2018 Season Recap: New Orleans Saints

2018 SEASON RECAP: NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Hello, I'm /u/lazy_street (formerly stokest26) and I'm back for the third year in a row to write the 32/32 series for the New Orleans Saints. Life as a Saints fan has been rough the last few post-seasons and I'll attempt to give some context and highlights/lowlights from the season. I won't belabour the point, the last two post season endings have been a dagger to the heart of Saints. They were vastly different disappointments, which some how makes it worse.

Record (13-3) 1st in NFC, 1st in NFCS, Lost NFCC

Offense Overview

Category 2018 Rank (League Rank) 2017 Rank (League Rank)
Points Per Game 31.5 (3rd) 28.0 (4th)
Yards Per Game 379.2 (8th) 392.1 (2nd)
Passing Yards Per Game 252.6 (12th) 261.8 (5th)
Rushing Yards Per Game 126.4 (6th) 129.4 (5th)
Turnover Differential +8 (7th) +7 (t-9)
Weighted DVOA 13.4% (7th) 20.4% (2)

Passing Leader

Category Team Leader Stat Line (League Rank)
Passing Yards Drew Brees 3992 (13th)
Passing TDs/INTs Drew Brees 32 (t-6th)/5 (2nd)
Rating/ANY/A Drew Brees 115.7 (1st)/8.74 (2nd)

Rushing/Receiving Leaders

Category Team Leader Stat Line (League Rank)
Rushing Yards/Rushing Attempts Alvin Kamara 883/192 (18th)
Rushing TDs/Fumbles Alvin Kamara 14 (2nd)/0 (t-1st)
Receiving Yards Michael Thomas 1405 (6th)
Receiving Receptions/TDs Michael Thomas 125 (1st)/9 (t-10th)

Defense Overview

Category 2018 Rank (League Rank) 2017 Rank (League Rank)
Points Per Game 22.1 (14th) 20.4 (10th)
Yards Per Game 349.1 (14th) 336.5 (17th)
Passing Yards Per Game 268.9 (29th) 244.8 (15th)
Rushing Yards Per Game 80.2 (2nd) 111.7 (16th)
Turnovers 24 (13th) 25 (t-9)
Weighted DVOA -9.8% (6th) -10.0% (6th)

Defensive Leaders

Category Team Leader Stat Line (League Rank)
Tackles Demario Davis 110 (24th)
Sacks/TFL Cameron Jordan 12 (14th)/18 (7th)
Interceptions/PDs Marshon Lattimore 2 INT(t-53rd)/12 PD (t-20th)
Forced Fumbles Marshon Lattimore 4 (t-6th)

Special Teams Overview

Category 2018 Rank (League Rank) 2017 Rank (League Rank)
Weighted DVOA 2.8% (13th) 1.2% (11th)

Over the last two years the Saints have been in the top half of the league for almost every important category. The team is always a Top 3 unit on offense and has gotten better on defense each of the last two years. This led to another season of regular season dominance that was topped by a tragic post season defeat. The no-call against the Rams was heartbreaking but it's time to move on and put it past us or it will just make football not fun anymore. The team bounced back spectacularly from the "Minnesota Miracle" and hopefully will do so again this year. It is frustrating in the sense of what else does the team need to do to get back to the superbowl. Brees has been playing out of his mind the last 2 seasons posting record numbers for any age let alone a 40 year old. The defense is young and talented, the offensive core around Brees is solid. This season felt like a series of "great but not good enoughs". Brees was great, Mahomes was better. Alvin Kamara had 19 TDs, but Gurley had more. The team played a great game against the Rams. Yet couldnt close it out after the no-call took the game to OT. It makes the sour taste in your mouth worse. I've been through 3-13 seasons, consecutive 7-9 seasons, and multiple bad playoff losses. The rams loss is 2nd only to 2011 against the 49ers in my personal experience and its going to be a very telling year for 2019 Saints, a team that is poised for another deep run it just needs to get there.

Video Highlights

Mark Ingram has been one of my favorite Saints since he has joined the team. He's overcome benching, under utilization and injuries to become one of the best after contact backs in the league. He will leave the team 89 yards shy of Deuce McAllisters career rushing record. He will leave holding the franchise career rushing TD record. I wish him nothing but the best.

2018 Free Agency Review

Player Position Season Grade
Demario Davis LB A
Benjamin Watson TE C
Jermon Bushrod OL B
Patrick Robinson CB B
Kurt Coleman S D
Cameron Meredith WR D+
Drew Brees QB A+
Alex Okafor DE B+
Thomas Morstead P A
Zach Line FB B+
Tom Savage QB N/A
George Johnson DE N/A
Shane Vereen HB N/A
Josh Huff WR N/A

Demario Davis was easily the best new addition on the team. He was our best linebacker and dominant against the run and good in coverage and rushing the passer.

Patrick Robinson looked great until he was lost to a season injuring broken ankle.

