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Team needs: New Orleans Saints

Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis

NFL football New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, left, and general manager Mickey Loomis in the first half of an NBA basketball game between the New Orleans Hornets and the Miami Heat in New Orleans, Friday, March 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)


With the NFL Draft approaching, we’re taking a team-by-team look at the needs of each club. Up next is the team with the No. 15 overall selection, the New Orleans Saints. They’re short a second-rounder from the bounty penalty, which takes away a chance to fix the worst defense in league history.

Outside linebacker: While he’s certainly a useful part, the fact the addition of Victor Butler was deemed so important is telling. He can help teach new coordinator Rob Ryan’s 3-4 system, and has been a good pass-rusher in spot duty behind DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer in Dallas. But the Saints had no one to speak of to fill the role previously, as everyone else would have been a square peg into a round hole after years of acquiring 4-3 players.

Adding a pass-rusher with some pop will be crucial to fixing the side which gave up more yards last year than any other team, and local product Barkevious Mingo could fit in nicely (plus, it gives me a cheap excuse to write the name Barkevious Mingo, which is wonderful).

Offensive tackle: When you’ve invested as heavily in a quarterback as the Saints have, protecting him is a must. But the Saints have a hole at left tackle after Jermon Bushrod followed his old position coach Aaron Kromer to Chicago, and the only options now are backup Charles Brown and former draft bust Jason Smith. Brown’s an acceptable fill-in, but you’d prefer to have a better plan than that.

Brees has a quick enough delivery to buy them a little time (and excuse a lower grade of offensive line), but they need to upgrade here, and have done research on tackles who will be drafted far higher than 15th.

Wide receiver: It’s still a good group, but adding someone with speed would certainly help. Though he’s been a disappointment in San Diego, Robert Meachem played a specific role for them, and backfilling with someone who can stretch the field is a need.

Safety: They brought in Jim Leonhard, who is a fine backup and spot player. But they need to find a playmaker for the middle of the field, to replace the pedestrian Roman Harper and Malcom Jenkins as soon as possible.

The Saints can’t possibly fix all their defensive issues in a single offseason, even if they had all their picks, which they don’t. They made a quick run at cornerback Keenan Lewis and signed defensive end Kenyon Coleman, but need more help there as well. They also need to find a young quarterback, as backup Chase Daniel split for Kansas City.

Having Brees reunited with back-from-Elba coach Sean Payton gives them a little flexibility there, as the expected offensive uptick will limit the need for Ryan to turn the defense into the 1985 Bears. But the Saints made history last year with their porosity, and now they’re changing the scheme to one that’s an odd fit for the existing personnel.

Maybe that’s a good thing, but to expect there won’t be a rough transition seems unrealistic.