Safety Marcus Maye. Versatile defensive lineman Kentavius Street. Safety Daniel Sorensen and veteran backup quarterback Andy Dalton. That’s the list of new additions.
The Saints have signed four new players almost two weeks into the free agency period, and two of them are on minimum veteran deals. You will notice that three of them also play on the defensive side of the ball. This despite the fact that last season the Saints ranked 28th in the league in total yards gained, and 30th in 3rd down conversion percentage.
It was, by far, the worst offensive production of the Sean Payton era, averaging a career low for the head coach at 21.4 points per game. It should come as no surprise that it coincided with its first year without Drew Brees at quarterback.
The need for an overhaul offensively is clear.
The Saints did manage to keep Jamies Winston on a team friendly two-year, $28.5 million deal, and wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith on a two-year deal worth $6 million, with $3 million guaranteed.
Former All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas is coming back from injury will be a critical factor in showing signs of improvement. But make no mistake, those two pieces alone won’t be enough to produce the gains new head coach Dennis Allen will want.
The Saints also lost stalwart Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead this week, moving backwards in terms of talent on that side of the ball. So why is it taking so long to see movement in this overhaul, and where do the Saints go from here?
It’s unclear why the Saints have yet to make more moves offensively, but it hasn’t been for lack of trying.
The Deshaun Watson trade situation created a bottleneck in offseason movement league wide. The Saints were heavily involved in those trade discussions, of course, before eventually losing out to the Cleveland Browns. Watson appeared to be the Saints’ offseason priority, as they were willing to give up three first round picks, additional picks in other rounds, and at least one player.
Since then, the Saints have been slow to enact their offseason “Plan B.” The lack of a quick pivot since that potential trade situation is puzzling.
So far, we’ve only heard reports of the Saints losing out to the Chiefs on a bid for wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Still, the lack of movement or pace has fan concern at a fever pitch.
A quick survey of social media will reveal the full blown panic some of the fan base is having over perceived nonchalance and lack of urgency acquiring new talent to improve what was a dismal unit a year ago.
There is good news. Per Sportac, the Saints currently rank #2 in the NFL with over $23 million in cap space. Hard to believe when you consider the Saints began the offseason dead last at ~$75 million over.
Somehow, the Saints brain trust of Mickey Loomis and Khai Harley did this without ever cutting a player. This space was created in order to potentially acquire Watson, but now that they have failed in doing so they should be able to spread this newfound space to acquire a decent amount of talent.
There’s more good news.
A lot of good players remain in free agency without a team. It remains to be seen who the Saints might pursue from here, but here’s a number of offensive players they could consider: WR Julio Jones, WR Jarvis Landry, WR Odell Beckham, Jr., LT Nate Solder, LT Duane Brown, WR Will Fuller, G Ereck Flowers, LT Eric Fisher, RB Melvin Gordon, WR TY Hilton, TE Jimmy Graham, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Emmanuel Sanders, TE Eric Ebron, TE Kye Rudolph, WR AJ Green, TE Blake Jarwin, WR Sammy Watkins, RB David Johnson, RB Marlon Mack and many more.
You may view some of these players as over the hill, but the Saints should be closely studying all of them. Based on where the offense was a year ago and where the roster is now talent wise, they could all represent upgrades at various positions.
The bottom line is that the Saints need to get moving soon. They still have the means to acquire players and there are still players out there. But they can’t afford to sit idle much longer if they want to move in the right direction offensively.
Andrew Juge is the co-host of “The Saints Happy Hour Podcast.”