Associated Press photos of Nick Fairley.
You're no fool, on April 1 or any other day, for submitting to the New Orleans Saints Mailbag. So here we go, with the weekly edition.
@jkrek0: So, now that we have Nick Fairley, are we still drafting linebacker or defensive line? Do you prefer LSU's Deion Jones or Notre Dame's Jaylon Smith?
JD:I don't think the Saints feel they totally solved the puzzle on the defensive line with the addition of Fairley, so there's no reason to believe they wouldn't take a defensive tackle or rush end with the No. 12 pick. There's no such luxury as having too many quality defensive linemen, especially for a team that's looking to upgrade its pass rush (31 sacks last season and 34 in '14, after posting 49 in '13). And since the Saints made a huge dip into free agency at linebacker (James Laurinaitis, Craig Robertson and Nate Stupar), it seems the early lean in the draft would be toward line help. Now, as for the preference between Jones and Smith, I'll take the guy that I know can play right now (Jones) over the guy with the possible nerve damage in his knee (Smith), who possibly never will be the same. I know Smith was an animal in college when healthy, but his immediate future seems a bit iffy. If you're a playoff team, you can take that chance. If not, you want your odds to be higher that your high draft pick will succeed in the immediate future.
@saints_news9: Do you think the Saints will address the defensive end hole in free agency? Greg Hardy?
JD:It's possible that the position will be addressed in free agency – more likely, in the draft – but I'd be surprised if Hardy is a consideration. Not because he isn't talented; obviously, he has been and still could be premier pass rusher. But the Saints went to great pains to eradicate their locker room of problem children following the 2014 season. Hardy is carrying more baggage than Samsonite. (Did you see his act in Dallas last year? If the Cowboys won't even entertain having him back, and that franchise appears to not mind a locker room or sideline distraction or two, then that says plenty.) He doesn't appear to fit the profile of a player that the Saints want for the culture they're trying to re-establish. I'd never say never, but I'm definitely leaning toward never.
@whodatnation96: Do you think our defense is going to go beast in 2016, and do you feel like we need a new cornerback since Brandon Browner was released?
JD:If going beast means a jump from last in the league in points allowed and next-to-last in yards allowed per game into the top 10 in those categories, that's a pretty steep climb. But the good news is, I don't think the Saints defense needs to make that kind of jump. If it can be middle-of-the-pack, maybe No. 15 to 20 in points allowed (and no defensive stat is more important than that one), then New Orleans will be fine. We know the Saints offense is going to score and it's going to be in the top 10, so the defense doesn't have to be lock-down. It just has to get off the field more regularly on third down, create a few more turnovers and pressure the opposing quarterback more often (the latter two go hand in hand). As for cornerback, Keenan Lewis is healthy and that should more than make up for the departure of Browner in the starting lineup. The Saints are high on Damian Swann, P.J. Williams is talented and will get a shot to play and Kyle Wilson is back. They might pick up someone else in the draft or as a late free agent, but replacing Browner shouldn't be a Herculean task.
@UncleWreckum: What are your thoughts on as to whether the Saints would ever entertain the idea of trading the 12th overall pick in the draft.
JD:Of course they will. For the right price, they'd have to consider moving down in the draft. However, the price has to be right and the player that the Saints covet in the draft would have to be available for them after a move down. If moving down gets them out of position to draft a player who can help this year, then there isn't much use in moving down. But if offers are made, they'd be derelict not to listen and consider whether a move would be worth it.
@jdandjosiah: What is the Saints' plan for the future at quarterback with an aging Drew Brees nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career?
JD:Remember Garrett Grayson? Third-round pick last year, No. 75 pick overall? The guy that some fans were begging the Saints to start when Brees tore his plantar fascia tendon late last season? He's still on the roster, and the Saints still like him. When/if that feeling dissipates, then they might dip back into the draft in search of Brees' eventual replacement. But if you saw the NFL free agent quarterback class this offseason, finding a quarterback that way appears to be just as much a roll of the dice as drafting one. Another year of grooming for Grayson will provide a clearer picture of whether or not he's the quarterback of the future.
@RobJF: Any chance Drew Brees will restructure his contract similar to Tom Brady, with the goal of winning another ring soon?
JD:Brees and the Saints are working on a contract extension. Whether it will resemble Brady's when and if it happens, I don't know, but the expectation is that a deal will be consummated. However, if one isn't done, that doesn't mean he doesn't want to win another ring. A contract negotiation is just that, and each side is pursuing a deal that's palatable to it. If an accord can't be reached, it simply means that the business aspect of the relationship wasn't harmonious regarding that particular issue, not that the player or the franchise doesn't have a goal of winning.
@NewportDragon83: I saw the Saints at Wembley Stadium in London in 2008, where we beat the Chargers 37-32. Are there any plans to come back?
JD:The league makes the call on that one. I've never been to London, so a trip wouldn't bother me, but it seems to be a trip that's taxing for players and for an organization.
@SAINTOEAUX: What plans do we have for cornerback, Delvin Breaux and Keenan Lewis?
JD:For starters, you got it. If Lewis is healthy, he and Breaux should complement each other well, with Breaux evolving into a guy that opponents might choose to test less and less. Beyond them, there are some unknowns (how good is P.J. Williams, can Damian Swann play a full season, will the position be supplemented in the draft or bolstered by a late free agent signee?). But Breaux and Lewis are known commodities.
@lksmddk94: Who is your favorite target for the Saints defensively in this year's draft?
JD:I'm not a "name" guy, as much as a "position" guy. Seeing them pick a pass rusher wouldn't hurt my feelings. I'll trust the team to know which rush end best fits its defense, and whether that guy is available to them at No. 12 and is worth that value.
@anj3w504: I always wanted to ask: Why don't the Saints use double running back plays, like when we had Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister?
JD:Probably, it was more possible to do so then because Bush was as much a receiver as he was a running back, and maybe even more so. Lining him up in the slot didn't diminish the receiver position. And Deuce, though he offered more versatility as a receiver earlier in his career, was more of a between-the-tackles hammer at that stage. A similar dynamic might not have existed at the position since then. In terms of scoring and moving the ball, the Saints don't seem to miss it much and the running backs since Deuce have tended to be a bit smaller. However, Tim Hightower offered some big-back punishment down the stretch last season, and he's a player that the Saints want back for 2016. I don't know if his presence means the Saints will pull out some of the formations to which you refer, but he offers the big-back element.