NFC South: Malcom Jenkins
Troy Evans will start at strongside linebacker with Scott Fujita out. Mike McKenzie will start at one cornerback spot in place of Jabari Greer. Malcolm Jenkins will start at the other corner in place of Tracy Porter.
The Saints just sent out the official announcement of the deal. The Saints placed cornerback Leigh Torrence on injured reserve to make room for McKenzie.
A 10-year veteran, McKenzie was a fan favorite when he played for the Saints from 2004 through 2008. With the Saints, McKenzie started 62 of the 63 games he played in and had 12 interceptions and 225 tackles.
Her suffered major knee injuries in each of last two seasons and, at 33, it appeared his career was over. But McKenzie continued to work out on his own and when the Saints began a run of injuries at cornerback, they got back in touch with their former player. Besides Torrence, the Saints played without starters Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter on Sunday and were forced to start rookie Malcolm Jenkins and veteran Randall Gay, who had to leave the game with what he said was a hamstring injury.
The Saints also added veteran cornerback Chris McAlister last week. There is hope Greer, Porter and Gay will be able to play against New England next Monday, but coach Sean Payton said he wouldn’t have a clear picture on all the injuries until later in the week.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
We gave you an update on how each team in the NFC South was progressing on signing its draft picks last week. But there have been a few new deals since then, so it's time for another update.
Rd. 1: Peria Jerry, DT, unsigned
Rd. 2: William Moore, S, four years, terms not available
Rd. 3: Christopher Owens, CB, four years, $2.4 million
Rd. 4: Lawrence Sidbury, DE, four years, $2.2 million
Rd. 5: William Middleton, CB, signed, terms not available
Rd. 5: Garrett Reynolds, OT, four-year deal, $1.75 million
Rd. 6: Spencer Adkins, LB, four-year deal, terms not available
Rd. 7: Vance Walker, DT, signed, terms not available
Rd. 2: Everette Brown, DE, four-year deal, $4.3 million
Rd. 3: Sherrod Martin, DB, unsigned
Rd. 3: Corvey Irvin, DL, unsigned
Rd. 4: Mike Goodson, RB, four-year deal, terms not available
Rd. 4: Tony Fiammetta, FB, four-year deal, terms not available
Rd. 5: Duke Robinson, G, four-year deal, $1.92 million
Rd. 7: Captain Munnerlyn, DB, four-year deal, $1.75 million
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Rd. 1: Josh Freeman, QB, unsigned
Rd. 3: Roy Miller, DT, four-year deal, $2.5 million
Rd. 4: Kyle Moore, DE, four-year deal, terms unavailable
Rd. 5: Xavier Fulton, OT, four-year deal, $1.75 million
Rd. 7: E.J. Biggers, CB, four-year deal, terms not available
Rd. 7: Sammie Stroughter, WR, four-year deal, terms not available
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
While the rest of the world was debating the real "Smash and Dash" last season, the Carolina backfield went in a different direction and dubbed itself "Double Trouble."
That's what the NFC South should do in the draft -- let flash go the same route as "Smash and Dash." What the NFC South -- and we're talking all four teams -- needs to do is forget all the hype fans and other teams are caught up in about offensive skill positions. Heck, just forget offense altogether (at least until later in the draft).
With its first draft pick, each NFC South team should go with a defensive player.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
When I do these team-by-team mailbags, I try to mix up the order to keep fans of the NFC South teams happy. Sometimes, I go in alphabetical order, sometimes I go in reverse alphabetical order and some times I just pick randomly.
I'll make a confession here and let you know why I'm putting the New Orleans Saints second on the list today. After already doing the Panthers' mail and looking ahead at the Bucs' mail, I honestly need a break from all the Julius Peppers and Jay Cutler talk.
The Saints aren't going to be players for either of those two, so let's mix it up a bit. We'll get to your questions on Cutler and the Bucs a bit later.
Shawn in Philly writes: I never seem to get a question answered but here we go. Pierre Thomas seems to be a capable back but there seems to be allot of positive press on him. But do the saints really like him as their starter? I mean didn't they kick the tires on Fred Taylor and had interest in LT. Are they looking at any backs in the draft or FA. Seems like they are holding a spot for someone.
Pat Yasinskas: Shawn, I'm going to start with your question today. Just a note to everybody who writes to the mailbag: I can't answer every question. Many of them are very similar and I try to pick questions that represent what's on everyone's mind. Anyway, let's move to Shawn's question. The Saints like Pierre Thomas very much and he played well last season. He's definitely in their plans -- and so is Reggie Bush, for that matter. But there's always a need for depth at running back and Bush is more of a specialist than an every-down player. The Saints need one more running back in this mix and I think you'll see that come later in free agency or the draft. I strongly suspect this running back will be someone with good size to handle the short-yardage situations. But, no matter who else comes, Thomas is going to be a big factor next season.
