The New Orleans Saints still have plenty of roster questions heading into the 2021 season, but even more questions as we look ahead to the 2022 season. Here are three players whose performance this year dictates their future in New Orleans.
The #2 cornerback slot is up for grabs for the first time in two years as Janoris Jenkins’s departure leaves the position uncertain going into 2021. Rookie Paulson Adebo and veterans Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Patrick Robinson will all be vying for the #2 slot on the outside. P.J. Williams has been one of the more versatile defensive backs on the roster since arriving in 2015, playing both slot and outside corner, and also taking a good amount of snaps at safety in 2020.
Williams’s versatility has helped him stick around on the roster, but has kept him from the starting lineup which in turn has kept him from signing a long term contract. Williams signed his third straight 1-year deal in March of 2021, and will look to find a permanent place in the starting lineup as either a safety or a corner. If he regresses in any way from 2020, the Saints may look to move on, but it is not out of the realm of possibility that he earns a fourth straight 1-year deal at the end of 2021 if the Saints feel they still need his versatility.
The projected starting quarterback for the Saints will also be going into the 2021 season on a 1-year deal. Winston will be on arguably the best roster of his career, and will have a chance in 2021 to cement himself as the Saints starting QB for the foreseeable future. If Winston can lead the Saints to the playoffs, it is very likely he will wind up signing a long term deal to stay in New Orleans, and we can finally put the Taysom Hill starting QB talk to rest for good.
If Winston cannot keep his turnover problems in check, the Saints will struggle this year, which will not bode well for Winston. The Saints may look to draft a QB if they wind up with a pick inside the top 18 this year, meaning Winston would not be brought back once his 1-year deal expires. If Winston wants to prove he has overcome his issues and is worthy of being a starting quarterback again, he will need to be one of the reasons the Saints make the playoffs in 2021, or at least not the reason they miss the playoffs this year.
Tre’Quan Smith had his best season of his career in 2020, as an injury to Michael Thomas opened the offense up for more targets for players like Smith. The fourth-year Wide Receiver is going into the final year of his rookie deal, and is now the most tenured pass catcher on the roster outside of Thomas. If Smith is to earn a second contract, he is going to need to distinguish himself from younger players such as Deonte Harris and Marquez Callaway. If he can prove he is clearly the best #2 option for the Saints at WR, he will certainly earn himself a pay day and remain in New Orleans. If Harris and Callaway close the gap, the Saints may not resign him in the offseason and stick with the cheaper WRs on undrafted free agent contracts.
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