After Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended the New Orleans Saints’ fairytale of winning the Superbowl once more with Drew Brees, a new, gigantic challenge immediately presented itself. New Orleans had entered cap space hell. Everything was done to win last season with Brees. Little or no account was taken of the period after his retirement.
It was therefore no surprise that the Saints’ wide roster was severely thinned. Of course Brees retired. Other strongholds such as Sheldon Rankins (Jets), Trey Hendrickson (Bengals) and Janoris Jenkins (Titans) also opted for shelter elsewhere. Nevertheless, general manager Mickey Loomis managed to limit the damage by restructuring a laundry list of contracts. Partly because of this, the team is less strong in breadth, but there are still top players under contract in almost all positions.
The acquisitions in free agency were – for lack of cap space – nothing to write home about. The most important news was the renewal of quarterback Jameis Winston. He seems to be the intended successor to Drew Brees, although Sean Payton has not yet confirmed that. Other important news also came from our own selection. Right tackle Ryan Ramczyk – part of the excellent offensive line – was extended and immediately also the highest paid player in his position. Superstar Alvin Kamara ‘s contract was also extended, so that he can be admired in New Orleans for years to come.
The New Orleans Saints’ most talked about player this offseason was Michael Thomas. After a very disappointing season, the wide receiver was again discredited last month. It turned out that he still had to undergo an ankle operation; something that, according to the team, should have happened a long time ago. Due to this postponement, Thomas now misses at least a few weeks of the season. The only question is when he will be 100% fit again.
Thomas was not the only one who was negatively in the news, however. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore was arrested in Cleveland with a loaded – and most likely stolen – rifle in his pocket. Images clearly showed that Lattimore did not seem sober at the time of arrest. To date, it is not yet clear whether the National Football League (NFL) will impose a suspension on him. It is certainly not unrealistic that the Saints will have to miss their best cornerback for a while.
Finally, New Orleans Saints will miss defensive tackle David Onyemata for six weeks for using banned substances. The absence of Onyemata and the departure of Rankins will make it a challenging start to the season for the defensive line.
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One of the players who has to show it immediately is defensive end Payton Turner. He was the Saints’ pick in the first round of the draft. Due to the absence of the aforementioned players and the departure of Hendrickson, he immediately gets to play a lot. The same may be true for cornerback Paulson Adebo. In the event of a suspension of Lattimore, he must be there immediately. It was also noticed that the Saints chose a QB in the fourth round. Ian Book is therefore an additional backup in case Winston disappoints.
As for the under center position, most insiders think Winston has an edge over Taysom Hill. In that case, the Swiss Army Knife Hill can be used in other places. For example as a tight end, because that’s where the Saints have a problem. Jared Cook left and Adam Trautman was injured. The wide receiver position is also a big question mark. Thomas cannot play for the time being and Emmanuel Sanders left. That’s why Marquez Callaway is suddenly the expected number one wide receiver. Behind him names like Tre’Quan Smith and Jordan Humphries will have to rise.
Two certainties remain in New Orleans. The offensive line is again one of the best in the NFL and Alvin Kamara, if fit, is a top-3 running back in the league. Furthermore, much depends on Winston. Will he throw a lot of interceptions again or will Payton retrain him into a solid QB who makes few mistakes?
On the defensive side, it can be a very big difference between the defense at the beginning and at the end of the season. Dennis Allen’s defense is known for their slow start. This will be reinforced this year by the many absentees and changes in the team. Despite this, there is a top player under contract on every line of the defense. Led by linebacker Demario Davis, this group can grow into the season and challenge any offense in recent weeks.
The defensive line will again be a problem for many opponents in 2021. Despite the departure of some key players, players like Marcus Davenport and Cameron Jordan are still under contract. It will be important for the Saints to keep their top players fit as they can rely less on a wide selection this year. Provided there is still a good chance that this will be a top ten defense.
The Saints are a big question mark. A lot has changed in New Orleans, but at the same time they are still brimming with talent. Because of the many absentees, the start of the season is crucial. To have a chance at the play-offs, Sean Payton’s team must not leave too much behind. Compared to the Bucs, the gap has widened, so that prolongation of the division title does not seem realistic. The Saints must hope to make the step to the play-offs with a good record.
You can. Especially when Winston throws a lot less interceptions than in Tampa Bay. The Saints’ lines are still in order. In fact, the offensive line is one of the best on paper. If Payton gets things going again, the play-offs are within reach. If this is only possible too late in the season, then it can be a gap year.