After Further Review: Five takes on Saints’ offseason moves

Jameis Winston is back with the Saints on a two-year deal.
Jameis Winston is back with the Saints on a two-year deal.(WVUE)
Published: Apr. 1, 2022 at 7:29 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Take One: Quarterback Journey

The Saints may have the same starting quarterback they had a season ago, but the journey to finally arrive on Jameis Winston was a roller coaster filled with many twists and turns. Just think about all the names the Saints were linked to.

There was one report about the team working on a deal for Jimmy Garappolo. Another one had them linked to Mitchell Trubisky. Teddy Bridgewater was someone they liked. Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers were at the top of every team’s free agency board it felt like.

Then, there was the very real and aggressive pursuit of Deshaun Watson where the team went all-in to trade for him. At one point they thought they had him as their next quarterback. When he spurned the Saints and chose the Browns, Baker Mayfield’s even name came up.

In the end though, they ended up right where they began: Winston on a two-year deal. The Saints took the calculated risk of pursuing Watson. It could have certainly alienated Winston,  but they also knew they had a strong chance to retain him. They were able to take that risk because the market just never materialized for Winston. There were the usual agent leaks about ‘interest’ from other clubs but nothing was ever concrete. Had there been a real offer from another club throughout the process, Winston may not be with the Saints today.

As for any tension over their chase, there were some initial hurt feelings, league sources confirmed. That’s completely understandable. Winston’s team wanted an upgrade over him. But when the dust finally settled, both sides needed each other and hashed it out over what they labeled ‘tough’ conversations.

Bottom line, though the path was muddied at times, Winston is back, and the Saints will roll with him in 2022.

Take Two: Left tackle after Terron

“I know he wanted to be with the Saints and we wanted him. And yet it was only going to be if the market wasn’t what he expected.”

That was Mickey Loomis at the NFL Owners’ Meetings in Florida this week on left tackle Terron Armstead. It was an interesting comment. Clearly, the Saints had a price point for Armstead that Loomis knew was going to be low for what he would get on the open market. Their only chance would be if the market wasn’t what Armstead thought it could be.

Armstead ended up signing a five year deal with Miami worth $75 million that could grow to $87 million. $15 million a season felt a little low for Armstead, which goes to show the Saints weren’t even in that range.

The question now is where do the Saints turn at one of the most critical positions? Some have speculated that Ryan Ramczyk could flip from right to left. Though that’s a possibility, the vibe I’m getting is that isn’t option number one. James Hurst has become the latest spot-starter/utility lineman the team can rely on. Dennis Allen even said he’d feel comfortable with him if they had to go that route.

There are still a few veteran names available. I’ve also been told the Saints like this group of tackles in this draft class and could pursue that avenue. They have a detailed track record of taking linemen early in the draft.

Take Three: Still in search of wide receivers

The Saints are well aware of their need at wide receiver. After a few discussions over the last week, it feels like the inflated market could be an issue. In particular, Christian Kirk’s contract in Jacksonville really exaggerated what receivers perceive their value is. Kirk got a reported four-year $72 million dollar deal. He’s a good player but not an $18 million a year player. Obviously, other receivers with better resumes’ see that and aren’t going to take less.

There are quality receivers still available on the open market. Some of them have significant ties to this area. Loomis, however, isn’t going to overpay for anyone, so he’s willing to let the market settle a little bit.

The trade route is certainly a possibility here as well. Also, like offensive tackle, the wide receiver class is deep in the draft.

Take Four: Taysom’s transition

Taysom Hill’s days as quarterback are over. He’ll now be a full-time ‘f‘or pass-catching tight end. Provided he’s healthy, I think he now becomes the team’s top option at the position. He’s a devastating run blocker and gotten much better over the years at running routes. Plus, he’s dynamic with the ball in his hands and can cause defensive matchup problems with who they use to guard him.

While the position change is permanent, I still see Hill’s QB power run play being a part of the playbook. No one in the NFL executes it like Hill does, and the Saints have had a lot of success running it.

As for his quarterback days, regardless of all the ridiculous hate he gets on Twitter, it wasn’t a failed experiment. Even if he’s not franchise material, he went 7-2 in the games he started. So it’s not like it cost the Saints any games while seeing if he could be an every down quarterback.

Take Five: Other Observations

  • In all, the Saints restructured 14 contracts to get under the salary cap. Many players had voidable years added to those restructures. Loomis admitted he doesn’t like operating like that but did it because they still truly believe they have a roster that can win.
  • Malcolm Jenkins’ retirement was not unexpected. As for his time in New Orleans, the adoration for his play was a little over the top. Sure, he was a solid player and was an ironman, but his best days were in Philadelphia not NOLA. His first stint with the team, he was a guy who didn’t quite hit his potential. When he finally returned, he was at the end of his career. He struggled at the start of the 2020 season and showed signs of age by the end of 2021. The team will miss all of that experience, but realistically it won’t be impossible to replace what Jenkins gave the team the last two seasons on the field.
  • Marcus Maye is a good signing at a good price. He can play both free and strong safety, and I think he’ll play both roles at times throughout the season.
  • Loomis confirmed that the Saints really were never in the ballpark for what Marcus Williams ended up getting in Baltimore. He added that they had an offer out to him last year. He obviously didn’t take that offer and played on the franchise tag.
  • If his social media is any indication, C.J. Gardner Johnson is a Tyrann Mathieu fan and wants him in black and gold. Mathieu seems to be receptive to his suggestions. In my opinion, Mathieu would be a great fit here. Time will tell if this connection can happen.
  • Daniel Sorenson was brought in to play the Jeff Heath role on special teams and defense.
  • Quality addition to the quarterback room in Andy Dalton. Dalton is an upgrade over Trevor Siemian. In fact, had the Saints had Dalton for the five games Winston and Hill were out last season, it’s reasonable to assume he would have done better than 0-5. As we saw, an extra win would have put them in the postseason. Plus, at this stage of his career Dalton is completely comfortable being the number two guy.

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