Five tackles the Saints’ offseason
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – Take One: Find the QB of the franchise
That should be the number one priority for the Saints this offseason.
A season of uncertainty at the game’s most important position is more than enough. Especially when the Saints had 15 years of stability with Drew Brees.
There is no longer any way to do without it. Sean Payton must decide, whether in the building or outside, who will be the next “guy” they think can turn them into a suitor.
Internally, Jameis Winston is someone they love. The question is whether they love him enough to demonstrate a full-fledged commitment to him. He made progress in his game and went 5-2. Just when it looked like coaches and Winston could have taken him to another level, he was lost for the season. It’s hard to really know where his season would have ended. This injury and his recovery could come into play in their future plans with Winston.
However, it would be foolish to completely dismiss the idea of Winston’s return. If they really believe he’s their man, we’ll find out from their contract offer. If they go back on the one-year route, it would feel like another year of “maybe” and not necessarily be all-out.
Taysom Hill struggled with injuries and finished 4-1. He signed an extension during the season, but that contract isn’t set to guarantee he’ll be the franchise’s next quarterback.
Winston and Hill have proven they can win games. It’s undeniable, they’re a combined 12-4 with them the past two seasons. The question is, is either of them capable of winning championships? This is ultimately where the Saints need to be in their quarterback decision-making.
The fact that we can’t answer this definitely shows that these are better options. We’ve heard the names of the elite, tier one status of Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. DeShaun Watson could be available, although his legal situation may complicate matters. Each of these players would require the Saints to give up major assets to obtain.
There are also guys who aren’t considered to have this quality, but can be seen as an improvement on what they have. There has been speculation about Derek Carr, but Jimmy Garappolo stands out the most given his current team has a rookie first-round pick behind him. Given that, it would probably be the most readily available and might not require a huge return haul.
There is reasonable debate about how much better Jimmy G. would be than Winston. In this scenario, Payton has gained the confidence to choose the right guy who he believes is the one who will bring his offense and his team back to contender status.
Bottom line, there should be no doubt as to who their franchise quarterback will be for the 2022 season.
Take two: Help to grab the passes
Last offseason, the Saints made it clear that they were higher in the team’s pass-catching pool than those outside the organization.
This turned out to be a miscalculation. In all honesty, they said this with the belief that Michael Thomas would be back. Of course, his presence would have made a difference. But behind him, the team really struggled in the post. There was no real number one or two receiver. Marquez Callaway could eventually become a solid number two option. But for now, it looks more like a three. Tre’Quan Smith is in the same boat. Deonte Harris was arguably their most complete receiver until his suspension, but he’s better suited as a part-time receiver and return specialist. Losing a player of Emmanuel Sanders’ caliber has proven costly.
The other missed came at the tight end. The team left Jared Cook and Josh Hill and entered the season with Adam Trautman and Juwan Johnson. Neither Trautman nor Johnson were ready for their upgraded roles. Cook and Hill would have started easily and would have been better options for the team this season.
It could be argued that the Saints had one of the worst pass catchers in the entire league. This needs to be fixed this offseason.
Take Three: The Future of Armstead
Terron Armstead is one of the best left tackles in the NFL. He was a true warrior, but in 2021 injuries caught up with him. Armstead has missed nine games with various issues this season. His absence, combined with that of Ryan Ramczyk, made a huge difference on the offensive line. This is obviously not the first time that Armstead has been injured in his career.
There really wasn’t a lot of noise about an extension during the season with Armstead. It will be a difficult decision. Committing high-end money to a 30-plus-year-old tackle with significant injuries could be risky, but that’s where his market value could be.
On the other hand, the Saints gave incredibly high priority to both lines of scrimmage. Armstead is an elite football player at a critical position. These types of players are not so easy to replace.
Take Four: Michael Thomas
It’s funny how a story can slowly evolve over the course of a season. When it was announced that Thomas would miss the entire season, most felt that Thomas had played his last game in black and gold. But as the year progressed, it looked more and more like Thomas might be back in the mix.
There are several factors that point to this. First of all, that’s what was discussed in the second take. The Saints desperately need to improve their receiving position. Secondly, there’s a chance his trade value won’t be as high after two injury-riddled seasons. If the Saints were to strike a blockbuster deal for a quarterback, Thomas could definitely be in on it. But realistically, his value this offseason isn’t as high as last offseason. Third, fair or unfair, in league circles he’s not considered the best guy in the locker room. Thus, there may not be as many suitors for Thomas.
Thomas could absolutely be traded this offseason, that hasn’t changed. What may have changed is the possibility of him returning. At one point in the season, it looked like there would be no chance of him returning, but now there are more than enough reasons to keep him in New Orleans.
It will be interesting to watch.
Five Points: Other Observations
- Marcus Williams will be another top free agent for the Saints. His future will come down to money. If he wants top 3 money, he could be somewhere else next season. Williams has as much range as anyone in football, but after five seasons he still struggles to tackle, which has led to big plays all year.
- Marshon Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk, Alvin Kamara and Taysom Hill’s contracts are set up to allow the Saints to create cap space. There won’t be as much bloodshed this offseason as there was last year.
- The most underrated player in the Saints squad is PJ Williams. After three consecutive one-year deals, the Saints are set to offer him a multi-year deal. He has the versatility and the ability to play. He doesn’t quite have the range of Marcus Williams, but he may be a more complete player.
- Marcus Davenport had a phenomenal season but again struggled with injuries. He’s on the fifth-year option next season, but the Saints can extend it. An extension would also give space to the Saints’ hat. Given how much they value the point position on defense, I could see Davenport finally getting a big contract this offseason.
- Although they won’t have many cap losses, the Saints will still part ways with contracted players for a variety of reasons. The only veteran in this scenario might be safety Malcolm Jenkins. It has a high cap count and while it hasn’t completely fallen off a cliff in production, it has shown small signs of decline as the season progressed.
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