Kurt Coleman was booty cheeks, the only thing good was his contract made him easily cuttable, which he was at the beginning of the off-season.

Cameron Meredith was a risk/reward signing when we signed him away from Chicago as an RFA cominng off a serious knee injury. Unfortunately his knee bothered him the whole year and he notched 9 catches for 114 yards and 1 TD across 6 games before being placed on IR for the year. Hopefully an entire of rehab will help his knee because we desperately need WR help.

Brees and Morstead were both obvious extensions and both played at their standard elite levels this year. Brees was 2nd in MVP voting for a record 4th time. yay.

Everyone with a N/A grade was cut before the regular season so I won't time on them.

2019 FREE AGENTS

The Saints currently have $3.3 Mil in cap space according to OTC.com

Player Position Status Current APY Snaps Played %
Teddy Bridgewater QB UFA 6 Mil 6.8%
Mark Ingram RB UFA 4 Mil 33.3%
Alex Okafor DE UFA 4.5 Mil 63.7 %
Manti Te'o LB UFA 2.5 Mil 13.7 %
Michael Hoomanawanui TE UFA 1.7 Mil 0%
Dez Bryant WR UFA 1.2 Mil 0%
Jermon Bushrod OT UFA 1 Mil 35.4%
Josh Robinson CB UFA 790k 2.5 %
Tyruun Walker DT UFA 790k 0%
Josh LeRibeus OG UFA 790k 17%
Jay Brumley DT UFA 790k 2.6%
PJ Williams CB UFA 765k 67.3 %
Tyeler Davison DT UFA 765k 40.9%
Daniel Lasco RB RFA 585k 0%
Ken Crawley CB RFA 540k 39.7%
Tommy Lee Lewis WR RFA 540k 6.7%
Wil Lutz K RFA 540k 43.7%
Rickey Jefferson S RFA 480k 0%

Italics indicates players who missed season on IR

Resigned/Extended/Retired List

Player Position Status
Benjamin Watson TE Retired
Josh Hill TE Extended
Justin Hardee CB Resigned
Zach Wood LS Resigned
Michael Ola OL Resigned
Cameron Tom OL Resigned
Vince Biegel LB Resigned
Craig Robertson LB Resigned
Chris Banjo S Resigned

Lativius Murray was signed to a 4 yr/14 mil deal, I think this is a good value add and I think Mark Ingram's contract will have roughly double the APY.

Dead Money

Player Position Amount of 2019 Dead Money
Coby Fleener TE $3.2 Mil
Rick Leonard OL $460k
Natrell Jamerson S $200k
Kamrin Moore CB $120k
Boston Scott RB $110k

2019 Top 5 Cap Hits

Player Position Cap Hit/%
Drew Brees QB $33.5 Mil/17.5%
Terron Armstead OL $16 Mil/8.4%
Cameron Jordan DL $14 Mil/7.3%
Larry Warford OG $10.5 Mil/5.5%
Andrus Peat OG $9.6 Mil/5.0%

So there are some interesting options as the Saints approach FA and the draft. The the biggest names in the FA class are Mark Ingram and Alex Okafor. They are closely followed by PJ Williams, Tyeler Davison and Craig Robertson. Teddy Bridgewater will probably be too expensive for the Saints to retain as a back up QB.

Mark Ingram will probably be able to leverage more money out of RB needy team in FA than the Saints can afford to match. I can see him going to the Jets, Eagles, or Colts in the offseason. It would suck to lose him because hes a leader in the locker room and best friends with Alvin Kamara.

No player has been more up and down than PJ Williams since he was drafted. A common saying this year was "Live by PJ, die by PJ" after he was thrust into the starting NB role after Patrick Robinson went down. PJ had some key turnovers this year but was also burned several times. He also got arrested for DUI after the season ended, this will be his second DUI (he had one in college). The league has not issued any punishment for him yet. He is so similar to Patrick Robinson its scary, they both went to FSU, both were inconsistent with the Saints, now all PJ needs to do is a few stints with the Chargers and Eagles before returning to us as the finished product. Honestly, I dont see us resigning PJ after his DUI and Patrick Robinson returning from injury.

Alex Okafor has been one of the best run defenders in the NFCS since the Saints signed him but similar to Ingram he might be too expensive for the Saints to resign.

Craig Robertson is a core special teamer and a capable spot starter. He is a "glue guy" in the locker room so I'd like to resign him. Resigned to a 2 yr/4 mil deal, good money for a glue guy

Tyeler Davison Davison has been a solid rotational piece for the saints interior DL. He is one of the best run defenders on the team but doesnt offer much as pass rusher. The team might resign him to come back as keeping our core rotation intact would be beneficial in the wake of the Rankins injury.

Jermon Bushrod hasn't announced whether he is returning for another year or not. Given his personal circumstances (he had a 1 month old daughter pass away during the season) he might choose to retire. He was a solid back up filling in for Armstead this season and was a key member to the early Sean Payton squads so if he does retire I wish him the best.

