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Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Mailbag: New Orleans Saints edition

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Again, thanks for flooding the mailbag. There literally were over 100 questions just on the Saints and a similar number on the Falcons, whose mailbag will be coming later today. Obviously, I can't answer every single question. So I went with ones that represented what you wanted to talk about most.

Here we go:

David in Vancouver writes: Assuming Mike McKenzie comes back 100% from his latest injury, do you see the Saints attempting to transition him to Free Safety ?

Pat Yasinskas: Mike McKenzie's health is a big question at this point. He did a great job coming back from a knee injury last year. But he was hit by bad luck and tore up his knee again. He faces a long recovery and he is going to be 33 in April. If he can get back on the field, I think a move to safety might be wise for McKenzie and the Saints. Free safety Kevin Kaesviharn didn't have a good year last season and the Saints clearly need to upgrade in free agency. Again, assuming McKenzie can get healthy, I don't think a transition to free safety would be too difficult for a sharp veteran like him.


Gordon in New Orleans writes: Think Charles Grant & Will Smith will feel bulls eyes on their backs this training camp, or was their play the scapegoat?

Pat Yasinskas: I think defensive ends Charles Grant and Will Smith should feel some pressure. They're both very talented, but they didn't play anywhere near their potential last year, although injuries played a role in that. I suspect new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and defensive line coach Bill Johnson will try to late a fire under them. If, Grant and Smith can start producing, I think New Orleans could have a pretty good pass rush. I like Bobby McCray as a pass-rush specialist in the No. 3 defensive end role and I saw signs last year that rookie defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis can generate a push in the middle.


Ryan in New Orleans writes: What positions on defense do you think the saints will try to upgrade in the draft and free agency? What players would they look to get in the draft and free agency?

Pat Yasinskas: That's a pretty long list. We mentioned free safety above and I think cornerback also is a priority. I liked what I saw out of Tracy Porter before he got hurt last season. But I think the Saints need another top-notch corner. I also think it might be time to bring in another defensive end to help push Grant and Smith. Another defensive tackle to go with Ellis also would be nice. Assuming the Saints are able to re-sign middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma and outside linebacker Dan Morgan is able to come out of retirement and stay healthy, the Saints aren't in bad shape at linebacker. Scott Fujita and Scott Shanle need to make the plays they're supposed to, but I think adding one more young, speedy linebacker would help. Free agency and the draft right now are a bit of a challenge for the Saints. As of the moment, the Saints are over the salary cap. They'll do some trimming to get under, but I don't think they'll have a lot of money to play with, so I think they'll focus on some mid-level guys. They're also in a strange spot with the draft because, as of this moment, they only have four draft picks.


Tyler in Reynoldsburg Ohio writes: What are the Saints going to do with only a 1st round pick in the first 3 rounds and their salary cap all out of whack with people like Vilma, Moore,and Jahri Evans needing resigned? i know deuce needs to go or retire for cap space but what about restructuring Smith's and Grant's monster contracts?

Pat Yasinskas: Although the cap situation is far from ideal, it's not a disaster. General manager Mickey Loomis is a smart guy and he knows how to work the cap and there are plenty of ways to free up space. The Saints likely will release some players (Deuce McAllister) and that will help. Restructuring contracts of some veterans also is a common and painless way to free up money. The Saints should be able to do some of that and have enough room to re-sign their own guys. But, again, don't expect them to be big spenders in free agency.


Aaron in London writes: Do you see New Orleans Saints with a questionable secondary making a play for Leigh Bodden after his release. Bodden is a young press cover corner who would fir the Saints scheme perfectly. His stock is down due to an inept franchise and playing in a zone scheme that mis-cast him. I think Bodden could be the bargain of the off-season. If not the Saints, where will his likely destination be? I'm worried the savvy Patriots in need or corner help may snap him up and transform Bodden into a pro bowler.

Pat Yasinskas: I like Leigh Bodden as a player and someone like him could help solve a lot of problems. He's definitely a possibility, but a lot depends on what kind of interest there is in him around the league. As we've said several times, the Saints aren't in a position to spend big money on a free agent. If they could land Bodden at a reasonable price, though, I think that would be a nice move.


Gerald in Jennings, Louisiana writes: Hey Pat, loved your article all year. I'm looking forward to reading more. With the offense that the Saints possess, it seems if we can get consistent on the running game our offense will be able to carry us to the SuperBowl. The main concern for the Saints is there defense. I personally believe we have some of the personnel on defense to be a top 15 unit, but I feel its our scheme that hurt us the most. What are your thoughts on the Saints and there chances of reaching the SuperBowl with Gregg Williams running our defense?

Pat Yasinskas: I think Sean Payton might already have made his best move of the upcoming season by hiring Gregg Williams. The Saints clearly had problems on defense last year. They do have some talent in place and they'll add more in the offseason. But I think the biggest thing is attitude and approach. Williams is known for having an aggressive defense and I think he'll push some players who haven't been pushed before. If the Saints can just get their defense to be average, they can be a very good team.


Jarrod in morgan city,La writes: With the Saints having the number one offense in the NFL this year and not making it to the playoffs. Do you think that this could be attributed to play calls? (third/forth and short not using D.
McAllister). Wouldn't it seem plosible to move R. Bush to a slot reciever position, making P. Thomas your premiere running back and holding on to D. McAllister for one more year as a third down back?

Pat Yasinskas: I'm with you on using Pierre Thomas as the main back and using Reggie Bush as more of a receiver. But I truly don't think Deuce McAllister will be back. I know that's painful and difficult for Saints' fans to accept. But Payton barely played McAllister last year. I just don't think he figures into Payton's plans. I think the Saints will add a short-yardage back through free agency or the draft.


Tom in South Carolina writes: Do you expect Dan Morgan, after sitting out basically 2 years due to injury and retirement, to make a major impact and make a run for a starting spot, or will he more likely only be a serviceable backup and veteran leader, assuming he is healthy?

Pat Yasinskas: Obviously, there's no guarantee Dan Morgan can stay healthy. But I will say the Saints would get a huge boost if Morgan comes back and can stay on the field. I covered Morgan throughout his career and I don't think people truly realize how great a player he was, when he was healthy. The Saints have nothing to lose and everything to gain if Morgan comes back.