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After Further Review: Five takes on what we learned during Saints offseason progam

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Jarvis Landry (80) runs through drills during an NFL football...
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Jarvis Landry (80) runs through drills during an NFL football practice in Metairie, La. Landry was impressive throughout the offseason. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)(Gerald Herbert | AP)
Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 2:26 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Take One: Jarvis Landry shines

The best thing about the Saints offseason wore No. 80. Jarvis Landry wasted no time in making an immediate impact. Landry’s detailed footwork in route-running was something to watch up close. Plus, his hands are as good any receiver in the league. He made a significant play in just about every practice we were able to see.

When a marquee player signs with a team, there’s always a transition period for that veteran player to adjust to his new surroundings. Landry’s adjustment has been extremely quick. He should fit right in with this offense and locker room. It was the most tangible positive takeaway from the Saints offseason, without question.

Take Two: Jameis Winston takes strides

Jameis Winston isn’t 100% yet, but he’s improving health wise. His physical recovery took shape before our very eyes all offseason. At the start of OTA’s, Winston had a noticeable limp that appeared to labor him a bit in his dropbacks and other movements. By the final practice of minicamp, that limp improved, or at the very least Winston handled it much better. By the end of the offseason, Winston had a much clearer, smoother stride. That’s an encouraging sign.

The stability also had a positive impact on Winston’s ability to drive the football. It took him some time, but by the final practice of minicamp, Winston appeared to step into and deliver his intermediate passes with much more velocity. In his earlier work, the ball either sailed or didn’t have enough juice on the pass.

Winston did everything but the full team periods during OTAs. The next big step will be when the team clears the way for him to do full work with an offensive line and a pass rush in front of him. Hopefully that will be early in training camp in late July. When that hurdle clears, Winston can hone in on the more technical aspects of his game that need improvement from a season ago.

Take three: Michael Thomas still not there

At this point, Michael Thomas’ lingering injury issues are more of curiosity over concern. Yes, many expected Thomas to be either completely healthy or at the very least able to do some on-field work. That didn’t happen. It feels like it’s been a long time since anyone has seen that.

It’s certainly not an ideal situation, but it’s still very early in the process. If by August, he’s still unable to get on the field, then it could get more concerning.

The notion that he really only needs to be ready by the start of regular season is foolish. At some point, Thomas will have to physically be on the field to get in-sync with Winston. It would be best if that could happen during training camp. The two haven’t had much time to work together during Winston’s time here. Thomas’ last big season came with Drew Brees at quarterback. In 2020, when Brees was hurt, Thomas and Taysom Hill developed a rapport. That hasn’t happened yet with he and Winston.

Take Four: Business to discuss

The Saints have a few players that want new contracts.

Linebacker Demario Davis may have been too much of a team player when he signed the current deal he’s playing under. Early in the 2020 season, Davis signed an extension with the club instead of hitting the open market. That contract was three years/$27 million. At the time, it ranked him 14th in the NFL at the position based on average salary. That was well below his market value. Now 33 years old, Davis wants a new deal despite having two years left on the current one. He certainly deserves more money, but the Saints are mindful of his age. Perhaps there’s a fair compromise both sides can come to for compensation this season.

Nickel corner C.J. Gardner-Johnson also wants a new deal. CJGJ is going into the final year of his rookie contract, and will make $2.54 million this season. It’s not uncommon for a player in his position to want a new deal. Given what he’s done over his first three seasons in New Orleans, Gardner-Johnson has clearly outplayed that contract. The difficult part is finding a reasonable comp for his services that are true nickel’s like Gardner-Johnson is. The closest may be the Colts’ Kenny Moore, who signed a four-year/$33million contract. Moore also wants a new contract.

Wide receiver/return specialist Deonte Harty also wants a new deal after signing his tender worth $3.9 million. Harty is coming off a great season, and is clearly a dynamic threat in the return game. However, given the additions at wide receiver, there’s a strong chance that his snaps there will diminish. Of the three players seeking contracts, Harty feels like he has the least amount of leverage.

All three of these players attended mandatory minicamp but skipped OTA’s. There’s no word on if any will holdout of training camp if they don’t get a new deal done.

Take Five: Other Observations

- Scanning the Saints roster, it appears running back and linebacker are the two positions the Saints could possibly add players.

- Andy Dalton was a quality add to the roster.

- Kirk Merritt is the one player that was nowhere on my radar before the offseason, that officially is now. He made too many plays to ignore.

- Left tackle will the premier competition of training camp. Veteran James Hurst and rookie Trevor Penning will battle it out for the spot.

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