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ESPN Gives Saints a “C” Grade for the Offseason

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Seems a bit harsh.

Philadelphia Eagles v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

It doesn’t look like Gerald McCoy is signing with the New Orleans Saints, so it’s more likely than not that the Saints are done adding substantial pieces to their roster for 2019. With roster changes now firmly in the rearview mirror, media outlets are placing grades on teams’ moves (or lack thereof, depending on the team).

For ESPN, they recently graded all 32 NFL teams’ offseasons (Insider required), and the New Orleans Saints were given a “C:”

New Orleans Saints

Grade: C

The Saints’ grade takes a hit from the 2018 trade that saw them surrender their 2019 first-round pick to Green Bay as part of trading up to select defensive end Marcus Davenport. That was one of those we-are-one-player-away moves that are hard to execute successfully. The Saints might argue that one blown call in the playoffs was all that stopped them, but they got 4.5 sacks and zero starts from the player they had to have.

”I think New Orleans freely gives out future picks and it ends up hurting them,” an exec said. “It’s like they fall in love with one player at one position, and that is where you get in trouble.”

The Davenport trade gave the Saints less flexibility in the 2019 draft, where they traded up again -- this time in the second round, to select center Erik McCoy, a player evaluators like very much. The Saints picked McCoy after committing $4 million in guaranteed money to veteran center Nick Easton following Max Unger’s surprise retirement.

”To me it seems like an overreaction to Unger retiring, but that is what teams do,” an exec said, noting that Kansas City acted similarly following Tyreek Hill’s suspension.

The Saints continued to emphasize special teams. They brought veteran coach Mike Westhoff out of retirement two years ago and wound up ranking No. 1 in ESPN’s special-teams efficiency rankings for 2018. While the retiring Westhoff expressed disappointment in the Saints’ decision to dismiss his underlings, New Orleans did well in adding Darren Rizzi to coach the units. Rizzi’s Dolphins finished second to the Saints in ESPN’s special-teams efficiency rankings last season. His units were fourth during his nine seasons with Miami (2010-18).

”From a roster standpoint, they do as much to address special teams as anyone,” an evaluator said. “They signed Marcus Sherels. They are the ones to think about having a backup quarterback [Taysom Hill] in a special-teams light.”

To me, it seems a bit harsh. I can be critical of the team’s moves at times, but I’ve largely supported the offseason changes in 2019. Sure, I wish the Saints could have retained the services of Mark Ingram at Ingram’s eventual contract price with the Baltimore Ravens, but no one knew until after the fact that Ingram would be forced to settle for that amount.

The Saints were able to re-sign Teddy Bridgewater as a back-up to Drew Brees, and have the option, at minimum, to franchise Bridgewater in 2020. They were able to quickly bring in a replacement for Ingram with Murray, and vastly improved their special teams with the addition of Marcus Sherels. They’ve added depth on both the offensive and defensive lines, and oh yeah, addressed the biggest shortcoming of the Saints offensive skill position - tight end - by signing Pro Bowler Jared Cook.

The Saints have a solid B+ in my book.