Terry Lafayette, La., writes: Greetings Pat!!! As an avid student of pro football, and having played collegiately, I appreciate your expertise more than all other columnests. Keep up the good work!!! What is your opinion of my Saints drafting Wells/Moreno with their 1st round pick, as it looks like Sharper will fill FS hole? If not RB (big need)how would Cushing or Matthews fit Williams' new system?
Pat Yasinskas: Obviously, there's speculation out there about the Saints and running backs. But I'd be surprised if they used their first-round pick on that spot. As I said above, I think they already have one solid runner in Thomas and can add some depth later in the draft or free agency. As it stands right now, the Saints only hold four draft picks and I think their bigger needs are on defense. The linebackers you mentioned could be possibilities, but I think the bigger need is in the secondary.
Allan in Fayetteville, Ark., writes: The Saints continue to add depth to the roster through free agency despite the minimal cap space they are working with. With the draft getting closer they are going to need to generate some cap space at some point. Who is going to have to take a pay cut or maybe just be cut?
Pat Yasinskas: Good point. The Saints have done a nice job making some moves with limited cap room. But they're going to have to make more. Let me point out that contract restructures can be done without pay cuts and there are a number of veterans the Saints could approach to help them out with the cap. In these situations, it's beneficial to the player because he's getting money up front that was scheduled to be paid to him in the future. That said, I still think you should keep an eye on veteran cornerback Mike McKenzie. He's making big money and is coming off his second major injury. Something could happen here.
Kerry in New Orleans writes: It appears the Saints are waiting on something or someone to address the safety issue. Might be a salary issue with Sharper, but I can't understand why this hasn't been addressed. Are they anticipating an upcoming roster move with a player they value more? Can't see Jenkins/Young as the answer.Pat Yasinskas: I think safety Darren Sharper joining the Saints still is a good possibility. Coach Sean Payton told the New Orleans Times-Picayune on Monday that talks are continuing and he expects the situation to play out in a week or two. Even if they sign Sharper, I think Malcolm Jenkins could be a first-round possibility as a cornerback or a safety. Not sure that you'd want a guy learning the safety position to play right away and Sharper could ease that transition. I know there's been talk of moving cornerback Usama Young to free safety, but I think you'll see a veteran like Sharper on this roster before long.
Matt in Westbrook, ME, writes: Pat, I am a Rams fan, but I have a question about the Saints. They STILL have not figured out how to utilize Reggie Bush to his full potential. To me Bush seems like Marshall Faulk (without the toughness and perhaps the smarts) type. Imagine if the Saints had Mike Martz running the offense there, Bush would be putting up pro bowl numbers year in and year out, and fans would fill the seats to see an explosive Martz offense..your thoughts?
Pat Yasinskas: Well, the Saints already fill the Superdome and have an explosive offense. But I agree with your point that they haven't figured out how to use Bush -- so far. But Payton is a very good offensive mind and I think he's well aware of the fact that there's more he can get out of Bush. I'm sure that's something he's thought lots about this offseason and I suspect there may be a few new wrinkles in Bush's role for next season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Despite limited salary-cap space, the Saints continue to be active in free agency.
Mike Triplett reports the Saints are interested in defensive lineman Paul Spicer and center Nick Lickey. They also had defensive lineman Shaun Cody in for a visit last week. Spicer can play end or tackle and Cody is an interior lineman. Pursuing them shows the Saints are looking for insurance in case starting ends Charles Grant and Will Smith have to serve suspensions at the start of the season, after reportedly testing positive for a banned substance last year. Spicer also has a history with new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The two were together in Jacksonville last season.
Third end Bobby McCray and Spicer could be suitable starters for a four-game stint and Spicer's versatility could help the rest of the line the rest of the season. Cody could be viewed as an upgrade over Antwan Lake, who is a free agent and the Saints could consider releasing Hollis Thomas or Brian Young if they sign Cody.
It looks like the Saints are working to shore up their needs before the draft. If they make moves on the defensive line before then, it appears there would be only one glaring need to address with the 14th overall pick. That's the defensive backfield, where Malcolm Jenkins could be a prime target. Jenkins is a cornerback, who some project as a safety.
New Orleans' biggest need is at free safety and the Saints could consider moving Jenkins or cornerbacks Usama Young or Mike McKenzie there. They've also visited with free-agent safety Darren Sharper. He remains a possibility, but no deal appears imminent.