In a flurry of free agent signings this week, the New Orleans Saints agreed to terms with two of their own and another that most recently played for a division rival, shoring up two starting positions and securing known, quality depth for another.
Unrestricted free agent right tackle Zach Strief and restricted free agent receiver Joseph Morgan agreed to five- and one-year deals to remain with the Saints, and unrestricted free agent fullback Erik Lorig agree to terms on a four-year deal after spending his first four seasons with Tampa Bay.
Strief, a seventh-round draft pick by the Saints in 2006, started 15 regular-season games and both playoff games last season and has been the team's starting right tackle since 2011, with 38 regular-season and four playoff starts during that time.
His re-signing helps solidify the Saints' offensive line; four of last year's five starters are assured of being back in 2014 – Strief, left tackle Terron Armstead and Pro Bowl guards Ben Grubbs and Jahri Evans. Strief, an offensive captain, had one of his best seasons last season, as the Saints ranked fourth in yards per game.
Morgan's return also is a crucial move for the Saints, providing the offense with a speedy deep threat that's capable of converting long touchdowns.
He missed last season after tearing his ACL in a training camp scrimmage. But in 2012, Morgan played in 14 games, with five starts, and caught 10 passes for 379 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 37.9 yards per reception. Last season, Saints rookie receiver Kenny Stills led the NFL with a 20-yard average per reception.
In Lorig, the Saints will add a former seventh-round draft pick that has appeared in 56 games, with 24 starts at fullback and tight end. That kind of versatility – he also plays special teams – is a valuable commodity for the multifaceted Saints offense.
Lorig originally was drafted as a defensive end and converted to fullback/tight end early in his rookie season, and blocked for two different 1,000-yard rushers, while also catching 30 passes for 193 yards with one touchdown and contributing on special teams with 17 tackles.
Last season, he appeared in 15 games with nine starts and recorded 11 receptions for 47 yards.