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Not surprising to see Saints, Patrick Robinson go separate ways

METAIRIE, La. – It’s not a big surprise that the New Orleans Saints let cornerback Patrick Robinson get away to the San Diego Chargers in free agency on Thursday.

As I wrote before, although the Saints have repeatedly shown faith in the potential of their former first-round draft pick over the past five years, both sides were probably ready for a change of scenery after he experienced so many highs and lows in New Orleans. The Saints aggressively targeted veteran Brandon Browner right away in free agency to help upgrade the position with a more physical press corner.

However, losing Robinson and releasing Corey White last week does thin out the Saints’ cornerback group a bit behind solid starters Keenan Lewis and Browner. For now, young backups Terrence Frederick, Brian Dixon and Stanley Jean-Baptiste are next in line – though it’s possible the Saints could use one of their five draft picks in the first three rounds to further supplement the position.

Frederick, 25, played well in a brief cameo as the Saints’ No. 2 starter over the final three games last year, but he has only been active for five career games in his three-year NFL career.

Jean-Baptiste, 24, was a second-round draft pick last year who barely played as a rookie even while the Saints rotated in a number of different players at the struggling position. Coaches Sean Payton and Rob Ryan kept insisting that they always considered Jean-Baptiste more of a long-term developmental project as a big, physical former wide receiver.

Dixon, 24, earned playing time right away as a fast, athletic undrafted rookie last year – especially because of his special-teams ability. But he got picked on when he was in the lineup on defense even when he was in good position, which led to some highs and lows.

All three of those corners could vie for bigger roles in 2015.

The Saints could also consider returning to their three-safety formation in nickel packages, as they did for most of the 2013 season, since they’re a lot deeper at safety with Jairus Byrd, Rafael Bush and Vinnie Sunseri expected to return from injuries in a position group that also includes Kenny Vaccaro, Pierre Warren, Jamarca Sanford, Marcus Ball and Kenny Phillips.