The Saints also have last year’s first-rounder, Sheldon Rankins, at the position along with David Onyemata and Tyeler Davison. If he still has any gas in the tank, McDaniels brings trustworthy depth for a defense that has faltered for years.
Most remember McDaniels as a core piece of that dominant 2013 Seahawks club that put a hurt on Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. This New Orleans defense is a million miles away from that unit, but McDaniels is the latest addition to help turn the tide.
The former LSU star running back is visiting the New Orleans Saints’ facility, according to ESPN’s Adam Caplan. He is there as part of the club’s annual workout for local draft prospects, although he met with team officials only without working out, per the Times-Picayune. As such, his meeting with the club does not count against the Saints’ allotment of 30 pre-draft visits with prospects.
The Saints hold the No. 11 overall pick of the NFL draft. If they want to acquire the New Orleans native for their backfield, however, that pick wouldn’t appear to be early enough. Four of five NFL.com analysts project Fournette to be selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 4 overall, and if he gets past the Jaguars, the Carolina Panthers loom at No. 8 overall with a need at the position.
Two of the Saints top offensive linemen, Max Unger and Terron Armstead, have undergone surgery. New Orleans traded speedy No. 1 receiver Brandin Cooks, replacing him with speedy No. 3 receiver Ted Ginn. Sean Payton added Adrian Peterson to an already crowded backfield, then traded up in the draft to add shifty tailback Alvin Kamara.
The Saints flirted with drafting quarterback Patrick Mahomes and linebacker Reuben Foster in the first round, and instead landed starting corner Marshon Lattimore and left tackle Ryan Ramczyk. Starting defensive tackle Nick Fairley got tests on his heart condition, the severity of which is in question and could conceivably end his career.
“This guy is in the Christian McCaffrey-type role,” one scout told Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “McCaffrey has done it longer. Kamara has limited carries.”
As we’ve discussed since the Saints added Peterson, Sean Payton utilized committee backfields to exploit each player’s strength. Given what New Orleans paid to snag Kamara, you can bet the offensive guru has a plan to deploy the running back as a weapon on the ground and in the passing game.
When Byrd entered free agency following the 2013 season, he was one of the most highly coveted players on the market — including being listed as the No. 1 available on Around the NFL’s top 101 free agents that offseason. He was later named the biggest free-agent flop by Around the NFL following the 2014 season. Byrd signed a six-year contract with the Saints with $28 million in guaranteed money to come to New Orleans.
Byrd never matched those expectations. His career there got off to a bad start as he suffered a torn meniscus just four games into his first season with his new team. He totaled just three interceptions the next two years in New Orleans. Byrd had nine interceptions in his rookie campaign alone.
While flipping draft picks for an established playmaker seems like a prudent move for a franchise that has repeatedly swung and missed on defensive additions, the Saints appear to value those selections more highly at this stage.
New Orleans owns two first-round picks (11, 32), a high second-rounder (42) and two third-round picks (76, 103). In a draft deep at defensive back, and the Saints needing playmakers at every level to improve a limp defense, sinking multiple assets to acquire Butler doesn’t seem as sexy as a few months ago.