Hopes were high for the athletic pass-rusher last year when the Saints signed him in free agency after he had previously played under coordinator Rob Ryan with the Dallas Cowboys. But Butler missed the entire season after tearing his ACL in organized team activities.

Previous entries:

No. 12 Kicker/punter

No. 11 Quarterback

No. 10 Running back/fullback

No. 9 Safety

No. 8 Defensive line

No. 7 Tight end

No. 6 Offensive tackle

No. 5 Inside linebacker
New Orleans organizers officially submitted their preliminary bid to host the 2018 Super Bowl, according to The Times-Picayune’s Jeff Duncan. New Orleans is one of three finalists to host the game, along with Indianapolis and Minnesota. The game will be awarded during the NFL meetings from May 19-21.

If New Orleans wins, it will become the first city to host 11 Super Bowls, and it will be used to kick off the city’s 300th birthday.

Haralson back: The Advocate’s Ramon Vargas caught up with linebacker Parys Haralson, who re-signed with the Saints this week. Haralson was a very solid addition for the Saints last year after they acquired him in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers. But Haralson admitted he wasn’t sure how things would work out when he became an unrestricted free agent for the first time just months after tearing a pectoral muscle.

Smith analysis: ESPN.com Patriots reporter Mike Reiss did an excellent job of breaking down former Saints defensive end Will Smith after reviewing film of three of his games from 2012. Smith visited with the Patriots this week and could be a good fit as a rotational player who brings a power-rushing element.
A look at the New Orleans Saints' projected defensive depth chart as it stands today:

DE1 –- Cameron Jordan, Tyrunn Walker

DE2 –- Akiem Hicks, Glenn Foster

NT –- Brodrick Bunkley, John Jenkins

OLB1 –- Junior Galette, Keyunta Dawson, Kyle Knox

OLB2 –- Parys Haralson, Victor Butler, Rufus Johnson

SILB –- Curtis Lofton, Ramon Humber

WILB –- David Hawthorne, Kevin Reddick

CB1 –- Keenan Lewis, Rod Sweeting, A.J. Davis, Trevin Wade

CB2 –- Corey White, Patrick Robinson, Terrence Frederick, Derrius Brooks

SS –- Kenny Vaccaro, Rafael Bush

FS –- Jairus Byrd

Thoughts: There aren't too many glaring holes here. I keep ranking cornerback as the Saints' top defensive need because they could use a more proven starter opposite Keenan Lewis. But they obviously have plenty of depth at the position.

Conversely, the Saints don't have much depth at safety. But if they sign a veteran corner such as Champ Bailey, they could use him as a pseudo-safety in nickel and dime packages. They could potentially do the same thing with White, who played safety in college.

The one position I really think the Saints need to address at some point in the draft is linebacker. They could use young backups who can play special teams right away and eventually push to replace veterans such as Hawthorne and Haralson.

And as coach Sean Payton said last week, teams are always on the lookout for more pass-rushing help -- though they should be improved in that area with Victor Butler returning from injury and Rufus Johnson having another year to develop.
So much for slowing down the free-agency pace now that we’ve hit April.

The New Orleans Saints stayed plenty busy on Tuesday, bringing in future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey for a visit and re-signing linebacker Parys Haralson.

Both moves make sense. Even though the Saints have been going through a bit of a youth movement this offseason, they could still use a little veteran depth on defense.

Bailey
Hillis
Haralson
Obviously, the enthusiasm over the 35-year-old Bailey should be tempered a bit. The Denver Broncos chose to release him, and they’re in the exact same boat as the Saints -- a team going “all-in” to win right now.

Still, the idea of signing Bailey is a fascinating proposition. He’s one of the NFL’s all-time great cornerbacks, who would match wits in practice every day with another 35-year-old future Hall of Famer in quarterback Drew Brees. And if nothing else, Bailey would be a great addition to the locker room with one of the league’s rising young defenses.

Bailey is not a lock-down cornerback anymore. But that’s not what the Saints need (and it’s certainly not what they can afford at this point).

New Orleans has an outstanding No. 1 corner in his prime right now in Keenan Lewis, an outstanding safety in his prime in Jairus Byrd, and an up-and-coming star in safety Kenny Vaccaro.