Chris Banjo He has been a solid ST so he could be resigned on a 1 year deal, he did get 2 gift INTs against the eagles so that was a fun moment for him. Resigned to 3 yr/9 mil deal, ST making money.

Manti Te'o After being a part time starter in 2017, Manti Te'o's playing time was severely reduced this year. I dont see him being resigned after being injured/inactive most of the season.

Michael Hoomanawanui With Josh Hill being extended and Hooman dealing with a season long concussion I dont even know if he will be medically cleared to return to play. If he does I still don't think the team signs him again.

Josh LeRibeus LeRibeus has been a good journeyman back up the last few years but it feels like hes been surpassed by Michael Ola, Will Clapp, and Cameron Tom. Since Ola and Tom have already been resigned, I doubt LeRibeus comes back.

Jay Brumley He was a reserve who was resigned late in the season, he might come back as a camp body but i doubt he sticks on the team. The same is true of Tyrunn Walker.

Dez Bryant He bonded with the team very quickly despite never playing an official down for us. Both the team and Dez have expressed interest in his resigning with the team so we will see if they can reach an agreement.

Restricted Free Agents

Wil Lutz Whatever the max tender is available will be put on Big Nutz Lutz. He is a no brainer contract resigning and will be a priority to get locked up this off-season.

Tommy Lee Lewis This will be TLL's 4th season with the Saints if he resigns. He hasnt really found a spot on the team yet. He's just so-so as a returner and hasn't caught more than 10 passes in 3 seasons. We won't tender him and probably resign him to the vet minimum.

Ken Crawley Crawley fought his way all the up to the CB2 spot but fell from grace this last season. He lost the mental aspect of his game and was consistently torched forcing the team to trade for Eli Apple. This move was universally praised by saints fans, to give you an idea of what we thought of crawley as the season went on. He also had a minor incident involving possibly using a burner account to talk shit on instagram and twitter. All this leads me to believe that crawley will not be tendered or resigned with the team.

Daniel Lasco He flashed as a ST gunner a few years ago, but he has been consistently injured since then and has a bulging disc issue now. I think his playing days might be over.

Draft Grades/Picks

Round 1, Pick 14: Marcus Davenport, UTSA, Grade: A

The Saints traded up to get their guy. Many fans were upset at the cost (27th Overall, 2019 1st Rounder, 2019 5th) to get him. But as I mentioned before, having two back to back super successful drafts has changed the dynamic of the team. The team is already seen as a superbowl contender and only needs a few more pieces to help get it there. A dynamic young pass rusher is one of them. Davenport is raw, but the team doesn't need him to come in and be Joey Bosa from day one. They just need another pass rushing threat that can alleviate some of the double teams that Cam Jordan sees every game. That alone to me is worth the price. Trading up is something Loomis has always done and will probably always do. He traded up for both Ingram and Kamara.

2019 Regrade: B+, Davenport showed dominant flashes all season long and ended the season rated as PFF's best rookie edge rusher. He is wickedly fast for his size and with more polish and tutelage from Cam Jordan could develop into a monster off the edge. Unfortunately he got hurt halfway through the season and ultimately played through the pain of the injury that he ended up needing surgery for after the season. The reason for the slightly lowered grade comes down to the cost and who would've been available at pick 27 if we stayed put. Darius Leonard, Dallas Goedert, Christian Kirk, Harold Landry, Fred Warner and Josh Jackson were just some of the players taken between picks 27 and 91 (The Saints next selection after the Davenport pick). More critically, players like Leighton Vander Esch, Derwin James and Calvin Ridley were taken between pick 14 and pick 27. Davenport is still worth it in my opinion but a gamechanger like LVE, Leonard, or James would've been transformative. And there is definitely some arguement to staying put and grabbing Goedert, Landry or Kirk at 27 and being able to hold on to the 1st this year.


Round 2 - Pick traded to move up for Kamara in 2017, Totes worth it.

2019 Regrade: SAMEEE


Round 3, Pick 91, Tre'Quan Smith, UCF, Grade: B

Smith as a solid 3rd round selection. The WR depth chart is an unknown quality after Mike Thomas and Ted Ginn you don't really know what to expect. Most of his scouting reports read like a standard reciever the Saints like to get. A smooth route runner with good hands who knows how to block and use his body in the run game. With good coaching he make it alway the way up to the Saints #2 WR given Ginn's age and that Meridith is most likely destined for the slot.

2019 Regrade: C+, Smith had some great moments this year but also definitely had rookie moments and straight disappeared for weeks at a time.

Targets Rec/Yards TDs
1 0 0
1 1/18 0
2 0 0
3 3/111 2
6 3/44 0
4 3/18 0
3 2/23 1
13 10/157 1
1 0 0
1 0 0
4 2/15 0
1 1/11 0
4 3/30 1

Looking at Smith's production is maddening to a degree. It's ok for a 3rd round draft pick but the team desperately needed another consistent WR option and could not find it all season.


