The New Orleans Saints made it no secret that the 2020 season was about an all in, “win now” mentality. Their acquisitions of Emmanuel Sanders to help address the wide receiver situation across from Michael Thomas and the reunion with safety Malcolm Jenkins proved it. However, despite some savvy moves that worked in favor of the Saints, the team still made some moves that the franchise may come to regret later down the line.
Before we even begin, it is pertinent to mention that this previous offseason was very productive in replenishing and bringing in talent. If it weren’t for key injuries to players like starting quarterback Drew Brees, Michael Thomas and other stars, this team had Super Bowl champion potential. A lot of that began with the groundwork that was laid last offseason. That being said, here are some moves last offseason New Orleans may want back:
Andrus Peat’s five-year, $57.5 million contract
In hindsight, this may very well go down as one of the most unpopular signings in franchise history as far as the fans’ opinions are concerned. Just months after having one of the worst performances of his career in the 2019 NFC Wild Card round against the Minnesota Vikings, the Saints went and re-signed Peat to a lucrative deal. The idea was that Peat was one of, if not the best option on the market in terms of interior offensive linemen. In addition to that, Peat was familiar with the system, culture and atmosphere of the team.
Almost instantly the deal drew ire from the fans and rose some questions about the direction of the club and the reasoning behind investing that type of money in a player like Peat. Naturally, the media urged caution and cited the above reasons for signing him. Peat was apparently the best available. However, New Orleans went and then drafted another interior offensive lineman with their first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
andrus peat's contract is the worst move the saints have made in the sean payton era— John Sigler (@john_siglerr) October 13, 2020
Peat was given a Pro Football Focus grade of 61.2 for his 2020 performance. Not great, not really even good, but just average. However, a lot of talk of Peat has surrounded when the franchise can part ways with the player for the smallest amount of damage to the salary cap. The answer is that they have to wait until 2023 to incur the smallest cap hit by cutting him. Peat could be traded, but it is unlikely when his consistently poor performances throughout 2020 will be on the minds of every executive if and when the Saints put him on the trade block.
With the 2021 salary cap reportedly to be at lower level than it was in 2020, the Peat contract is one New Orleans may want back.
Taysom Hill’s Extension
Taysom Hill signed a two-year, $21 million extension last offseason with one caveat: he would be the starter if Drew Brees were to go down with injury. As it happened, that exact scenario played out and Hill came in as the starter for four games and led the team to a 3-1 record. However, it is worth noting that Hill played against a quarterback-less Denver Broncos and also played against the lowly Atlanta Falcons twice. He did lose to the Philadelphia Eagles who will be picking sixth in this year’s NFL draft.
Hill had a first-round tender placed on him last offseason and was subsequently hyped up by head coach Sean Payton all offseason. Many believed it was an attempt to secure a first-round draft pick for New Orleans if a team were to take a chance and sign Hill. When that plan didn’t come to fruition, the Saints doled out the above contract rather than pay Hill the $4.4 million for 2020 that the first-rounder tender would have dictated.
Sean Payton openly recruited Taysom Hill last year, too. I’m sure in a week we’ll get people overthinking this, saying it’s misdirection, but it’s not. They like Winston.— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) February 3, 2021
After seeing Hill as the starter, there doesn’t seem to be much of an argument when it comes to saying that Jameis Winston will be the starter next season if the team and Winston can come to an agreement. Despite the “quarterback competition” talk coming out of the organization, it is almost all but assured Winston is the starter come 2021 if a deal gets done. This makes Hill’s contract look like an albatross when considering his role on the team and the decreasing salary cap. The type of money Hill is due in 2021 could be better used to fill some of the multiple gaps this squad is likely to incur this current offseason. Instead, we are likely to get another offseason and 2021 filled with unproductive arguments on who should be the starter in 2021. That money and energy should be funneled elsewhere.
Giving up draft picks for Tommy Stevens
Tommy Stevens, a jack-of-all-trades quarterback, much like Hill, was the centerpiece of some drama during the 2020 NFL Draft. Stevens was expected to go undrafted and then sign with the Carolina Panthers. Carolina and Stevens had a verbal deal in place before the draft even concluded that would have had Stevens arrive as a UDFA. However, New Orleans had significant interest in the player and may have been seen as a potential replacement for Hill. Despite the interest, Stevens was going to stick with his word and sign with the Panthers at the conclusion of the draft even when Payton offered the quarterback more money to sign with New Orleans.
The vision for MSU QB Tommy Stevens, Sean Payton says, is "much like Taysom's."— Amie Just (@Amie_Just) April 25, 2020
In one of the most petty moves of all-time, Payton traded away the team’s 2021 sixth-round pick to the Houston Texans in order to be able to draft Stevens in the seventh-round with the 240th pick. By doing so, he prevented Stevens from signing with Carolina and he got his man. It would have been a cool, or even shrewd move, had the Saints utilized Stevens. Instead, he was stashed on the practice squad and still eventually made his way to the Panthers when they claimed him in November. Naturally, in another petty move, the Panthers allowed Stevens to make his NFL debut in Week 17 against, yep, the New Orleans Saints.
2020 has been a very weird season not just in the NFL, but in the college ranks as well. With scouts not being able to do their job to the fullest extent, there could be value at the margins in the draft this year. That includes players in the sixth round. With New Orleans needing all the help and depth they can get this season on the cheap, giving away the team’s 2021 sixth-round pick to prove a point may come back to bite them.
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