The New Orleans Saints once again fell short of making the Super Bowl. Sean Payton’s team finished the season with a 13-3 record, but they just missed out on a first-round bye. Then they were upset by the sixth-seeded Vikings in the Wild Card Round.
Now they face an offseason of transition. All three of their quarterbacks (Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, and Taysom Hill) are scheduled to be free agents. Brees announced he would be returning and Hill is expected to as well, so quarterback isn’t a need — beyond figuring out what to do when Brees ultimately does retire.
Are the Saints still one of the league’s best teams? Can they get one more Super Bowl run out of Brees? Those are the questions to answer this offseason after another heartbreaking playoff loss.
New Orleans Saints (13-3), lost in Wild Card Round
The Saints entered the offseason with just over $10 million in cap space, so the top order should be creating some room. Once they do that, they have a couple of long-standing needs to address, in addition to finding a quarterback of the future.
Before free agency:
- Wide receiver: Michael Thomas is arguably the best receiver in the NFL after breaking the single-season reception record, but the Saints need to get him some help. The draft is a good place to start — the wide receiver class this year is deep.
- Cornerback: New Orleans has some big decisions to make at cornerback. Eli Apple and P.J. Williams will be free agents, while Janoris Jenkins carries a $11.25 million cap hit in 2020. Jenkins was good in limited time with the Saints, but they need to create cap room somehow. It would be best if they could extend Jenkins to bring down his cap number.
- Offensive line: Andrus Peat is a free agent, so the Saints have a major hole at the left guard spot. Keeping the 41-year-old Brees upright should be a high priority for New Orleans, whether that means bringing back Peat if they can afford it, or signing someone else.
What Canal Street Chronicles wants most this offseason: Mickey Loomis and the New Orleans front office needs to bring in some help for Brees on offense after the future Hall of Famer announced his return for the 2020 season. Thomas at wide receiver cannot do this alone. The Saints also need a guard who is adept in both pass protection and run blocking, and someone ideally who can also play tackle in a pinch when Terron Armstead ultimately misses time due to injury. On defense, the Saints will have to lock up a second cornerback to pair with Marshon Lattimore. — Christopher Dunnells
After free agency:
The Saints have done a lot of work with extensions and restructuring contracts to create some cap space, which is great because they needed it. Still, the team managed to re-sign Drew Brees, brought in Emmanuel Sanders to be a No. 2 receiver, and filled the void left by Vonn Bell with Malcolm Jenkins. Lowering Janoris Jenkins’ cap hit was another major win.
- Linebacker: While the Saints have three good linebackers in theory, there are some issues. Alex Anzalone and Kiko Alonso both have a lengthy injury history, and if they get hurt again, Demario Davis is left by himself. The Saints could use an upgrade at the position.
- Cornerback: Restructuring the contract of Jenkins was only the first shoe to drop. The Saints also lost Eli Apple in free agency. Lattimore is elite, but they need a better option at nickel and someone to potentially take over for Jenkins in the near future.
- Offensive line: The Saints brought back Peat at the left guard spot, which is fine but it doesn’t move the needle. They should look to add an interior lineman or two in the NFL Draft.
After the draft:
The Saints only had four picks in the draft, but the first three should all be able to help the team make it back to the playoffs. Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz, a first-rounder, was the best center in his class. Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun and Dayton tight end Adam Trautman could have easily gone higher than the third round. New Orleans got good value there, with both likely contributing right away.
The Saints must feel good about their secondary because they didn’t add any depth at cornerback. They did make headlines after the draft, though, when they signed Jameis Winston to be Brees’ backup for the low price of $1.1 million.