The Saints have been one of the more active teams during this NFL offseason.
A lot of it has to do with an undeniable need to get better. The 2019 Saints were good enough to win the division — as were the 2018 Saints — and the 2017 Saints. In fact, the Saints have dominated the division in the last three seasons.
Sure, the Panthers tied them for wins in ’17, but the Saints whipped them both times they played in the regular season — and then again in the playoffs (see Sean Payton’s postgame locker room dance).
The three years of divisional dominance, however, has netted zero Super Bowls. Yes, there was a miracle in Minneapolis that Saints fans have had to relive via television ads and replays ad nauseam. Yes, the Rams benefited from the biggest screw job since “Bret screwed Bret” in Montreal.
Zero Super Bowls.
It’s more than a decade since the Lombardi Trophy was paraded down Poydras Street and Saints fans are ready for another one. Drew Brees has all the records, he’s made a lot of money and he is undeniably the greatest player in franchise history.
Brees has his share of critics who feel his concern for records and squeezing every dime he can out of the organization became more important than winning. What he did a couple of weeks ago when he signed a 2-year, $50 million deal showed his undeniable commitment to winning another championship.
The onus was then put squarely on Mickey Loomis’ shoulders and what he, Payton and Jeff Ireland have done this offseason has been remarkable.
In addition to resigning Brees, the Saints resigned David Onyemata, a key component to the defense. They picked up the fifth-year options on Marcus Lattimore and Ryan Ramcyzk. They restructured the contracts of Kiko Alonso, Terron Armstead, Patrick Robinson and Michael Thomas.
They created cap space where none existed.
Gone are Teddy Bridgewater to Carolina and Vonn Bell to Cincinnati. Two key components to the team’s success, especially last season. But business is business.
In are Malcolm Jenkins — back where he started his career — and Emmanuel Sanders — a guy who has been to three Super Bowls with three different teams.
They’re trying to win.
But so is the rest of the NFC South. The Buccaneers traded 30 interceptions in Jameis Winston for Tom Brady. The Falcons traded Devonta Freeman for All-Pro Todd Gurley. The Panthers now have Bridgewater and added Robby Anderson.
The gap has closed on the Saints dominance.
On paper, the Saints are still the best team in the division. They should win the NFC South for a fourth straight season.
But who cares? The division isn’t the prize. Making the playoffs isn’t the prize.
The Super Bowl is the prize.
The front office has positioned itself to make legitimate runs at the next two Super Bowls. Brees deserves credit for accepting the 14th highest salary for a quarterback when he could have demanded much more. Loomis deserves credit for another offseason of salary-cap sorcery.
There still may be more moves to come, but the moves that have been made are the ones that needed to be made. The Saints went from playoff contender to Super Bowl contender.
Now they just have to get it done.