The 2016 NFL Draft is in the books, and while fan reaction was split, experts seem to think New Orleans did well for themselves by addressing a need (Sheldon Rankins) and bringing in a sure-handed receiver (Michael Thomas). With the completion of the draft, teams and fans now move their attention to the upcoming OTA’s, minicamps and training camps that will lead right up to the start of the regular season.
Coming off another losing season and with question marks to still address, you can be sure fans will be keeping a close eye on the Saints this offseason to see how they improve. With that in mind, here are 5 storylines to pay attention to this offseason.
1: The Drew Brees Contract Issue
We all have heard about this one at length, so it’s a no-brainer Brees and his expiring contract will be splashed across headlines as one of the top storylines of the Saints’ offseason. Brees has said he wants to return to New Orleans next year, but seems content to play out his current deal and try and get a new one next offseason. The team had wanted him to restructure, but that never happened (although, it almost did when Josh Norman became a free agent). On the surface, things seem calm, but behind closed doors, who knows what’s going on. Expect this to talked about A LOT over the summer, especially if negotiations turn ugly.
2: Just How Good Can Michael Thomas Be?
New Orleans took a lot of people by surprise by snagging Ohio State wideout Michael Thomas in the second round of this year’s draft. Reaction to the pick was mixed, mainly because Thomas did not put up big time receiving stats during his days as a Buckeye. A large quantity of fans were smitten with Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell, rightfully so, meaning any receiver picked that wasn’t the Biletnikoff Finalist was going to be a letdown of a pick amongst fans. Thomas is going to have an uphill climb to prove to Saints’ faithful that the is worthy of a 2nd round draft choice, but a good summer will be a step in the right direction to proving just that.
3: The Offensive Line Play
Speaking of the draft, New Orleans did not draft a single offensive lineman during the 7-round extravaganza last week, much to the chagrin of some fans. To offset that, the team brought in 6 undrafted free agent lineman, two of which were All-Americans during their time in college. With names like Ryker Matthews of BYU, Marcus Henry of Boise State and Landon Turner of North Carolina joining the roster, the Saints should have no issues filling spots on the O-Line. Who knows. One or more of these guys may end up making an impact this season. They have to make the team first, something we will find out during camp.
4: Rebuilding the Defense
After stinking up the joint on defense last season, New Orleans made a concerted effort to bolster the front-7 during free agency by bringing in James Laurinaitis and Nick Fairley. How they fare in the defense is yet to be seen. The most important thing for Sean Payton and his coaching staff is making sure they stay healthy, as both guys have struggled with injuries the past few seasons. While we know what type of player Road Warrior Animal, Jr. can be, we have yet to see Nick Fairley make a sizable impact anywhere he has been. Expect people to pay close attention to how these two fare after trading in their navy-and-gold for black-and-gold.
5: The Progression of Vonn Bell, David Onyemata
Remember when I said the Michael Thomas pick disappointed a lot of fans? Well, take that reaction and multiply it by 50 and you now have how some fans felt about the Saints trading up (and losing their 3rd and 4th round picks in the process) to get Vonn Bell then trading back into the 4th round to draft obvious-project David Onyemata from Canada. Sean Payton is on record of saying he was impressed by Bell both on and off the field, so maybe he sees something fans don’t; nonetheless, many aren’t sold by the selection. Those same fans are even less enthused by the Onyemata pick. When watching film, Onyemata shows flashes, but he’s only been playing the game for 4 years. He’s raw and young, and has great speed. If both guys can make strides this offseason towards being the players New Orleans needs them to be, then it’s a win. Look for fans to keep an eye on those two as the summer moves forward.
Camp is right around the corner, and this writer, for one, could not be more excited. The Saints' offseason should be an intriguing one, especially with the new players New Orleans brought on board over the offseason. Expect a lot of eyes on the team during the summer as they look to prepare for a difficult 2016 campaign.
What do you think will be the most talked about Saints' storylines this offseason? Comment below and let us know!