Round 4, Pick 127, Rick Leonard, OT, FSU, Grade: C

Leonard is a OT who was converted from DE while in college. I think he compares to a poor man's Strief. Not the most athletic tackle in the world but with good coaching could work his way up into swing tackle position.

2019 Regrade: D, Leonard was cut before the preseason was over. The only reason the grade isnt a complete F is looking at the list of players drafted after Leonard until the Saints next pick in round 5, there isnt a sure fire guy you can say "damn he was so good and went 10 picks later!" over. Michael Dickson would be the guy if the Saints didnt have Thomas Morstead. Leonard spent the season on various practice squads.


Round 5, Pick 164, Natrell Jamerson, S, Wisconsin, Grade: B

Another college player who changed positions while at school. Jamerson started as WR then switched to CB and then finally Safety his last year at school. He is a little undersized but runs a legitimate 4.4 40. I think he factors in mostly at ST this year as the team is always looking to strengthen that unit and rounds 5-6 are where you usually see ST players get targeted.

2019 Regrade: D, Jamerson was another player who didnt see the regular season with the Saints. Looking back in hindsight the best player to have taken would've beeen Marquez Valdez-Scantling for players that were available between the Jamerson selection and the Saints next choice. Jamerson would play 10 games for the texans notching 10 tackles and a PD before being released and playing 2 games with the Packers.


Round 6, Pick 189, Kamrin Moore, CB, Boston College, Grade: B-

Moore is another defensive back, and it has been proven time and time again that you can never have enough DBs. Most scouting reports have him projected as a slot corner. He is a little undersized but he played in the ACC so he had decent college competition. As with Jamerson he will have the opportunity to compete for a ST spot if nothing else.

2019 Regrade: D, Virtually the same write up for Jamerson can apply for Moore, just sub Equinamous St. Brown for MVS as far as the player that would make the most sense in hindsight to draft. Moore spent the season on the Giants practice squad.


Round 6, Pick 201 Boston Scott, RB, LA Tech, Grade: B+

I like this pick and not only because he's from a Louisana college. The Saints have depth needs at several positions and with Mark Ingram's suspension, running back is probably the most needed. Scott echoes Sproles in size if not exactly posessing the same agility. Still the door to a spot on the team is open. If Scott can pick up the play book he has a shot of making the team.

2019 Regrade: C, Boston scott made it through the preaseason to the final 53 but was bounced on and off the practice squad until eventually being signed away to phillys PS in December. This late in the 6th round it's not even worth playing the hindsight game over but Danny Etling would have been an interesting camp body.


William Clapp, Pick 245, C, LSU, Grade: C+

An LSU player drafted by the Saints? Oh man. Thats noteworthy in and of itself. The Saints are constantly taking linemen in the last few rounds of the draft to try and develop them. Clapp is another such player. Nothing really stands out as spectacular to me but then again he's a 7th round player if he makes the team at all thats already exceeding expectations. He is fairly large at 6'5 315 so it will be interesting to see what an NFL strength and conditioning program can make out of him

2019 Regrade: C+, Clapp made it through the preseason and stuck with the squad all season, playing in 3 games and starting 1. He played about as well as you'd expect from an understrength C/OG combo but still better than a normal 7th round prospect. He might stick around as a reserve.


Overall, this was a needs draft, the Saints needed a passrusher and depth, and they went out and got it. As much as heir to the Brees throne needs to be found, it just isnt meshing with the team dynamic right now. The goal is to get another ring with Brees, everything else is secondary.

2019 Thoughts: Overall this draft was largely a miss. The secondary depth became scary at times during the season especially after Patrick Robinson went to IR and Crawley disintergrated into actual garbage so the misses on the DBs hurt. Similarly to the OL depth with the 4th round pick of Leonard. The biggest question mark is still Davenport he will need to start being consistently dominant this year to make up for the additional 1st rounder invested into him. The lack of a complete TE and WR depth really hurt the team in the long run.

2019 Draft Picks

Round Pick
1 30 (Traded to Green Bay)
2 62
3 TBD (Traded for Teddy Bridgewater)
4 TBD (Traded to New York)
5 TBD
6 TBD
6 TBD (Traded with Teddy Bridgewater)
7 TBD

The Saints have a pretty bare cupboard for draft capital this year. They invested a 1st, 3rd, and 4th in player trades and netted Davenport, Bridgewater and Apple out of that. The 2nd pick is late in the round but could still be a potential good player. Everything after will be a gamble but hopefully in turns out better than last years late round picks.

Draft Needs - | QB | TE | WR | DT | CB | LB |

Tight End

T.J. Hockensen, Iowa - The consensus best TE in the draft across most major media analysts. I highly doubt he will be even be within striking distance of the Saints but he would perfectly suit the need at TE.


Irv Smith, Alabama - Smith feels a bit like the consolation prize to whomever doesnt get Hockensen. He might be within range of a trade up scenario if the team feels like he's worth it.


