The New Orleans Saints didn't wait for the official opening of NFL free agency before securing one of the league's top prizes and, easily, their top market target.
Quarterback Derek Carr signed his four-year contract on Saturday, filling the franchise's most glaring offseason vacancy, solidifying what Coach Dennis Allen calls the most important position on the field. In nine seasons with the Raiders, Carr set franchise records for completions (3,201), attempts (4,958), completion percentage (64.6), passing yards (35,222) and touchdowns (217), with 99 interceptions. Last year, in 15 games he completed 305 of 502 passes for 3,522 yards and 24 touchdowns, with 14 interceptions.
But having caught the biggest fish doesn't mean there aren't still catches that need to be made for New Orleans, which traditionally has been able to address a significant majority of its roster concerns during free agency, allowing for the team to pick its highest graded player – rather than stretch to fill a need – at each of its respective spots during the NFL Draft.
Perhaps the next noticeable area for the Saints this offseason is defensive tackle. Only one – Prince Emili, who signed a reserve/futures contract – currently is on the roster. From last season's team, David Onyemata and Shy Tuttle are gone (Onyemata agreed to terms with the Atlanta Falcons, Tuttle agreed to terms with the Carolina Panthers), and Kentavius Street is an unrestricted free agent. New Orleans also lost two other defenders: defensive end Marcus Davenport, a first-round pick in 2018 who had nine sacks in 2021, agreed to terms with the Vikings; and linebacker Kaden Elliss agreed to terms with the Falcons. Elliss burst onto the scene last year as an injury fill-in and finished with seven sacks, 10 quarterback hits, two forced fumbles, two passes defensed, seven tackles for loss and 78 tackles.
New Orleans enters free agency with several other notable players on the market, including quarterback Andy Dalton, who started 14 games last season and passed for 2,871 yards, with 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions; running back Mark Ingram, the franchises' all-time leader in rushing yards (6,500) and rushing touchdowns; and receiver Jarvis Landry, a five-time Pro Bowler who was limited to nine games and 25 catches in an injury-riddled 2022 season.
But in addition to signing their desired quarterback, the Saints were able to bolster the tight end position by retaining one of their own restricted free agents. Juwan Johnson, who will be entering his fourth season, caught a career high and team-leading seven touchdowns last season, and had 508 yards on 42 catches.
Other free agents who played significant roles for the Saints over the last two seasons include receiver Marquez Callaway (restricted), who led the team with 698 receiving yards in '21; and defensive back P.J. Williams, a seven-year veteran with 34 starts in 89 games, eight career interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) and 33 passes defensed, and who has filled several positions in the secondary.