The New Orleans Saints made a flurry of moves to reduce their roster from 90 to 53 players by 4 p.m. eastern time Saturday afternoon. Some moves were viewed as head scratchers by the team's loyal fanbase, and some talented players had to be released on positions of solid depth. The Saints will undoubtedly make a number of additional moves in the upcoming weeks, some even before the team's season opener on September 9th against Tampa Bay. For now though, here is what the Saints initial roster looks like after some tough decisions by the coaching staff.
* = Rookie
Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill
Notable Cuts = Tom Savage, J.T. Barrett*
This was set as soon as the Saints pulled off a trade with the New York Jets for Bridgewater on Wednesday. As usual, New Orleans' championship hopes are tied to the right arm of their Hall of Fame quarterback. The 25-yr old Bridgewater is under a one year contract, which would have to be renegotiated if the team views him as a longterm replacement for Brees. At the least, he provides a more reliable alternative if Brees were to miss any time with injury. Unable to take control of the backup reigns, Hill remains a developmental project who will be available for special teams, and perhaps a holder for placekicker Wil Lutz. Undrafted rookie J.T. Barrett will most likely be brought back to the practice squad.
RUNNING BACK (4)
Alvin Kamara, Boston Scott*, Zach Line, Trey Edmunds (Mark Ingram will not count towards the roster while he serves his four game league suspension)
Notable Cuts = Jonathan Williams
One of a few surprising decisions that the team made was releasing Jonathan Williams, who looked like he had clinched the number three job behind Kamara and Ingram. Instead, the Saints went with the faster and more versatile rookie 6th round pick Scott, and the second year Edmunds, who can also play fullback. Line will again pave the way for Kamara and Ingram to form one of the top rushing attacks in the league. Williams, or perhaps another veteran back, may still be brought in while Ingram is out. Veteran Mike Gillislee, recently released by the Patriots, is visiting the team, and could be a solid addition if signed.
WIDE RECEIVER (6)
Michael Thomas, Tre'quan Smith*, Cameron Meredith, Ted Ginn Jr., Austin Carr, Tommylee Lewis
Notable Cuts = Brandon Tate, Keith Kirkwood*
Another surprise was the fact that the Saints cut Tate in favor of Lewis, presumably to be the primary kick returner. Carr had an impressive training camp, and closed out the preseason strong to cement his spot. Ginn on the other hand, struggled throughout preseason, even being singled out by Sean Payton numerous times for poor route running. Meredith looks as if he can be an important part of the offense as he returns to form after missing all of last year. Smith, a rookie 3rd round pick, was the Saints most dangerous offensive player in four preseason games, and already has some talking that the team has gotten another third round steal, as they did with Kamara a year ago. He and Thomas may quickly form one of the most lethal 1-2 wideout combinations in the NFL.
TIGHT END (3)
Ben Watson, Josh Hill, Dan Arnold
Notable Cuts = Michael Hoomanawanui , Deon Yelder*
The Saints hope that the 37-yr. old Watson will be able to provide the receiving threat at tight end that he did in his previous stint with New Orleans from 2013-15. Hill returns as a known commodity as the number two tight end. Arnold turned in an impressive receiving performance, moving up the depth chart and overtaking Hoomanawanui after being converted from a wide receiver earlier in the summer. Yelder may return for the practice squad as a developmental project.
OFFENSIVE LINE (8)
Terron Armstead, Andrus Peat, Max Unger, Larry Warford, Ryan Ramczyk, Will Clapp*, Cameron Tom, Jermon Bushrod
Notable Cuts = Josh LeRibeus, Rick Leonard*
The Saints have one of the best starting five offensive lines in the league, but depth was a growing concern. The versatile Clapp was unexpectedly available in the 7th round when the Saints grabbed him in this spring's draft, and he would wind up being the most consistent of any of the reserve offensive linemen. Tom returns for his second year, and like Clapp can play any of the interior spots. Fourth round pick Leonard may be brought back on the practice squad after showing some improvement late in preseason. The 34-yr old Bushrod is better suited for guard than tackle at this stage of his career, and may still be a roster casualty if the team can find a capable tackle alternative. Leonard seems a good candidate to return as a member of the practice squad.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (4)
Sheldon Rankins, David Onyemata, Tyeler Davison, Taylor Stallworth*
Notable Cuts = Jay Bromley
Traded = Devaroe Lawrence
The trade of Lawrence to the Cleveland Browns for a conditional 7th round draft choice was surprising to some, but it may have come down to a toss-up at the position between he and the undrafted rookie Stallworth. Both had outstanding training camps and were disruptive throughout the preseason. Davison is a reliable run-stopper, and both Rankins and Onyemata are potential breakout stars.