Caleb Wilson, UCLA - There is a talent drop off after Hockensen, Smith, and possibly Fant. Wilson seems to be the best of the rest and the Saints could target him but I doubt they go with him in the 2nd and he wont be around in 5th.


Wide Reciever

Parris Campbell, Ohio State, Deebo Samuel, South Carolina, and Marquis Brown, Oklahoma

These 3 are roughly the same. New speed guys that can take over Ginns spot of blowing the top of the defense. The WR needs more speed and quickness.


Riley Ridley, Alabama

Riley Ridley would be similar to Tre'Quan Smith, so it's doubtful we'd take a WR with his skillset. But if he is there the team might want to give Smith competition for the spot across from Michael Thomas.


Hunter Renfrow, Clemson

Mike Thomas played like 40% of his snaps from the slot. Mainly because he was a beast from the slot and the fact that none of our other WRs were getting good production there. Renfrow could plug in here and let Thomas eat on the outside as he works inside. Unrelated, I miss Willie Snead.


Defensive Tackle

Defensive Tackle is a weird position to draft for, because the team already has several promising young interior players with Rankins, Oneymata, Davison, and Stallworth making up one of the better groupings in the league. Of course Rankins tore his Achilles at the end of a monster breakout year. He will almost assurdedly start the season on the PUP list and probably wont be back to form until the 2020 season. The DT position feels more like FA target than a draft target. We might look for a late round small school prospect but I doubt we spend a 2nd round pick on a DT.


Corner

Like DT, Corner is also a weird position. The team essentially drafted Eli Apple in the 4th round this year via the trade. Patrick Robinson is coming back from injury but was a top slot corner the year prior with philly. PJ Williams future is the most uncertain so they could add another CB to the mix.

Greedy Williams, LSU or Lonnie Johnson, Kentucky, are both players that could fall to the Saints in the 2nd round. The team needs more big body corners that can help lattimore match up against the big WRs in the NFCS like Jones and Evans.

A slot corner like Julian Love from Notre Dame could also be in play to help shore up that position if Robinson doesnt come back healthy.


Linebacker

This team can always use more athleticism at linebacker even the the last two seasons of LB play have been the best under Sean payton.

A player like Anfernee Jennings from Alabama could be in play for us as a player who could play all the spots and rush the passer.

Projected Offense

Player Position Starter Depth Role Player ST
Drew Brees QB X - - -
Taysom Hill QB - X X X
Teddy Bridgewater QB - X - -
J.T. Barrett QB - X - -

Brees continued his elite play in 2018, posting a 115.7 QB rating and looking like an MVP candidate for most of the season. However, he stumbled at the end of the season beginning with the cowboys game and Mahomes didn't. Brees is still the most accurate QB in NFL history and has seemed to elevate his play the last two seasons, rarely making mistakes. When he did make mistakes they were daggers though... the INT to end the Dallas game and the INT to close the NFCC specifically. But Brees is still at Top 3 QB in the league and the only thing that seems to be regressing is his deep ball strength, particularily late in the season.

Taysom "Mormon Hercules" Hill was one of the most interesting players to watch this year. He played snaps at QB, RB, WR, TE, and multiple ST positions including KR, coverage, gunner, and rushing the kicker. He was most dangerous in 3rd and short and 4th and short situations where his presence added another wrinkle to the offense. Unfortunately, I don't see him being a long term solution, he is a gadget player at peak performance. He is what Tim Tebow couldve been if Tebow was willing to play other positions. He runs super hard and always seeks contact. He's still under contract but I don't know if he's the heir apparent to Brees or just a novelty.

Teddy Bridgewater was not impressive in his solo start against the panthers in week 17. But the team didnt have anything to play for and rested multiple players extensively. The question becomes how harshly do you grade bridgewater for being rusty in starting action with no starters (except mike thomas chasing his record) and Mark Ingram for a handful of snaps. Even Brees was struggling getting the ball to the WRs/TEs not named Thomas and Kamara so the fact that Bridgewater had trouble too is more an indictment on the WRs than him. But he still had poor throw placement and mediocre pocket awareness.

JT Barrett returned home from WW2 and was cut and resigned about 40 times this year.

Potential Targets

Nick Folk - Top Tier backup and a fellow Westlake Grad, would be a good option if brees went down.Signed by the Jags

Ryan Griffin - Started his career with us, could come back as backup again.

Mike Glennon - A failed starter but still sticking around the league, the Ginger Giraffe could be in play for a backup spot.

Bottom Line: Same as ever, we are F'ed in the A if anything happens to Brees. It doesnt matter who the backup is at that point because they will be playing Tank Commander for the rest of the season. The team will bring in a young QB to see if they got what it takes to become the heir apparent to Brees. He broke the last QB the team drafted for that role (Garrett Grayson).

There are reports indicating we intend to resign Bridgewater, which is great.

