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Saints NFC South Free Agent Preview

Pro Football Weekly has a free agent preview on the NFC South, and here’s what they have on the Saints heading into free agency.

Unsigned players: DT Remi Ayodele (4), RB Ladell Betts (9), OT Jermon Bushrod (4), DE Jeff Charleston (4), OLB Danny Clark (11), OLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar (3), FB Heath Evans (10), S Matt Giordano (6), C Jonathan Goodwin (9), RB Lynell Hamilton (2), DE Tony Hargrove (6), S Roman Harper (5), PK Garrett Hartley (3), LB Ramon Humber (2), TE Tory Humphrey (4), RB Julius Jones (7), MLB Kawika Mitchell (8), WR Marvin Mitchell (4), WR Lance Moore (5), OG Carl Nicks (3), S Pierson Prioleau (12), S Chris Reis (4), WR Courtney Roby (5), OLB Scott Shanle (8), S Darren Sharper (14), OT Zach Strief (5), TE David Thomas (5), RB Pierre Thomas (4), CB Leigh Torrence (5), OLB Anthony Waters (3), DE Jimmy Wilkerson (8), RB DeShawn Wynn (4), CB Usama Young (4).

Analysis: With 27 players with four years or more of service due to hit free agency, there could be some significant roster changes in New Orleans. The process of shaping the roster for next season already has begun — the Saints recently released TE Jeremy Shockey, and there is speculation that RB Reggie Bush will be the next to go if he doesn’t agree to a pay cut. Bush’s contract calls for him to make about $11.8 million in 2011. Another back, Thomas, is coming off an injury-plagued season, and head coach Sean Payton revealed that Thomas underwent surgery on his left ankle in January.

Thomas was the leading rusher for New Orleans during its run to the Super Bowl, but the Saints decided not to give him a long-term deal to his liking last offseason and he’ll likely explore options with other teams. Three starters from the offensive line — Bushrod, Goodwin and Nicks — have expiring contracts. Nicks, who is coming off a Pro Bowl season, is due to become a restricted free agent and the Saints probably will tender him at the highest level. The Saints would like to keep Bushrod and Goodwin.

They have 2010 draft picks OT Charles Brown and C Matt Tennant on the roster if Bushrod and Goodwin depart, but would rather give the two young players more time to develop. New Orleans has decisions to make in the secondary, too. Sharper would like to keep playing, and it’s possible that he’ll sign another one-year deal with the Saints at a modest price. Harper was having what some considered a Pro Bowl-caliber season before his awful performance in New Orleans’ playoff loss to Seattle. Re-signing him still will be a priority.

Click HERE to see the other NFC South teams.

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