Bailey could fit in nicely as a savvy veteran who would compete for the No. 2 job with unproven youngsters Corey White and Patrick Robinson. Or perhaps he could even play safety, which he is reportedly willing to consider, or some sort of hybrid role in nickel and dime packages.

It’s similar to the Saints’ line of thinking when they showed interest in veteran cornerback Brandon Browner this offseason.

Someone asked on Twitter why the Saints didn’t just keep Jabari Greer. I agree that a healthy Greer would be an ideal fit. But Greer’s knee injury remains a question mark for now.

As for Haralson, his fit is pretty obvious. Even though the Saints have outside linebacker Victor Butler coming back from a torn ACL this year, the two can split time in a rotation. Butler is more of a pass-rush specialist, while Haralson is more of a run-defense specialist.

Haralson played 37 percent of the Saints’ defensive snaps last season, racking up 30 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He could be used in a similar role this year, especially if the Saints line up in more true 3-4 formations than they did last year.

Chances are, the Saints will mostly line up with five defensive backs. That worked for them last season, and the modern passing game in the NFL practically requires it.

But as you may have noticed, Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is creative enough to mix and match a lot of players in a lot of formations.
METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints have had some preliminary discussions about re-signing free agent linebacker Parys Haralson, according to a league source. It sounds similar to the initial talks they've had recently with fellow veteran free agents such as right tackle Zach Strief and receiver Robert Meachem.

Hillis
Haralson
Although nothing is set in stone, it's still worth noting that the Saints have shown some interest in bringing Haralson back. I could definitely see him coming back as long as the price is right.

Haralson, 30, had a solid debut season with the Saints last year after they traded for him late in the preseason. He had 30 tackles and 3.5 sacks in a rotational role -- used primarily as a run defender. The 6-foot, 255-pounder played in every game in the regular season, starting eight of them, and he played 37 percent of New Orleans' defensive snaps.

Haralson went down with a season-ending torn pectoral muscle in the playoff opener at Philadelphia. But he is expected to be healed in time for the start of spring conditioning programs.

The Saints will have at least one more option available at outside linebacker this year, with veteran Victor Butler returning to the lineup after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. Butler is known as a pass-rushing specialist, though, so there could definitely be room for both players in a rotation across from fellow outside linebacker Junior Galette.
The New Orleans Saints have 13 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on March 11. Here’s a breakdown on outside linebacker Parys Haralson:

Position: OLB (part-time starter)
Age: 30
Height: 6-0
Weight: 255

Scouting report: The Saints probably got about exactly what they expected from Haralson last year when they acquired him in a late-August trade with the San Francisco 49ers for a seventh-round pick. He was a solid member of the rotation -- primarily in run packages -- while playing 37 percent of the Saints' snaps.

Haralson made eight starts and appeared in every game in the regular season before going down with a season-ending torn pectoral in the playoff opener. He finished the regular season with 30 tackles and 3.5 sacks.

Before joining the Saints, Haralson spent seven years in San Francisco. He started there for five years before missing all of the 2012 season with a triceps injury. Haralson has primarily been a 3-4 outside linebacker in his career, with a total of 232 tackles and 25 sacks.

Projection: I could see Haralson coming back in a similar role, as long as his salary is minimal. He was a solid addition both on the field and in the locker room. And the Saints could continue to use him in run packages. However, the Saints could also opt to go younger at the position.

The Saints will have more depth at outside linebacker this year, with veteran Victor Butler returning from the knee injury that sidelined him all of last season. They already re-signed veteran backup Keyunta Dawson. Young backups like Rufus Johnson and Kyle Knox could push for greater roles. And the Saints could add even more young talent in the draft.
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:

Lofton
Curtis Lofton. Age 27, signed through 2016. 2014 salary and bonuses: $3.2 million. 2014 salary-cap number: $5.2 million.

David Hawthorne. Age 28, signed through 2016. 2014 salary and bonuses: $2 million. 2014 salary-cap number: $3.51 million.

Parys Haralson. Age 30, unrestricted free agent.

