NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Take One: Quarterback situation.
‘Life after Drew’ begins this offseason for the Saints. There are so many layers to the idea of having a new starting quarterback in New Orleans for the first time in 15 years.
Let’s start with what we know: It’ll be Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill competing to be Brees’ successor.
On the surface, both players certainly have their strengths and their obvious concerns. It’ll be fun to watch how both players approach the competition from a mental standpoint. It’s one thing to compete in camp and preseason knowing the job was never yours. But for both players, now the mindset totally changes when the title of QB1 is on the line.
Overall, the system is friendly enough for both guys to put up legitimate stats and win enough games to be relevant.
However, there’s a bigger question for the organization. Regardless of who wins the job, is either Winston or Hill the quarterback to get you back to the Super Bowl?
No one can honestly answer that. Not even Sean Payton. Who for 15 years as head coach has never had to worry about the game’s most critical position. If he did, he’d have one of these guys under contract for more than a year. Yet, neither are. That’s why I’ve always believed the Saints should seriously explore the idea of drafting a quarterback, or perhaps see what comes available with quarterbacks who might be available soon. Until they can firmly answer who their next Super Bowl quarterback is, they should give themselves as many options as possible.
It’s all very intriguing because the stability everyone enjoyed for so long is now gone. It should make this one of the most interesting training camps we’ve seen in a long time.
Take Two: Replacing Quality
Drew Brees - retired
Janoris Jenkins- released
Malcom Brown- traded
Kwon Alexander- released
Emmanuel Sanders- released
Sheldon Rankins- free agent signed with Jets
Justin Hardee- free agent signed with Jets
Josh Hill- released
Trey Hendrickson- free agent signed with Bengals
Alex Anzalone- free agent signed with Detroit
Thomas Morstead- released
Nick Easton- released
Jared Cook- released
That’s 13 players that were starters or key contributors for the Saints last season that won’t be back.
This will be most challenging aspect for the team in 2021. Outside of Brees, those players are not irreplaceable, but having to replace that many quality football players at one time will not be easy.
The Saints’ top end of their roster is as good as any in the NFL. But most of the players above are the types of guys that turn a good roster into a great one.
Take Three: Roster strengths and weaknesses
The Saints will return their entire starting offensive line from last season. Plus, they brought back a key reserve in James Hurst. Combine that with the running back duo of Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray, and you get the biggest strength on the roster as currently constructed.
As other elements of their team come together, the Saints should lean on this strength as a run team going forward.
On the flip side, you can’t look at this roster as currently constructed and not see some questions. None are bigger than the one at cornerback. The Saints don’t have an adequate replacement on the roster for Janoris Jenkins. They’ve hosted a T.J. Carrie on a visit, but no signing has been announced. Even if he was signed, there is no guarantee he’d be the obvious answer.
This is a spot the Saints can’t afford to be vulnerable. It can have a serious impact on wins and losses. Linebacker is the next biggest need with no clear answer as starter next to DeMario Davis.
Take Four: Draft Day Hits
The best thing that can happen to the Saints is to strike gold on another draft class. Even if they started signing more players in this next phase of free agency, there aren’t enough talented players left in the market to confidently replace the players they lost.
Thus, this team will need to have a class like the one they had in 2017. With four picks in the top 105 selections, they may have the opportunity to do just that.
Of the eight picks they hold, ideally at least three or four of them would be instant impact players.
Plus, financially they need to start replenishing their roster with young, inexpensive talent.
Take Five: Other Observations
- The Marshon Lattimore situation is certainly something to monitor. At this time, everyone is rightly waiting for the full facts to emerge. He’s officially been charged with a fourth-degree felony for being in possession of stolen property. The property was a firearm. If it is indeed proven that Lattimore committed what he’s charged of, there needs to be accountability likely in the form of a suspension for multiple games.
- As for extension talks with Lattimore, at the very least, I think those discussions will likely be shelved until this gets sorted out.
- On offense, the Saints signed two free agents from other clubs: tight end Nick Vannett and fullback Alex Armah. Vannett will attempt to fill the Josh Hill role, a role that Sean Payton values a lot. In Armah’s case, last year’s fullback Michael Burton played a key role in their run game dominance by the end of the season. It will be interesting to see if both guys end up being improvements over what they previously had at those positions.
- Defensively they brought in Tanoh Kpassagnon, who can play on the edge and the interior. They certainly needed to add depth along the defensive line with the losses of Hendrickson, Rankins, and Brown. However, again, it’s not certain that he would be equal to or an upgrade over what they had.
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