The New Orleans Saints are going into 2017 playing for all the marbles. Quarterback Drew Brees is not under contract beyond this year, and head coach Sean Payton is entering the final phase of a three-year rebuild designed to get the team into the playoffs for the first time in four years.
Considering the looming instability among ownership (Tom Benson’s advancing age is a common topic of discussion among fans) and whatever conspiracies you entertain about Payton’s interest in other jobs, this looks like a year to do or die in New Orleans.
That also appears to be the case for the neighboring New Orleans Pelicans. DeMarcus Cousins came to town to participate in the annual NBA All-Star Game, then found out late Sunday evening that he would be staying longer than expected. If you haven’t heard, the Pelicans worked a trade with the Sacramento Kings to get a second superstar to pair with the embattled Anthony Davis. By most accounts, this was a coup by Pelicans management.
But what does that have to do with the Saints?
The memetic explanation is that Payton and Saints general manager Mickey Loomis won’t let themselves be outdone by this bold move. This threat to their reputation as wheeling, dealing risk-takers could be seen as a challenge. With cash to spend and an unknown expiration date on Brees’ ability to will the team into winning games, this idea fits neatly into the narrative surrounding Saints management.
Whether you buy into that theory or not, all the signs are there for an aggressive Saints offseason. Current estimates of Saints salary cap space nearly double the amount they had to work with the last three years combined. New Orleans has great draft positioning with three picks in the top 76.
They will make big moves, whether that’s signing a great pass rusher in free agency (like San Diego Chargers edge defender Melvin Ingram) or working a trade for a playmaking defender (like New England Patriots fan favorite Malcolm Butler). What if Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower or New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul are not franchise tagged? There’s even a chance that dynamos on offense like Jamaal Charles (Kansas City Chiefs) or Le’Veon Bell could be available.
Crazier things have happened; look no further than those of us wishing for chaos in 2015 being rewarded with the Jimmy Graham trade. If a team like the Philadelphia Eagles starts flaunting a first round pick for wideout Brandin Cooks, would the Saints accept it?
We’re still almost three weeks away from the fireworks of free agency and opening-day trades that go with it, but I’m confident in saying that the Saints will make the wait worth our while.