Gazzolo: Window of opportunity closing quickly for Saints

By 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 jgazzolo@americanpress.com