Many point to ‘Bountygate’ when discussing major obstacles obstructing the New Orleans Saints‘ return to the Super Bowl in 2012, or even why this perennial contender may have missed its window.
Perhaps the bigger issue facing them this offseason wasn’t the ripple effect from Roger Goodell‘s suspension, but years of awful secondary play. Coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis took their lumps from the league office and now put their squad a step closer to returning as NFL champs, pouncing on free agent cornerback Keenan Lewis.
Lewis ($26.3 million, 10.5 million guaranteed) comes over from the Pittsburgh Steelers where he at times outplayed Ike Taylor and was forced into covering opponents’ No. 1 wide outs when Taylor went down. The 26-year-old improved down the stretch in 2012, excels at attacking the ball in air and enters his prime.
Among cornerbacks who played at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps in 2012, the Saints’ corps were graded out very poorly by Pro Football Focus: Jabari Greer (60th), Patrick Robinson (89th) and Corey White (100th) averaged out very low while Lewis (40th) does land significantly higher.
Granted, what’s uglier is using that metric for comparing the Saints’ starting safeties to the rest of the NFL in 2012: Roman Harper finished 87th and Malcolm Jenkins (88th), out of 88 qualifying safeties. This makes having a good corner all the more critical.