Jonathan Vilma. Age 31, unrestricted free agent.

Ramon Humber. Age 26, unrestricted free agent.

Will Herring. Age 30, unrestricted free agent.

Kevin Reddick. Age 24, scheduled to become restricted free agent in 2016. 2014 salary and bonuses: $495,000. 2014 salary-cap number: $496,666.

Analysis:

As I wrote earlier, I broke down the Saints' front seven into three categories (interior linemen, edge rushers and linebackers) since they run a hybrid between a 4-3 and a 3-4. So this is essentially the group of true linebackers who play in space, rather than the pass-rushing linebackers such as Junior Galette.

This may not seem like one of the Saints' most glaring needs since Lofton and Hawthorne played so well this past season. But look how thin the list gets behind those two veterans. I think it would be especially helpful for the Saints to look at this group in the draft since they need to inject youth and athleticism -- someone who could rotate into the mix right away and develop into a future starter.

Just imagine how much more potent this defense would be with an outside linebacker like Tampa Bay's Lavonte David or Carolina's Thomas Davis roaming the flats. And I ranked this list even before Seattle outside linebacker Malcolm Smith was named Super Bowl MVP, but it seems especially fitting now.

As for the guys who are under contract, I think the Saints are set with their two starting inside linebackers, Lofton and Hawthorne. Lofton played especially well down the stretch this past season, and he has been a great addition as an every-down middle linebacker, captain and leader of the defense. What a smooth transition he has made since arriving as a free agent in 2012. Hawthorne, on the other hand, struggled when he first arrived in 2012, mostly because of injuries. But he bounced back this past year and played at a high level. Hawthorne's contract could become an issue in 2015, but for now he comes at a good rate.

Reddick will also be back, and I could see him playing a more prominent role after he earned playing time as an undrafted rookie in 2013. He played a lot on special teams and joined the defense in jumbo packages. He could have a future as an inside linebacker if he continues to deliver on his potential.

The two biggest question marks among the unrestricted free agents are Vilma and Haralson. I know the popular opinion is that Vilma will be gone after he missed almost all of last season with a knee injury, and he'll be 32 in the spring. However, if he wants to try and play this summer, the Saints would be the team most likely to give him that opportunity since he's been such a valued member of the organization. Haralson is also coming off of a season-ending pectoral injury, but I could also see him back at a minimal contract after he seemed like such a good veteran fit in a part-time role last year.

Humber and Herring are two of the Saints' most valued special teamers, so they could both be back. Humber showed promise as a backup middle linebacker in the summer, as well, so his versatility is valuable.

Saints mailbag: Greatest needs?

January, 26, 2014
Jan 26
8:00
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METAIRIE, La. -- Thanks for all of your New Orleans Saints questions on Twitter this week. Send ‘em my way anytime @MikeTriplett:
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METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints placed linebacker Parys Haralson on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle and released backup safety Isa Abdul-Quddus on Tuesday. They officially announced the addition of veteran safety Jordan Pugh. And they also promoted rookie linebacker Rufus Johnson from the practice squad.

Haralson will be missed -- especially in run defense against the Seattle Seahawks. The veteran has been a solid addition as a part-time starter since the Saints acquired him in a preseason trade with the San Francisco 49ers, with 30 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Veteran Will Herring is his primary backup, though backup Ramon Humber could also see playing time. Or the Saints could spend more time in their three-safety package, which they feature often.

Abdul-Quddus has been a backup safety for three years, with four career starts, and a core special teams player. His role diminished this year with the emergence of young safeties like Kenny Vaccaro and Rafael Bush, and he was inactive the last two weeks.

Veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins said it was tough for Abdul-Quddus’ longtime teammates to see him go after he had been part of the “room” for so long. But Jenkins said everyone understands the business side of the game.

The Saints replaced Abdul-Quddus with Pugh, a fourth-year veteran who has played a similar role with the Washington Redskins and Carolina Panthers.

Johnson, a sixth-round pick from Tarleton State, showed impressive athleticism as a pass rusher in training camp. He could potentially contribute on special teams Saturday.

The Saints added linebacker Vic So'oto to the practice squad to replace Johnson.

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