Player Position Starter Depth Role Player ST
Michael Thomas WR X - - -
Ted Ginn Jr. WR - - X -
Tre'Quan Smith WR X - - -
Cameron Meredith WR - X - -
Keith Kirkwood WR - X - -
Austin Carr WR - X - - -
Tommy Lee Lewis WR - - X X

Mike Thomas has been nothing but dominant since entering the league 4 seasons ago. He has put up monster numbers depsite being double teamed and triple teamed most of this year. Teams were able to do this because there is zero reason to respect our WR depth after Thomas. Teams could stick single man coverage on our WR2 and it worked most of the time. There were numerous drives that stalled because Brees couldnt find someone because Thomas and Kamara were both doubled and no one else could work themselves open. Throughout the season there were consistently games were the WRs after Thomas would have 2-3 targets and 1-2 catches between 3 players. Cameron Meredith might alleviate some of that if he can clear up his nagging knee inflamation and Tre'Quan Smith showed some promise but everyone else honestly felt like "Just Another Guy" on offense. Ted Ginn helps with his speed but he's on the wrong side of 30 and is purely straight line speed. The team needs a quick twitch YAC monster to eat off single coverage and/or a big redzone target. The team tried to rectify this by signing Dez Bryant and then Brandon Marshall, unfortunately Bryant never played a down and Marshall couldn't even beat out the UDFAs for a spot.

It was almost comical how none of the WR options the Saints tried after Thomas stuck this season. Cameron Meridith was hurt most of the season and tried to play in spite of that and ended up on IR with knee inflamation. Ted Ginn Jr was inconsistent before his injury, sometimes running a route wrong or not being on the same page as Brees. His speed was welcomed back but the team needs to start looking for his replacement, he will be 34 before the start of the season. Tre'Quan Smith was very inconsistent as outlined in my draft section. Keith Kirkwood and Austin Carr flashed but disappeared as often as Smith. The teams needs a bonafide slot WR and another big redzone target.

Potential Targets

Adam Humphries - Slot WR who has gotten better each year, would fit in nicely with the Saints offense. Signed by the Titans

Golden Tate - Tate would be a great #2 to slot across from Mike Thomas, I just don't think the team could afford him.

Tyrell Williams - Dude is 6'4 and runs very fast for that height, he would become the Saints tallest WR upon signing.

Dontrell Inman - Another guy who could be a solid producer across from Thomas after years of good production.

Bottom Line: The team needs to invest in helping MT and Kamara on offense. A speedy YAC WR would be the ideal solution but overall more talent is needed in the position.

Player Position Starter Depth Role Player ST
Alvin Kamara RB X - - -
Mark Ingram RB X - - -
Dwayne Washington RB - X - -
Daniel Lasco RB - - - X

I am projecting the Saints to resign Mark Ingram here. If we don't expect to sign a journeyman RB to help spell Kamara. Kamara has been sensational since entering the league two years ago, he has 30 TDs and 3k rushing/receiving yards in 2 years. Dwayne Washington and Mike Gilislee tried to fill in for Ingram and they sucked to be honest. The team has been very lucky that neither Ingram or Kamara has been hurt the last two seasons because the depth after them is not good. I expect us to sign a FA or use a late round draft pick to bring in another RB behind them but even moreso if Ingram isnt resigned.

Potential Targets

If Ingram isn't resigned I'd expect the team to pursue a cheaper veteran option to plug next to Kamara.

C.J. Anderson - Thicc Boi proved he still has it with a stellar performance spelling Todd Gurley in the wake of his knee injury. I don't know if he will be cheaper than just resigning Ingram since hes actually a year younger than Ingram.

Jay Ajayi - Ajayi could be a good option to pair with Kamara at the right price.

Bottom Line: Kamara is arguable a Top 5 back in the league and Ingram is around Top 15. It will be really telling if the team doesnt resign Ingram. If they don't it will mean that it's Kamara's show for the foreseable future. The two of them are BFFs though and I love the chemistry together so I do think Ingram will be back.

Update Latvius Murray was signed to a 4 year deal meaning Ingram will be moving on.

Player Position Starter Depth Role Player ST
Terron Armstead OT X - - -
Ryan Ramczyk OT X - - -
Michael Ola OT - X - -
Derek Newton OT - X - -
Nate Wozniak OT - X - -

Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramcyzk are one of the best pair of tackles in the league. Unforunately both were hurt at times this season, Armstead alarmingly was out for 6 straight games. He has never played a full season of 16 games and hasnt played in more than 10 since 2015. It's a credit to Sean Payton and Dan Roushar that they are able to find backups that can adequately fill in for Armstead. Ramczyk was hurt throughout the season but played all the games except the meaningless week 17 game. He is a mauler in the run game and getting better each year in pass protection. Behind those two Michael Ola was resigned and he was decent in spot relief action. He will atleast be on the team through camp. Derek Newton was a feel good story of a player coming back to action after tearing both patellar tendons, he played ok given his injury history. He too will likely be on the team through camp. Nate Wozniak is a giant of a man at 6'10 but hes been on the practice squad for a few seasons. We spent a 4th round pick on Rick Leonard and cut him in pre-season so the team is once again looking for more depth at tackle where the emergency option is to kick Andrus Peat out to OT.

