This has already been one of the more unpredictable offseasons in New Orleans Saints’ history.
If you had asked me the likelihood of Michael Thomas and Jameis Winston both remaining on the Saints three weeks ago, I would have given it less than a 1% chance. And yet here we are with both players back on big salary reductions to ease the cap burden. Andrus Peat has done the same.
Those returns were beneficial both in retaining good players and ameliorating the Saints’ cap situation, but the team also took some lumps. The Saints lost a flurry of players on the first day of free agency. David Onyemata and Kaden Elliss joined the Falcons, Andy Dalton and Shy Tuttle both joined the Panthers, Deonte Harty joined the Bills, and Marcus Davenport joined the Vikings. While the Saints were in line for compensatory draft picks next offseason thanks to these losses, they left a significant roster void. Mickey Loomis acted swiftly to address this.
Over the past several days, the Saints have gotten significantly under the cap, which required a heavy lift, and then they added Chiefs DT Khalen Saunders, Jets DT Nathan Shepherd, Lions RB Jamaal Williams, and Chargers OT Storm Norton. The Saints have also re-signed key contributors in TE Juwan Johnson, S JT Gray, and P Blake Gillikin. And, of course, what can’t go unmentioned in the pre-free agency move to acquire QB Derek Carr which changed the landscape of the NFC South significantly.
As the Saints sit here today the roster is now in pretty good shape. Carr is the addition that will make the most significant impact if he can play up to his potential, but the addition of Williams may be close on the noteworthy scale. Williams lead the league last season with 17 touchdowns while rushing for over 1,000 yards. The Saints were able to land him on a very reasonable 3-year, $12 million deal to spell Alvin Kamara. When you consider Kamara was misused some of last season due to a lack of depth in the position, and the possibility of a looming suspension due to an arrest last offseason in Las Vegas, getting someone who can carry the load was critical. The Saints did that and got a productive player at a reasonable price. The fit here is undoubtedly clear when you consider the red zone struggles the offense faced in 2022. What better way to address red zone failures than by landing the league’s touchdown leader?
With these moves, the roster feels set to approach the draft without a clear hole. The Saints could use depth at guard, tight end, running back, receiver, pass rusher, defensive tackle, linebacker, corner, and safety. So make no mistake, the Saints still very much need to add talent at just about every spot besides quarterback and offensive tackle (Penning, Hurst, Ramczyk, and Norton give them enough there for now). But right now I don’t see a clear need that stands up above another. This is a much better situation now where the Saints can enter the draft and stay true to their board taking the best player available.
As always, this was an impressive job by Khai Hartley and Mickey Loomis to manage the cap. Their response to the player’s loss mitigated the damage to the exits pretty quickly. The Saints can now turn their trust to Jeff Ireland and his scouts to produce a quality draft class and know they will have a roster good enough to win the NFC South if things break their way.
Andrew Juge is the co-host of “The Saints Happy Hour Podcast.