Saints, Colts don't need much, but why aren't they even trying?


The rich haven't gotten richer.

Although they've been limited in what they can do in free agency because they fall into the "Final Eight" category of this uncharted offseason without a salary cap, Super Bowl combatants New Orleans and Indianapolis haven't even bothered to venture much into veteran player acquisition. Of course, you don't get to the Super Bowl without having your prototypical roster, but upgrades can always be made.

Instead, the Saints and Colts have let players leave without doing much to replace them. New Orleans' free-agent linebacker Scott Fujita got paid way too much by Cleveland (three years, $14 million) for the Saints to get involved in trying to retain him. Restricted free-agent running back Mike Bell just signed an offer sheet with the Philadelphia Eagles and he could very well be on his way there. And safety Darren Sharper is on the market, although all signs are that he will eventually re-sign with New Orleans.

The biggest buzz the Saints have created in potential veteran player acquisition is bringing in former Oakland running back Justin Fargas, who they are contemplating signing.

The Colts? They've lost backup corners Tim Jennings and Marlin Jackson, cut backup defensive end Raheem Brock and recently released starting guard Ryan Lilja, who then signed with Kansas City. As usual, Indianapolis isn't racing to make any moves. They did add offensive linemen Adam Terry and Andy Alleman, subtle Bill Polian-type additions that could bolster a unit that got handled by the Saints in the Super Bowl.

Both teams have the ability to sign free agents that have been cut by other teams. The Saints can sign an unrestricted free agent due to the loss of Fujita. However, neither team is in a hurry. In fact, the only teams that went deep in the playoffs that have been halfway busy in free agency are the Jets (trade for Antonio Cromartie, signing of LaDainian Tomlinson) and Ravens (trade for Anquan Boldin).

For the Saints, as much as Fujita was a key player and a solid locker-room guy, he missed time because of injuries -- so they were used to playing without him. New Orleans figures to draft an outside linebacker, maybe with its top pick, and I've heard that TCU's highly productive Daryl Washington could be on the radar. Bell was a rotational back that New Orleans can replace with Fargas, in the draft or with another player late in free agency. Or, they can continue to develop bruiser Lynell Hamilton.

As for the Colts, replacing Lilja is somewhat of a concern, since he started every game at left guard last season including the Super Bowl. Indianapolis will probably shuffle some of their current linemen to fill the need and get at least one guard in the draft and see if Terry and or Alleman fit. They want to add some beef. The left side of that offensive line could be a work in progress as Indianapolis still wants to shore up left tackle, although Charlie Johnson, a restricted free agent, was adequate last season.

If the free-agent pool weren't as limited because of the restrictions on players in the uncapped year, the Saints and Colts might be a little more active in free agency. But if it ain't broke, don't fix it -- especially with Indianapolis, which rarely is a player in free agency other than retaining its own.

New Orleans needs to make sure defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove, a restricted free agent, doesn't get away and it needs upgrades at some spots. Remember, the Saints got to the Super Bowl by building a team using all phases: free agency (Drew Brees, Sharper, Jabari Greer), trades (Jonathan Vilma, Jeremy Shockey) and better-than-advertised drafting (Jahri Evans, Marques Colston, Tracy Porter).

Tinkering Eagles

Quarterbacks Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb have been the Eagles players most rumored to be on the move, but they play one of the few positions where there hasn't been change. Philadelphia is shaking things up like crazy, dropping enigmatic guard Shawn Andrews (about time), end Darren Howard and wide receiver Kevin Curtis this week while adding defensive end Darryl Tapp, wide receiver Hank Baskett and signing Bell to an offer sheet.

Looking at some of the moves, including adding former Colts cornerback Marlin Jackson and listing him as a free safety, leads me to believe they are trying to get more physical. Philadelphia was one of the best teams in the NFL until it ran into the rougher Dallas Cowboys at the end of the season. Tapp will provide a rugged anchor end with a high motor and, should they add Bell, they'll replace Brian Westbrook with a more physical runner they need to pair with fullback Leonard Weaver in short-yardage situations.

