There will be several questions facing the New Orleans Saints as they head into the offseason. One win or one San Francisco 49ers loss away from the playoffs, the team that experienced so much adversity throughout 2021 might be a bit closer than many expected following the retirement of former quarterback Drew Brees.
Head coach Sean Payton and his crew managed the tribulations of the regular season about as well as anyone could have hoped. Now, navigating the questions of the offseason could be the difference between contention and another embattled season in 2022.
Should the New Orleans Saints bring back QB Jameis Winston?
This will be the source of many debates across the fanbase throughout the season. As quarterback Jameis Winston recovers from his ACL injury which he suffered against his former team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 8 of the regular season.
He was diagnosed with an ACL tear, but minimum MCL damage which was an improvement from what was originally anticipated. He’s already progressed well in his rehabilitation with workout videos showing improvement. He even attended the Saints’ closing game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Whether or not he’ll be ready for OTA’s, training camp, and the preseason remains to be seen. Which could complicate matters especially considering that Taysom Hill might not be ready either after suffering a Lisfranc injury in the final game of the season along with his already existing ailments.
Winston’s recovery could be the deciding factor in addition to mutual interest when it comes to a return to New Orleans. This question will be a very popular one throughout the offseason.
Will the New Orleans Saints pursue another QB option via trade?
Questions at quarterback are nothing new to New Orleans anymore. Throughout the 2021 season they maneuvered through a preseason quarterback battle and still started four different players at the position after naming Winston the starter.
This offseason the questions about returning Winston are further clouded by the potential of the Saints landing their next starting quarterback from the trade market.
A lot of speculation has been made since the 2021 offseason that the Saints could be in on Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Certain if that ended up being the case and the Saints pulled off acquiring him, there would be no more questions at signal caller. But will that happen? Can that happen?
Russell Wilson Next Team Odds:— PFF Bet (@PFF_Bet) December 28, 2021
New Orleans Saints (+700) pic.twitter.com/4Wraz4xpZa
If not Wilson then is it possible, they could make a move for someone else? Some have thrown around the name of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but more realistic options include the Las Vegas Raiders’ Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers, and perhaps a wildcard like Baker Mayfield who is currently on his fifth-year option with the Cleveland Browns
In order for any of these names to be attain, Russell Wilson or otherwise, they’ll have to first be on the market. At the time this is being written, no such availability has been made apparent outside of Garoppolo. Therefore, not much confidence can go into these options, at least for now.
Will the Saints select a WR early in this year’s NFL Draft?
Over the past few seasons, the Saints wide receiver room has been a top-heavy unit. Perceived as Michael Thomas and then the rest. This season, without Michael Thomas who was not able to fully recover from his late-offseason surgery in time to return to the field, the Saints struggled in the passing game. Not all of it was on the receivers, the Saints also dealt with a litany of injuries on the offensive line, but the pass-catching unit didn’t have the strongest of seasons to say the least.
While the Saints offense finished 11th in passing touchdowns, the clocked in at 32nd (dead last) in passing yardage. Meanwhile they were fourth in the NFL when in rushing attempts, 30th in passing attempts.
After so many years of top-five, top-ten plays in that area of the offense, the Saints’ identity took a hit on that side of the ball. While the defense played to a championship caliber most of the season (fourth in points allowed and 7th in total yardage), the offense just couldn’t hold up its send of the bargain with the expansive list of injuries.
This season could be the cautionary tale of not investing at wide receiver early in the draft and cultivating talent at the position in the wings. The Saints have talented undrafted players. Marquez Callaway continues to develop and grow, leading the team in receiving yards in 2021. Deonte Harty’s role also continues to expand, becoming far more than the return threat he is.
Marquez Callaway led the #Saints with 698 receiving yards this season, which ranked 51st in the NFL— John Sigler (@john_siglerr) January 12, 2022
Deonte Harty was next-best at 570, ranking 72nd
Alvin Kamara (439), Tre'Quan Smith (377), Adam Trautman (263), and Lil'Jordan Humphrey (249) were the only other Saints in top 200
However, the team clearly lacked consistent and fully realized options at the position once their All-Pro receiver was ruled out for the season.
New Orleans worked to acquire now Los Angeles Rams receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in a variety of ways, but ultimately he decided to go elsewhere.
This offseason, the Saints will have to reinvest in the position to not only pursue greater talent behind Michael Thomas, but potentially in place of depending on how his situation holds throughout the next few months.
The Saints could pursue this position in free agency, but the magnifying glass will be on the 2022 draft class. With names like Ohio State’s duo of Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave (my WR1), USC’s Drake London, Penn State’s Jahan Dotson and others, there are several opportunities to invest at WR in the early rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Note: Alabama WR Jameson Williams is still declaring for the 2022 draft as he embarks on offseason surgery to repair the torn ACL he suffered during the National Championship game.
Will this finally be the offseason in which the Saints coaching staff gets poached?
Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and members of the Saints’ defensive staff such as Ryan Nielsen, Kris Richard, Brian Young, and Michael Hodges could all garner some level of interested across the NFL for open positions.
While Allen may be the only head coaching candidate at this time, once the NFL fills out its seven to nine eventual openings, coordinators, positions coaches, and specialists jobs could open up as new coaches make way for their staff.
It could all start with Dennis Allen, who curiously has not received any interviews at this time. Though the two teams I expect to be most in the mix for him haven’t formally started their searches yet. The Las Vegas Raiders are still currently in the playoffs and thus have not made apparent their offseason plans for interim coach Rich Bisaccia and the Minnesota Vikings look like they will fill their GM role first.
Outside of the coaching staff, the Saints could also risk losing their assistant general manager and college scouting director Jeff Ireland to one of the three open GM positions with the New York Giants, Chicago Bears, and Minnesota Vikings. So far, he’s only been asked to interview with the Chicago Bears.
Ideally for New Orleans, they’re able to run things back in the 2022 season relatively untouched when it comes to their staff.
Can the New Orleans Saints keep free agent safety Marcus Williams?
I debated on the Michael Thomas question here but being that there’s been no report on that situation worsening, Marcus Williams’ future feels more uncertain as an expiring contract awaits.
Williams is an essential piece on the Saints defense, especially with Dennis Allen at the helm. He’s shown his ability to be the rangy ballhawk he was expected to be coming out of Utah but has shown a propensity to be a great run defender, downhill enforcer, and more.
The Saints franchise tagged Williams, part of their stellar 2017 draft class, but couldn’t work out a long-term deal ahead of the tag deadline. This offseason, they’ll work to land that long-term deal in a way that pays Williams his due but has the lowest short-term impact on the Saints already precarious 2022 salary cap situation.
Okay, maybe precarious for other teams, at least.
Retaining Marcus Williams should be a key priority for the New Orleans Saints this offseason.
Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC , “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @RossJacksonNOLA and subscribe to my daily Saints podcast, Locked On Saints and checkout the Locked On Saints YouTube channel.