The signing isn't surprising. Last week the Saints visited with ex-Buc DE Jimmy Wilkerson, who rejuvenated his stalled career in Tampa Bay the past two seasons. Wilkerson then visited with Seattle, and has now returned to New Orleans to ink a one-year contract.
It is the timing that is surprising. Wilkerson may only be a depth signing, a solid veteran to provide rotation minutes, and isn't guaranteed a job on the 53. But two days before the NFL Draft, when defensive ends are expected to be plentiful at the bottom of the first round, the Saints have moved to fill out their depth chart with a defensive end?
Many teams are in a wait-and-see mode right now with free agents - that is, we'll sign him if we don't get what we're looking for at the top of the draft.
The Saints return three defensive ends from their Super Bowl run - Will Smith, Bobby McCracy and Jeff Charleston, and added ex-Bear free agent Alex Brown with a two-year, $5.5 million contract. With the addition of Wilkerson, the Saints appear to have a trusted, five-man unit to bring to training camp. Typically, NFL teams carry three or four defensive ends on an active gameday roster.
That Wilkerson has been added, albeit with only a one-year deal, could be an indication that the Saints aren't impressed with the ends likely to be available at 32. Which would mean that our Mock Draft v3.0 is - predictably - bunk.
We won't rule out a defensive end in the draft at all, but the Saints appear to have intentionally removed all needs-based draft influence at the defensive end position.