New Orleans Saints NFL offseason preview: What will life be like after Sean Payton? – New Orleans Saints Blog

METAIRIE, La. — First quarterback Drew Brees. Now coach Sean Payton.

The New Orleans Saints have lost the two most iconic characters in franchise history over the past 12 months. But they have made it clear they have no plans to rebuild under coach Dennis Allen, despite some significant salary cap hurdles. The Saints believe their roster is loaded with enough talent, especially on defense, to take on a wide-open NFC South division that no longer includes future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady.

The Saints finished 9-8, missing the playoffs for the first time in five years. But it was an admirable effort considering they had so many injuries and COVID-19 issues that they set an NFL record with 58 different starters used in a season – including four quarterbacks after that. Jameis Winston tore the ACL in his left knee in Week 8. And that total didn’t even include receiver Michael Thomas or kicker Wil Lutz, who both missed the entire season due to injury.

If the Saints can make the right call at quarterback and get through the season a little healthier, they should be in contention for the Southern title.

Projected Salary Cap Space: $74 million above planned cap

Best free agents: QB Jameis Winston, LT Terron Armstead, S Marcus Williams, LB Kwon Alexander, DB PJ Williams, WR Tre’Quan Smith, QB Trevor Siemian

Potential candidates for the cup: Believe it or not, the Saints don’t need to cut anyone to get under the ceiling. They can move over $100 million in cap fees in the years to come through their typical method of bonus restructuring. However, cornerback Bradley Roby is up for release or a pay cut as he owes $10m and was only a part-time player in 2021. Additionally, Armstead and Alexander could be too expensive to stay in free agency.

The big question: Who will play quarterback? Winston is likely the favorite as he proved to be a good fit in 2021 with 14 touchdown passes and three interceptions before tearing an ACL. However, there is no guarantee that he will be back since he is an unsigned free agent and is still in rehab. The Saints could also consider a reunion with free agent Teddy Bridgewater, among other options.

However, don’t be shocked if the Saints are aiming for the top of the QB market with a potential trade for someone like Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers. They may not be able to make the best offer as they won’t pick until 18th overall in the draft, but they will consider all options.

Regardless of who plays quarterback, however, the Saints’ second priority will be strengthening the receiving corps and offensive line.

Best script for the Saints’ offseason: Along with getting the right quarterback at the right price, getting Thomas back healthy and playing at an All-Pro level would be huge. Although there has been friction between Thomas and the team in 2020, there is no indication that they are planning to trade him. He could do a lot to resuscitate a passing offense that fell flat in 2021.

Worst-case scenario for the Saints’ offseason: Outbid by teams with more cap space. Although the Saints manage their finances aggressively, it’s possible other teams will outbid them for all of their key quarterbacking goals and steal key free agents like Williams, Armstead and Alexander.

First look at the NFL Draft, from ESPN analyst Jordan Reid: It’s been an interesting offseason for the Saints. With Allen taking over, improving in the secondary could be a key point early on. The biggest question of the offseason will be at quarterback. Taking on a rookie signalman might give them more financial relief in the future.

Main needs: CB, S, QB

The best choice: No. 18

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