Player Position Starter Depth Role Player ST
Andrus Peat OG X - - -
Larry Warford OG X - - -
Cameron Tom OG - X - -
Max Unger OC X - - -
Will Clapp OC - X - -

Peat, Unger and Warford make up a Top 10 interior unit. They are all good at pass pro and run blocking, Peat hasnt gotten better each year and Warford made the probowl last year. Unger is an anchor in the middle. Clapp was the only late round pick that stuck on the roster proving to be versatile backing up both OG and OC. He played above expectations for a 7th round picks. Tom was also a good back up at guard, sliding into action when Peat was out or had slid over to OT. The team will bring in a journeyman FA, either resigning LeRibeus or someone else.

Potential Targets

It's a pretty sparse FA class for OT/OG... maybe some like T.J. as swing prospect... or if we snipe some one like Trent Brown and then trade Armstead. Really trading Armstead is the only thing happening along the O-line that would a big surprise because the starting 5 are set and there are good depth pieces behind them.

Bottom line: If it aint broke dont fix it. Stellar starting talent, depth is need to insure against injury. The Saints O-line unit is consistently Top 5 in the league so i'm not too worried in the ability to acquire and coach depth.

Player Position Starter Depth Role Player ST
Dan Arnold TE X - - -
Josh Hill TE - - X X
Garrett Griffin TE - X - -

Tight End is easily the most underwhelming position from a talent perspective on the entire roster. Ben Watson is retiring and Hooman isnt medically cleared, Hill is a blocking TE with 83 receptions in 7 years and Dan Arnold needs to add weight (6'5, 220) and lose the dick fingers. The team needs a talent injection here badly. This years draft has some great prospects its just a matter of the saints getting to one. I think upgrading this position has to be the number one priority for the offense this offseason.

The TE position hasnt been the same since Jimmy Graham was traded. Benjamin Watson was fantastic in 2015 but everyone else, including Watson in his return, has just been "meh" or worse. The team need a playmaker at the position, if he can block thats a bonus. Dan Arnold was very inconsistent in his limited PT and Josh Hill was extended but hes a blocking TE. Michael Hoomanawanui is still dealing with neck/concussion issues. This or WR2 should be the top priority this offseason.

Potential Targets

Austin Sefarian-Jenkins - An inconsistent player, he spent the last season with the Jags but they didn't have much at QB. He could be a good stop gap signing if the team is unable to land one of the better TE prospects in the draft.

Jared Cook - Another stop gap signing, just older than Jenkins and less athletic, he still came off a great season and wouldnt face as much coverage on this team as he did with the raiders.

Bottom Line: There is very little pass catching talent here. Hill was extended but thats because he's one of the best blocking TEs in the league, he just cant get open. Arnold is coming off a season where he had 10 receptions across 12 games. Another guy that cant get separation when we need it.


Projected Defense

Player Position Starter Depth Role Player ST
Cameron Jordan DE X - - -
Marcus Davenport DE X - X -
Trey Henderickson DE - X - -
Alex Okafor DE X - X -

I expect the team to reach a deal with Okafor, hes been dominant stopping the run and provides good secondary pass rush in a part time role across from Jordan. However, I expected Davenport to be the starter or at least a super sub by the time the season starts. Henderickson has a limited pass rush set and was often inactive until Davenport got hurt, so the depth at this position could be looked at.

Potential Targets

Ziggy Ansah - The Periennial Injured Ansah could be a replacement for Okafor if the team doesnt resign him. He would be the a great rotational piece and maybe limiting his snaps would limit his injuries.

Derrick Morgan - He could also be a cheaper rotational edge piece to help spell Cam Jordan or build up a "NASCAR" type package.

Bottomline: Jordan is a Top 5 DE in the league still, Davenport is dripping with potential. Okafor is a good run defender if he gets resigned, if not we will need more depth injected into the posiition.

Player Position Starter Depth Role Player ST
Sheldon Rankins DT X - - -
David Oneymata DT X - - -
Tyeler Davison NT - - X -
Taylor Stallworth NT - - X -
Mitch Loewen DL - X - -

Sheldon Rankins getting hurt late in the year complicates the DT situation. David Oneymata is a great player but he will need some pass rushing help on the interior. The run defense unit is super solid with Taylor Stallworth and Tyeler Davison being very good run defenders. Another rotational body will be needed while Rankins recovers and Loewen spent all of last year on the PS and was signed away by Detrior late in the year.

Potential Targets

Sheldon Richardson - If he can be add for a one or two year deal he would replicate roughly 80% of Rankins production. He's still young and athletic and a good pass rusher but a bit of a locker room issue.