Meanwhile, McNabb, Vick and Kolb appear locked in, although the constant talk about one of them being moved -- and it's not just media chatter -- makes it seem as if one of them will be dealt at some point. And despite coach Andy Reid's constant denials that it will be McNabb, he is mentioned more in behind-the-scenes trade banter than Vick or Kolb.

I don't see it. If the Eagles don't get it done this season -- McNabb's walk year -- then they will part ways with a lot more players than just McNabb.

L.T. to be put to use

In speaking to someone familiar with the Jets, he was somewhat puzzled, like many of us, that they ditched productive tailback Thomas Jones in favor of former Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson. Jones was reliable and replacing him with someone who has to learn a system and who has more questions about his potential production than Jones is a risk.

With the deed done, Tomlinson could end up getting a sizeable amount of touches, the person said. Projected starter Shonn Greene was bugged by rib injuries for much of last season and his running style could keep him nicked up if he carries too much of the load, this person said. Change-of-pace running back Leon Washington is coming off major knee surgery, so you don't know what you'll get. Though Tomlinson has been slowed by injuries the past few seasons, his early season usage could be measured, leaving him as possibly the freshest running back come midseason.

Broncos, Chargers and Vikings in market for RBs

Denver pulled off one of the first surprises of last year's draft when it took running back Knowshon Moreno with the 12th overall pick -- a decision it made in part because it thought the Chargers could select Moreno when at No. 16. The Broncos aren't expected to draft a running back with the 11th overall pick this year (Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain could be their target), but they remain in the market to add another young running back based on conversations I've had with some of the draft prospects.

As part of the NFL Draft's 75th anniversary, you have a chance to decide the greatest choices of all time.

Tennessee tailback Montario Hardesty told me the Broncos have been in contact. The way Hardesty's stock is rising after his strong senior season and strong combine performance, he might not be around when the Broncos pick in the second round.

Hardesty and Georgia Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer have piqued the interest of the San Diego Chargers, who definitely are in the market for a ball carrier with the release of Tomlinson. Dwyer will meet with the Chargers in the next few weeks -- GM A.J. Smith was at Dwyer's pro day -- and Hardesty said the Chargers also have contacted his agent. San Diego is looking at a lot of backs and the thinking at this point is that if Fresno's Ryan Mathews is available in the first round, he could be their guy.

The Vikings also have expressed some interest in Dwyer and several agents have said that Minnesota plans to add another running back through the draft after losing No. 2 tailback Chester Taylor to Chicago via free agency.

Vikes to draft a QB?

Though the Vikings aren't sure if quarterback Brett Favre is coming back to play in 2010 -- I spoke to someone with the team who said he is hopeful but they have not received an indication either way -- it's likely that they'll draft a quarterback regardless.

Favre, should he return, and Sage Rosenfels will be playing in the final year of their contracts and Jackson will be on a one-year, restricted free-agent tender. One, if not two, of those quarterbacks probably won't be around for 2011, so it's time for Minnesota to add someone to groom when attrition kicks in.

The Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers also are teams that figure to add quarterback depth through the draft. A player to keep on the radar -- and he might not get drafted but, at worst, will be signed as a free agent, is Tennessee's Jonathan Crompton. Crompton drew a lot of attention at Tennessee's pro day this week, which caught me somewhat off guard because he never lived up to his hype upon arrival to the program. He has the physical gifts but it never translated to consistency.

Crompton took his share of the blame for his inconsistency but added he struggled adapting to multiple offensive coordinators and position coaches and two head coaches. He posted his best numbers as a senior (27 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 2,800 yards) under Lane Kiffin.

I found the interest in Crompton interesting because at the combine - Crompton wasn't invited, despite a diluted quarterback group -- an evaluator from a scouting service told me Crompton is the biggest secret heading into the draft and that he could be selected in the middle rounds.



The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop