Saints Raid The AFC East For Talent

The New Orleans Saints acquired players from the AFC East, namely a pair of former starters. But the question now is: Did they get the short end of the stick?

The Saints had an eventful and busy first week of the new league year when free agency and the trading period kicked off on Feb. 29.

Adding key pieces on the defensive ball, while keeping their offensive line and wide receivers corps intact were the main goals for the Saints. And they worked extremely hard at accomplishing those things in the first few days of the signing period.

While getting starting left guard Jamar Nesbit and center Jonathan Goodwin re-signed before free agency actually began, the Saints worked on a deal that brought middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, a former NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, from the New York Jets for an undisclosed draft pick.

After obtaining Vilma, the Saints continued to look hard at upgrading their defense and signed former New England Patriots cornerback Randall Gay and former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Bobby McCray.

Jonathan Vilma
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Those three additions should help bolster a defense that allowed 361.3 total yards and more than 24 points a game last season. While McCray was a big addition to a front-four rotation that already includes starting ends Will Smith and Charles Grant, Vilma and Gay were important pickups.

Vilma, who is coming off knee surgery that limited him to seven games last season, will be counted on to give the Saints more athleticism and toughness in the middle. He struggled when the Jets switched to a 3-4 defense under Eric Mangini, so he should feel back at home in Gary Gibbs' 4-3.

On the other hand, Gay is expected to bring some help to a pass defense that was torched repeatedly last season. The Saints ranked 30th in passing yards allowed at 245.3 yards a game and they tied for the most passing TDs allowed at 32.

Gay was a starter for the Patriots and has played more man-to-man coverage than Jason David, who struggled mightily last season in switching from the Indianapolis Colts' Cover 2 scheme.

The signing of Gay will also help considering veteran Mike McKenzie will be coming back a torn ACL that he suffered in Week 16 last season. As a result, he'll likely miss a good portion of the team's off-season workouts.


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