Timmy Jernigan - Hes coming off a season where he barely played but he showed he can defend the run and rush the passer and would be a good back up to Rankins when he comes off PUP.

Bottom line: Losing Rankins to the late season injury sucks because it means he will most likely start the season on PUP. However Oneymata and co are still a solid group on paper and adding another rotational body that can pass rush is probably on the agenda for the coaching staff.

Player Position Starter Depth Role Player ST
Demario Davis LB X - - -
Alex Anzalone LB X - X -
AJ Klein LB X - - -
Craig Robertson LB - X - X
Vince Biegel LB - - - X

Mike Nolan has worked wonders with the LB position over the last 2 seasons. It's one of the strongest position groups on the team now. Demario Davis was an absolute stud all year while Alex Anzalone and AJ rotated in beside him both playing well but Anzalone playing better in coverage while Klein was slightly better in run support. Craig Robertson was the captain of ST and a locker room "glue guy". I expect him to be back on the roster this season but not Manti Te'o. We will definitely sign or draft some one just based on numbers alone right now as Biegel is strictly a STer.

Potential Targets

Za'Darius Smith - A true passing rushing threat at LB could really elevate the Saints defense to the next level. Smith would be a great get but highly doubt the Saints can be competitive for the contract he will demand.

CJ Mosley - As a replacement for Manti Te'o has part time starter/run stop specialist.

Shane Ray - Another potentially cheap option for a rotational pass rusher.

Bottom line: This group is athletic overall and sound at run defense, they can be exposed some times in coverage but for the most part were good against TEs and RBs. I'd like more athletic added depth added. If Te'o walks then our most "experienced" backup is Vince Biegel. That won't do.

Player Position Starter Depth Role Player ST
Marshon Lattimore CB X - - -
Eli Apple CB X - X -
Patrick Robinson CB - X - -
Ken Crawley CB X - X -
Justin Hardee CB - X - X

Ken Crawley lost his starting job because he was getting burnt and commiting penalties all year, the team traded for Eli Apple and he played average to above average most games. The defense was significantly better overall the second half of the season than the first. Patrick Robinson should be returning from injury but will be 32 this season and coming off a fairly serious ankle injury. PJ Williams is also a FA facing a DUI suspension. Once again the entire position is question mark outside of Lattimore.

Potential Targets

Ronald Darby - One of the most talented CBs in FA but coming off a torn ACL in November, would most likely be on PUP to start the season. He would be an upgrade over Apple and Crawley though.

Bryce Callahan - Patrick Robinsons contract would be fairly easy to absorb if the team decided to move on from him and Bryce Callahan was a stud in the slot for chicago, he would definitely be a great get if we could swing it.

Darqueze Denard - Former first rounder that hasnt played like it but still pretty solid, would at the very least provide good competition across from Lattimore.

Bottom line: It's slightly maddening how many corners we have rotated through under Sean Paytons tenure. Depsite how bad the defense has peformed at times we have still have probowl/borderline play... unfortunately it just never sees the field at the same time. Marshon is a stud but has started the season slow both years. The spot opposite him is still a question mark unless Apple consistently plays like the Round 1 draft pick he is. Depth is needed again and the more talented it is the better.

Player Position Starter Depth Role Player ST
Marcus Williams S X - - -
Vonn Bell S X - X -
Chris Banjo S - X - -
J.T. Gray S - - - X
Kurt Coleman S - X - -

Marcus Williams is still one of the best young safeties in the game. He started off rocky but got better each game as the season progressed. Vonn Bell is a beast in the box, routinely making plays in run defense. He is vulnerable when he gets put in coverage though biting on routes and just getting beat by better route runners so he could be upgraded if a sure fire safety prospect fall or becomes available in FA. Chris Banjo just recieved a fat extension for a career STer and pairs with Justin Hardee as some of the best gunners in the game. Coleman was cut and we should expect a FA or Draft signing in his place. J.T. Gray was on the ST squad all season and I don't know if he actually exists because I never saw him play.PFR has him playing 5 games and notching 2 tackles.

Potential Targets

Landon Collins - He would offer the same thing Vonn Bell does but with better coverage ability, meaning Bell could fill in Kurt Colemans role as the primary backup/flex safety. he's probably to pricey for us but the safety market last year was pretty weird and could continue to be this year.Signed by the Racially Offensives

Kenny Vacarro - I doubt KV would want to come back but he's a known quality at this point, an inconsistent safety with injury issues. Still he would be better than coleman and would be good depth as he knows DA's system already.Resigned by the Titans, good job buddy.

Tre Boston - Could be a cheap option that can help in coverage situations, something still plagues the safeties from time to time

Bottom Line: Once Crawley was replaced the safety play also improved significantly. Williams has pro bowl potential and Vonn Bell is solid, somewhere between KV and Roman Harper if i was judging him against recent safety play we have had. The team hasnt used 3 safety sets as often as previously done but the 3rd safety is still a significant part of DA's defense.

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