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Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Another Hall of Famer could fit with Saints

By Mike Triplett

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.