While the New Orleans Saints had a very productive 2011 campaign, winning the NFC South and finishing second overall in the NFC with a 13-3 record, their failure to make it past the divisional round has left many fans saying ‘what if.’ As in ‘what if our pass defense had not been among the worst in the league?’ It’s safe to assume that Saints management will be working overtime this offseason to correct that deficiency.

The Saints, by virtue of their 13-3 record last season, would have had the 27thpick overall in the first round of April’s Draft. Yet they traded away that pick last season to New England in order to obtain the pick that allowed them to select running back Mark Ingram in last season’s Draft.

Without a first round pick in 2012, the Saints may need to go the route of free agency to fill their biggest holes during this offseason. Certainly one could make the case that they should go after a top flight defensive back, as their secondary was exposed on many occasions in 2011. That might prove to be a tall order, seeing as how the more elite corners, including Jonathan Joseph and Nnamdi Asomugha, were signed to contracts with other teams prior to the start of last season.

There is also a case to be made that the Saints’ pass rush is in dire need of a fix as well.  Defensive end Will Smith did finish second on the team in sacks with 6.5, but it was no secret that the Saints were most effective in getting to the quarterback when they blitzed.
That may be why the Saints’ top priority this offseason would be to sign someone like Houston Texans’ defensive end Mario Williams. Not only does Williams provide another edge rusher to complement Smith, but his presence on the defensive line would allow someone like safety Roman Harper, the team leader in sacks last year, to stay back in coverage more often.

The New Orleans Saints were once again knocking on the door in 2011, only to have it shut by the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round of the playoffs. If they want to get back to the Super Bowl, they will first need to upgrade their defense. Signing a free agent like defensive end Mario Williams would be a huge step toward that end.