After Further Review: Five takes on Saints offseason

Quarterback Derek Carr, left, shakes hands with Saints head coach Dennis Allen after formally...
Quarterback Derek Carr, left, shakes hands with Saints head coach Dennis Allen after formally signing his four-year, $150 million contract with New Orleans on Saturday (March 11).(New Orleans Saints)
Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 12:44 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Take One: Positive Vibes

One can’t help but notice the confidence stemming from the Saints organization. Though, they’ve been modest when asked how things have gone, there is a real sense of optimism after what they feel has been a very successful free agency.

It all began with the trade of the former head coach to Denver. From that point on, the Saints have methodically checked off every significant box they wanted to this offseason. Plus, the losses from players moving on, while tough, don’t sting quite as much as in years past.

There are still a few smaller moves to make, but for the most part the team is set with free agents and are turning their attention to the draft.

Take Two: Carr brings peace of mind

Make no mistake about it, the biggest reason for the organization’s positivity is Derek Carr. If the Saints made every other move, but didn’t land the quarterback they coveted, there wouldn’t be close to the same vibe. To go all in for Carr and miss would’ve been devastating. Thankfully, that’s not the case. The team has been yearning for some stability at that position. Internally, they believe Carr provides that.

His presence should also help offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael. There were a lot of calls to move on from Carmichael this offseason, but from what I’ve been able to gather, they felt like Carmichael’s resume’ speaks for itself, and they wanted to give him another shot with a quarterback more aligned with what Carmichael is used to.

Dennis Allen said both guys see the game the same way. Allen went on to say stylistically, Carr resembles Drew Brees.

Take Three: Sticking with their salary cap style

The Saints salary cap style always seems to trigger a reaction from the outside. Internally though, they are, and always have been, at peace with their approach. Mickey Loomis and cap guru Khai Harley have been at it again this offseason with double digit restructures and even convinced a few veterans to take pay cuts.

There’s an argument to be made that the team should blow it up and start over. The Saints believe they simply haven’t been forced to do so. The worst they’ve done in a season since 2006 is 7-10. They’ve had top end success during that time frame, but what probably gets lost is that they’ve never been bad enough to completely change their approach. This offseason was no different. They believe they can win the NFC South and get back into the playoffs.

On the flipside, there are risks to this approach. They understand that. By constantly restructuring players, there’s a chance they could be forced to hold on to a few more aging players that they would otherwise cut. The cap space gained isn’t as high, and sometimes restructuring a player gives them more present cap space than cutting that player. This offseason, they didn’t release a single player. Overall, they feel like they’ve been able to mitigate that risk.

Take Four: Prominent injuries and recoveries

For all the excitement surrounding the offseason, Allen did offer a dose of reality when it came to Michael Thomas. He’s still not 100% healthy. Allen didn’t offer a timeline, but it doesn’t sound like Thomas will be ready for the offseason program. Training camp is the most likely goal for his return to the field.

When healthy, there’s every reason to believe that Carr and Thomas can do great things on the field together. But Thomas has to get healthy to even scratch the surface on how good they can be.

The other significant injury is last year’s first-round pick Trevor Penning. Training camp is the most likely goal for him too. The team WANTS Penning to be their starting left tackle. Allen loves his talent and on-field demeanor. But Penning suffered two severe foot injuries last season, and right now they can’t assume he’ll take over the role. There’s a reason why they kept veteran James Hurst around.

Take Five: Other Observations

  • One front office name that’s starting to really come up a lot lately with the Saints is director of pro personnel Michael Parenton. Behind the scenes, he’s playing a prominent role in getting things done.
  • Not only did the Saints land Carr, they were also able to keep Jameis Winston around at a discounted rate. Allen was like a lot of us in his surprise that Winston wanted to stay even after their pursuit of Carr. Nonetheless, he’s back and his presence should give the Saints a strong quarterback room.
  • Winston, Michael Thomas, Andrus Peat and Wil Lutz all agreed to pay cuts to stay with the Saints. It’s not Loomis’ favorite thing to do, and he understands them wanting better deals elsewhere. However, it is a decent sign of organizational stability, that many of the prominent guys decided to come back at a reduced contract.
  • Jamaal Williams has the ability of not just being a change of pace No. 2 back, but tje team also believes he can be a feature back as well.

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