After Further Review: Evaluating Saints offseason

After Further Review: Evaluating Saints offseason

Will the Saints be better in 2015? It's way too early to say. But after a frenetic start to free agency, things have finally cooled a bit. Now it's time to regroup and evaluate their moves to this point.

As I've maintained all offseason, there was a point in time everyone who covered and watched this team closely had the utmost faith in the Mickey Loomis/Sean Payton brain trust. Trust in them is still there, just not as over-the-top as it once was. They know that part of the reason they were in this predicament in the first place was from their own decisions that haven't panned out. So, I'm with some my colleagues that sense a hint of desperation in some of the Saints offseason decisions.

But desperation isn't always a bad thing. In fact, it can be one of life's great motivators. And credit the Saints for realizing they weren't good enough and attempting to get better while at the same time getting themselves out of salary cap hell.

It's not an easy task; usually teams are doing one or the other, and one that they're still not finished with, but for now it looks like the bulk of the free agency work is complete.

Biggest Addition

Brandon Browner

When you combine his on field ability and the price the Saints got him at, Browner tops my list as the best acquisition thus far.  Cornerbacks appeared to be the position in highest demand this free agency which drove prices through the roof for their services. The Saints got their guy at $5M a season. To put that in perspective, the player they essentially chose Browner over, Tramon Williams, got $7M a season nearly a week later.

Browner is not as good as Richard Sherman when he was in Seattle or Darrelle Revis when he was with the Patriots. But I think pairing him with Keenan Lewis gives the Saints a very strong duo at the position.

For the record, I think Max Unger will have just as big of an impact as Browner, but the price the Saints paid for Browner was one of the biggest bargains of free agency.

Biggest Loss

Curtis Lofton

Yes he can be replaced. I just don't see that replacement on this roster yet. Lofton appeared to be a steady, well-respected leader in the Saints locker room. Ramon Humber and David Hawthorne don't strike me as having the same intangibles.  Perhaps, Dannell Ellerbe can be that guy but that's not a guarantee.

Biggest Surprise

Jimmy Graham

Total stunner. In fact, it's still a little hard to believe Graham is a Seahawk.  At no point in my entire offseason evaluation did I ever think Graham would not be part of this organization's plans. Graham was the Saints' creation. He was the lump of clay they molded into a dominant NFL sculpture.

Now he's gone. Now that the dust has settled, I think this has the potential of being a win for the Saints, though I think Graham is going to go crazy for the Seahawks.

Other Observations:

-Maybe I'm in the minority but I don't get this team's allegiance to Brodrick Bunkley. It's great that Bunkley took another pay cut to remain with the Saints but they also let a bright young player get away in Tyrunn Walker.  If you ask me who I'd rather have Walker or Bunkley, it's not even close.

- I think Saints fans are going to fall in love with C.J. Spiller. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield will be immediately evident but he's also a better overall running back than Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles.

- Great get for the Saints to net a fifth round pick for Ben Grubbs. Grubbs was almost certainly going to get cut and the Saints were able to get something for him.

- Kenny Stills topped my list of Saints players who gave the organization their biggest bang for their buck in 2014, but it didn't surprise me when I saw the report that the organization had soured on him. Stills could be a little edgy at times. He wasn't nearly at the level of Joe Morgan but clearly that left an impression on the heavy hitters on Airline Drive. In saying that though, I think the Saints did say goodbye to a player that was ready to come into his own and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see him flourish in Miami.

- How ready was Miami to give away Dannell Ellerbe? They literally paid the roster bonus for Ellerbe to make the Saints' roster!   As for the player himself, whatever they get out of Ellerbe is lagniappe. The real value of that trade is the third round pick.

-  I think it speaks volumes that Keenan Lewis is still a member of the New Orleans Saints. By my recollection, Lewis is the first notable player under contract to complain about his contract under Payton. A different player may have gotten the axe; in fact one national reporter said he was getting shopped. But it didn't happen and the reason why is simple:  the Saints need Lewis. If they didn't, he'd be gone.  As for his complaint, I get it. There's always a chance a player can get dropped. But that's the risk all NFL players run without guaranteed contracts.  That's why a player's signing bonus is so critical. By my count, if Lewis makes the roster this season, he will have made $14.2 million of the 5 year/ $25 million contract he signed in 2013. The real question will come next offseason when his cap hit jumps north of $7 million.

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