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Monday, April 7, 2014
Recapping Saints’ dizzying offseason

By Mike Triplett

After another flurry of activity to end this past week, now seems like a good time to rehash all of the New Orleans Saints’ comings and goings in free agency this offseason.

The Saints have added four new players, with safety Jairus Byrd and cornerback Champ Bailey as the headliners.

They re-signed seven of their own free agents, including starting right tackle Zach Strief and part-time starting linebacker Parys Haralson. They also placed the franchise tag on tight end Jimmy Graham.

And they’ve parted ways with at least 12 players -- a list that includes offensive starters running back Darren Sproles, receiver Lance Moore and now center Brian de la Puente, who agreed to a deal with the Chicago Bears on Sunday. That list will grow to 13 if the Saints don’t match the offer sheet that restricted free agent safety Rafael Bush signed last week with the Atlanta Falcons.

All told, it’s hard to say whether the Saints were “winners” or “losers” in free agency this year. But it’s clear that they had an aggressive plan to release some longtime veterans and invest in other areas. Everyone they’ve lost so far has been by choice.

New Orleans’ surging defense got even better, and the Byrd signing should have the biggest impact of any move the Saints made this offseason.

However, if the offense didn’t get worse, it’s at least now loaded with question marks.

The Saints will need a number of new players to step up in key roles. The loss of Sproles will probably hurt the most --though the Saints’ depth at running back obviously made them feel comfortable enough to trade him to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Here’s the full list of moves:

Added:
S Jairus Byrd (formerly with Buffalo Bills)
CB Champ Bailey (Denver Broncos)
FB Erik Lorig (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
S Marcus Ball (CFL’s Toronto Argonauts)

Re-signed:
RT Zach Strief
LB Parys Haralson
LB Ramon Humber
OLB Keyunta Dawson
QB Luke McCown
WR Joe Morgan
K Shayne Graham

Lost:
RB Darren Sproles (traded to Philadelphia Eagles)
S Malcolm Jenkins (signed with Philadelphia Eagles)
C Brian de la Puente (Chicago Bears)
WR Lance Moore (Pittsburgh Steelers)
S Roman Harper (Carolina Panthers)
FB Jed Collins (Detroit Lions)
OT Charles Brown (New York Giants)
DE Tom Johnson (Minnesota Vikings)

Still in limbo:
TE Jimmy Graham (unsigned franchise tag)
S Rafael Bush (Saints have until Tuesday to match offer sheet by Falcons)

Still unsigned:
DE Will Smith (released by Saints)
CB Jabari Greer (released by Saints)
LB Jonathan Vilma (Saints announced they won’t re-sign)
DE Kenyon Coleman (plans to retire)
WR Robert Meachem
LB Will Herring
S Jordan Pugh