METAIRIE, La. (AP) -Released from the shackles of the NFL's ``final four'' rule, the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints are diving into the free agent market and starting by taking a close look at defensive ends.
St. Louis Rams defensive ends James Hall and Leonard Little both are of interest to New Orleans, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said on Friday.
Hall was finishing up a visit on Friday and Little was expected to reschedule a visit that he had to call off this week because of a personal conflict, Loomis said.
New Orleans could use another experienced defensive end after releasing veteran Charles Grant last week. But the search was slowed by a league rule for an uncapped season limiting which free agents may be signed by teams that played in conference title games until they've lost free agents of their own.
When linebacker Scott Fujita signed a three-year, $14 million deal with Cleveland, the Saints could start looking at players with expired contracts on other teams.
``Scott just got an offer that was too good to turn down,'' Loomis said. ``He wanted to return to New Orleans. We wanted him to return to New Orleans, but we understand what free agency is. ... Now we've got an opportunity to bring some guys in.''
With Fujita turning 31 and the Saints' roster full of young linebackers, New Orleans could not justify matching the Browns' offer.
Loomis said 2009 draft pick
Loomis would not rule out going after a linebacker in free agency, but acknowledged the Saints' depth at defensive end is thinner.
``We have a need at both of those positions. But we have some guys in the building, probably more guys in the building at the linebacker position than we do at defensive end,'' Loomis said. ``We've also got a lot of draft picks that we get to exercise in April, so hopefully we'll be able to fill both those spots between free agency and the draft.''
A day after meeting with the Browns, former Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme had a visit lined up in New Orleans on Friday and Saturday. Because Delhomme had been released by the Panthers, he did not fall under the ``final four'' rule. But the 35-year-old also would not be competing for a starting role in New Orleans, where
While Cleveland's quarterback situation is less certain and could be more attractive to Delhomme, Loomis said, ``obviously Jake wouldn't take the visit (to New Orleans) if he didn't have some interest.''
Delhomme, a Louisiana native, keeps a permanent residence in his hometown of Breaux Bridge, where much of his family still lives and where he trains thoroughbred race horses with his father.
``We need to have a conversation with Jake and how he sees himself and how he sees his role here before we can say, 'Look, we're willing to sign you,''' Loomis said.
Loomis did not have an update on negotiations with free agent
``Listen, I got all the love in the world for Darren Sharper, I just don't have all the money in the world for Darren Sharper,'' Loomis said. ``If it fits under our salary structure and the resources that we have, then we'll definitely want to have him back. If it doesn't, and he has an opportunity someplace else, then we understand that.''
Last season, the Saints drafted safety
Meanwhile, Loomis reiterated coach Sean Payton's comments that the Saints had no intention of releasing
Loomis declined to discuss whether a raise and contract extension were in the works for Brees, who is entering the fifth year of a six-year, $60 million contract.
``I'm not going to address that,'' Loomis said. ``These contracts are personal issues for players.''