DEFENSIVE END (5)
Cameron Jordan, Alex Okafor, Trey Hendrickson, Marcus Davenport*, Mitchell Loewen
Notable Cuts = George Johnson, Al-Quadin Muhammad
Loewen had a solid camp, and his ability to play inside at tackle helped him earn his spot. Davenport missed much of preseason because of injury, but flashed disruptive potential in each of the team's final two games. Hendrickson had an outstanding training camp, and could be one of the breakout stars on defense. Okafor looks well on the way to full recovery from last year's Achilles injury, making the decision to move on from Muhammad and Johnson a bit easier after quiet training camps.
Demario Davis, Alex Anzalone, Craig Robertson, A.J. Klein, Manti Te'o, Nate Stupar
Notable Cuts = Hau'oli Kikaha, Jayrone Elliott
Elliott was unable to follow up on his 2.5 sack/2 forced fumble performance in the preseason opener against Jacksonville, but was still expected by some to stick around. The oft-injured Kikaha, a 2015 2nd round draft choice, just wasn't able to stand out well enough after being moved from defensive end, and wasn't able to provide significant versatility at the position. Robertson and Stupar cemented their roster positions with amazing performances over the last two weeks. Anzalone continues to flash tantalizing athleticism and potential, in hopes that he can stay healthy, while free agent addition Davis should solidify an improved linebacking corps that still struggled with consistency throughout the preseason.
Marshon Lattimore, Ken Crawley, Patrick Robinson, Arthur Maulet, Justin Hardee, P.J. Williams
Notable Cuts = Marcus Williams, Linden Stephens*, Kamrin Moore*
It shocked some that P.J Williams remained a Saint at the roster deadline on Saturday. The team obviously feels comfortable in Williams' knowledge of the defense and his abilities, despite his previous inconsistency, because they made the decision to move on from some talented players. Rookies Moore and Stephens each seem like excellent candidates for the team's practice squad if they are not claimed by another team. Maulet and Hardee have good value on special teams, but cemented their roster spots with solid pass coverage in both practice and preseason games.
Marcus Williams, Vonn Bell, Kurt Coleman, Chris Banjo, J.T. Gray
Notable Cuts = Natrell Jamerson* (cb/s)
THE Marcus Williams played like a potential All-Pro all summer, and he looks to be emerging into a leader on a young but very talented secondary. Bell had some struggles in coverage and positioning, and has yet to record an interception in his two year career, but will take on an increased role in the defense. He may be pushed for playing time by Coleman, a free agent acquisition from Carolina. Banjo is a special teams standout who gave the team some solid snaps at safety a year ago. A very puzzling move was the fact that the Saints kept Gray, who was mistake-prone throughout the preseason games, over the 5th round pick Jamerson, who can play both safety and corner. Especially after Sean Payton had singled out how impressed he was by Jamerson's play on more than one occasion. He looks to be a good candidate for the practice squad as well.
Wil Lutz (K), Thomas Morstead (P), Zach Wood (LS)
The Saints are one of the deepest teams in the NFL, evidenced by the fact that so many talented players could not make their way onto the roster. Expect a number of the team's cuts to make their way back onto the practice squad, as well as more roster decisions to be made in the upcoming week. In the meantime, the initial roster is set, and the defending NFC South Champions now set their sites on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the season opener, in a year that they hope will finish off with their second Super Bowl title.
What was the Saints most controversial move on cutdown weekend?
This poll is closed
Cutting Jonathan Williams
Keeping Tommylee Lewis
Keeping Bushrod over Leonard
Trading Devaroe Lawrence
Cutting Hau'oli Kikaha
Keeping P.J. Williams
Keeping J.T. Gray over Natrell Jamerson