The New Orleans Saints will aim to remain competitive in the upcoming 2021 NFL season. However, the potential retirement of Drew Brees and the salary cap dilemma have many fans worried that competitive may not be the case.
Fortunately, through contract restructures and extensions, New Orleans will have some money to play with and may aim to re-sign some of their stars that are currently free agents. Here are the top five players the team should target:
Jameis Winston, Quarterback
While many fans are clamoring to trade for Deshaun Watson or Matthew Stafford, we are aiming to be a bit more pragmatic. The Saints will need a cost-effective option at the position, and Winston is at the top of the list. Couple that with the “it’s your team now” moment with Brees at the end of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game and the “the guy is in the building” quote from Payton and all signs are pointing towards Jameis.
Winston could likely be had long-term in the three-year and $36-40 million range. He could also elect to take a one-year deal that is more lucrative and test his luck in 2022. However, COVID-19 is still threatening to keep the NFL salary cap at a shrunken level in 2022. It may make sense to sign a longer deal, which means more security.
Trey Hendrickson, EDGE
Wow, did Hendrickson come on strong this past season. He led the team in sacks with 13.5 and proved he was one of the best in the league despite Pro Bowl and All-Pro snubs. Furthermore, he played on a defensive line full of talented players and was still able to feast. With Sheldon Rankins also on the free agent market, the Saints will have to bring in or re-sign additional help to the line. While they play two different positions, it is hard to see New Orleans spending big money this offseason on the line when there are already talented players on the roster.
Hendrickson should be the exception. His performance this season showed his true talent and why it wasn’t a “one-off” type of year. New Orleans would be shrewd to bring him back.
Marcus Williams, Free Safety
Williams has solidified himself over the last two seasons as a very capable safety. In 2020, he made the jump from capable to elite. Both him and Malcolm Jenkins make a great tandem in the secondary not just from a talent standpoint but from a leadership one as well. At just 24-years-old, New Orleans could bring him in on a five-year deal that could be back loaded and heavy on the signing bonus.
Williams has come up in the New Orleans scheme and is a good fit. For his value there may not be a much better option in free agency for the Saints. Bringing back a young, talented, and familiar face could go a long way for a team that will look and feel different in 2021.
James Hurst, Tackle
Hurst is not a big, flashy name that many Saints fans were hoping to see on here. Yet, he played an incredibly important role on the offensive line all season as both Andrus Peat and Nick Easton battled injuries. Hurst came in and performed admirably when asked to. While he started out a little rough in his first start of the season in Week 7 against the Carolina Panthers, he quickly settled into his role.
For a team that is prone to injuries along the offensive line, Hurst could provide an affordable depth option that is well verse and comfortable with the offense. He could potentially be signed to a team-friendly deal in a year when the salary cap issue will be at the forefront.
Michael Burton, Fullback
A fullback as a top five player to re-sign? Really? Yes! New Orleans operates an offense that utilizes the fullback with consistency. They are one of the few in the league to do so. The fullbacks are a dying breed. As such, Burton has proved himself more than capable to handle the role since his arrival in New Orleans. He also can catch the ball, which is a plus in the offense as well. We are all about giving the full back some love around here.
Burton, on top of his play, has a fantastic mentality regarding the game and brings that to the locker room. From all accounts, he has enjoyed his time in New Orleans and is well liked. It would be awesome to see him return and bring some extra continuity to the offense in what will be a unique season for the franchise.
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