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Gazzolo: Window of opportunity closing quickly for Saints

Last Modified: Saturday, March 16, 2013 8:30 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

Sometimes the window closes on you, sometimes others close it on your head.

The Saints are seeing their window of opportunity closing quickly, on their heads, by the hands of others.

The first few days of free agency have not gone well for the Saints.

They have lost a pro bowl offensive lineman, a backup quarterback and only added a corner to their roster.

Keenan Lewis, a native of New Orleans, will have a happy homecoming thanks to a five-year deal he inked with the Saints. Nice fit, small move.

Then they re-signed Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma, two members of the Bounty Boys, if you prefer. Both were key figures in that mess.

Both are two years older as well.

Not the type of splash a team hoping to make a comeback from an 8-8 season is hoping to make.

While many believe last year’s record was more a product of the mess off the field rather than that on it, one has to wonder if standing still gets the Saints back to where they want to be, among the NFL’s elite.

Meanwhile, some of the others in both the Saints’ division and NFC have made big moves.

The Falcons, who came within a game of capturing a place in the Super Bowl, got much better.

Atlanta re-signed tight end Tony Gonzalez then went out and picked up workhorse running back Steven Jackson, giving more power to an already explosive offense. Add the fact the Falcons kept their top offensive lineman and you can see this is a team serious about winning.

If that is not enough for the Saints to worry about, there is also the way Seattle and San Francisco have gone about adding talent to their pools.

The Seahawks picked up Percy Harvin while the 49ers, the defending NFC champs, traded for Anquan Boldin. Both receivers give their playoff teams more depth on the outside and give their young quarterbacks another weapon.

What have the Saints done so far? Not much.

They are still a team which will live or die on the right arm of Drew Brees.

They seem to have passed, or missed out, on getting another New Orleans native to take a look at helping in the secondary.

Ed Reed, the All-Pro safety from Baltimore is still out there. He was in Houston last week, where the Texans used their geographic closeness to New Orleans as a selling point.

Why the Saints didn’t try this seems a big strange. Reed would give them a swagger on defense missing since the Super Bowl season.

Reed may not be the best safety in the game, but he does leave an impact on an opposing offense. That’s something the Saints dearly need.

Of course, the Saints did re-sign the biggest of free agents when they got Sean Payton to sign on the dotted line. It was a loss this organization would have been hard pressed to overcome.

Payton, along with Brees, is the Saints. Both are the faces of a franchise that has over the years done far more losing than winning.

Both have been rewarded with giant contracts to show the team’s and city’s love for them. However, Brees is not getting any younger and the team surrounding him hasn’t gotten much better.

Thus, time seems to be running out on the Saints’ window of opportunity.

This is not to say all hope is lost. A few key signings and a good draft would be helpful.

Come next fall the Saints will likely put an offense on the field worthy of Super Bowl talk. They will be exciting, score points, gain yards and throw the ball all over the yard.

Just like last year.

But unless they find a way to address the needs on the other side of the ball, or make the moves like those being made by other NFC powers, that won’t be enough.

Just like last year.

The window may not be closed completely, but without a few moves forthcoming there isn’t a lot of air getting through it either.

And the Falcons are just one of the teams with their hands pressed on top, ready to shut it down for good.

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Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at

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