The free-agency period has been good one way or another for every NFL team. Hence, it’s time to take a look at the positives in our newest series for End Zone Score. Which newcomer to the club was the franchise’s best offseason move and why? We got things started with the 2016 last-place teams in the eight divisions. You can get caught up on the entire series by clicking right here. Now we are onto the clubs that finished third. And that means the New Orleans Saints are in the spotlight.
DE Alex Okafor
Similar to the Indianapolis Colts, the defensive unit of the New Orleans Saints never seems to get significantly better. But it has been an offseason of numerous additions on this side of the football. We all know what offensive-minded head coach Sean Payton and prolific quarterback Drew Brees can do. But the failure to consistently stop the opposition is the biggest reason the club has finished with a 7-9 record three consecutive years and four times in the last five seasons (with a playoff appearance in 2013).
Pass-rushing threat Alex Okafor should help Dennis Allen’s unit immediately. The 2013 fourth-round pick by the Arizona Cardinals was an outside linebacker in that team’s 3-4 scheme. Now with the Saints, the 6’5”, 264-pound performer will line up opposite productive right defensive end Cameron Jordan to give the Saints the potential for more heat on opposing passers.
Okafor’s best season came in 2012, when he played and started in 12 games. He totaled 30 tackles (11 for losses), eight sacks, 11 QB hits, knocked down three passes and managed one interception. He’s not been the same factor since but a change in scenery – along with teaming with Jordan and defensive tackles Nick Fairley and Sheldon Rankins – certainly won’t hurt.
In 2016, New Orleans was dead last in the NFL against the pass, allowed 46 offensive touchdowns (27 via the pass) and totaled only 30 sacks and 21 takeaways. Okafor and other additions such as linebackers A.J. Klein and Manti Te’o could pay big dividends this fall.