With the majority of teams all but finished with making offseason moves, ESPN.com has begun the process of ranking the offseasons for every team in the NFL. In the most recent piece, covering teams ranked 16th through 9th, the New Orleans Saints finally made the list:
What went right: The Saints brought back Drew Brees! While the odds of Brees playing somewhere else seemed remote, well, ask the Patriots about remote odds. It was always going to be tough to keep Teddy Bridgewater as the primary backup, but the Saints were able to get a relative bargain in their one-year, $1.1 million deal with Jameis Winston. Even if Winston is just the inconsistent quarterback we saw over five years in Tampa Bay, that sort of money is well below market value for a borderline starting quarterback.
Nobody seems to squeeze out more cap space to add veterans on short-term deals than the Saints, who were back to their usual tricks this offseason. In addition to retaining players such as offensive lineman Andrus Peat and defensive tackle David Onyemata, Sean Payton & Co. were able to import safety Malcolm Jenkins, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and defensive tackle Margus Hunt. With $9.5 million in cap space remaining after cutting three-time Pro Bowler Larry Warford, they might not be done shopping.
What went wrong: After using the first-round tender on jack-of-all-trades Taysom Hill, they elected to lock up the BYU product through 2021 by handing him a one-year, $16.3 million pact that is almost fully guaranteed. Hill has yet to play even half of the offensive snaps in a single game, and there’s little evidence that he profiles as a viable long-term replacement for Brees. Hill turns 30 in August, and the Saints have trusted him to throw only 13 passes over the past two years, including one lone attempt over their five games without Brees in 2019. Hill has a passer rating of 46.6 on those throws. As a player who has touched the ball just under 50 times per season over the past two years, his usage rate needs to triple — or he needs to turn into a useful quarterback after Brees retires — to justify this deal.
What they could have done differently: Hill is more valuable to New Orleans than he is to anybody else and vice versa. It’s difficult to imagine that he would have earned this sort of money on the open market. Tendering Hill at the first-round level was fine, but I would have been willing to go year to year and trust that the team’s relationship with Hill would have led to a new deal after the 2020 campaign.
What’s left to do: Add an edge rusher. One place in which the Saints are relatively thin is on the edge, where they have Trey Hendrickson and little else behind starters Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport. They want to continue developing Davenport after trading two first-round picks for the UTSA product, so that would probably rule out signing an expected starter like Jadeveon Clowney or Everson Griffen, but I would never rule out a signing when this team is involved. Someone like Ziggy Ansah or Clay Matthews would make sense.
It’s interesting to see how much flack the Saints are getting from ESPN for the two-year extension given to the versatile Taysom Hill. Sure, the Saints have a fair amount of money tied up at the quarterback position in Drew Brees, Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston, and Tommy Stevens (the latter two making peanuts, though). But to view Taysom as only a quarterback in 2020 is not fair - he’s so much more than that. He’s a quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, blocker, and special teamer...and he excels in each role.
It’s also interesting that additional help on the edge is noted here. The Saints have some additional cap space after the release of Pro Bowl guard Larry Warford, so don’t be surprised to see them add someone like the aforementioned Ansah or Matthews - or even try to make a splash for someone like Clowney or Griffen.
Stranger things have happened.
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