The New Orleans Saints have seemed like a team that almost certainly would take a defensive player to upgrade their defense that finished with the most yards allowed in the league in 2012. That was until Jermon Bushrod left in free agency to join the Chicago Bears, leaving a vacancy at left tackle. One that could be filled by Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson, who has a visit scheduled with the Saints on Tuesday, according to Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times.
To get Johnson, though, the Saints would almost certainly have to trade up, as he is widely considered to be the third of an elite tier of three offensive tackles that are all expected to be taken in the top 10. That's a scenario that might not be out of the question for head coach Sean Payton, who told Jensen that the team's current situation at left tackle "keeps him up at night."
If the Saints don't draft a tackle they have Charles Brown, a second-round draft pick in 2010, and Marcel Jones, a seventh-round pick in 2012. But neither player has proven enough to allow the Saints to comfortably enter the 2013 season with their current depth chart at the position.
Even if the Saints do take a player with the No. 15 pick, Gene Higginbotham of Canal Street Chronicles isn't convinced that they'd be a reliable option to protect Drew Brees:
I just don't know if the Saints will be able to find a starter with the 15th pick. The consensus - and there is no guarantee when it comes to the Saints - is that they will use this pick to further rebuild the defense. Even if they could sneak a tackle in during the first round, my nerves would be on edge every week wondering if a rookie would be able to protect the Drew Brees' blindside.
Just how high would the Saints have to trade up to secure Johnson, one of the top three tackles in the NFL Draft? While some are projecting all three tackles could be selected in the top five, the most common landing place for Johnson in mock drafts is at the seventh pick to the Arizona Cardinals. If he manages to escape the top 10, it's hard to imagine the left tackle-needy San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins both passing on Johnson with the No. 11 and No. 12 picks, respectively.
The Saints are without their second and seventh-round picks in the draft, making a trade up to acquire Johnson a tough bargain considering the team's defensive needs. It's possible that the team could be desperate enough to protect their $100 million investment at quarterback that such a move could be necessary.