Saints offensive lineman James Hurst had officially became the most vital piece to the unit in 2021. Not only was he consistently a fresh body throughout the season (2nd on the team with 940 snaps), Hurst excelled in multiple starting roles for the team. To be exact, Hurst started in 15 of 17 games all in which were at the left tackle, left guard or right tackle positions.
Here are the 10 starting offensive line combinations for the Saints this season. pic.twitter.com/sYEY0XLmTF— Amie Just (@Amie_Just) January 2, 2022
In doing so, Hurst managed to chalk up a 69.8 Pro Football Focus grade, good for 12th in the league among offensive tackles.
Highest graded #Saints players so far this season (min. 200 snaps):— PFF NO Saints (@PFF_Saints) November 10, 2021
✅ Ryan Ramczyk (OT)- 83.8
✅ Cameron Jordan (EDGE)- 79.9
✅ Terron Armstead (OT)- 78.6
✅ Marcus Williams (S)- 76.1
✅ James Hurst (OT)- 74.6 pic.twitter.com/SJ1BDuIyHQ
Hurst became a major contributor last season when all but one of the teams starting o-lineman went down, either missing the entire year or about majority of it due to injury.
With All-Pro tackle Terron Armstead slated to become a free agent soon, it is quite possible that Hurst will be in the mix for a starting role in the fall. Armstead should command north of $20 million a season, and with the Saints cap situation they’ll likely prioritize that money on younger players that they plan on having for the foreseeable future. If this transpires, the ideal scenario would be that right tackle Ryan Ramczyk would kick over to the left side positioning Hurst at the starting right tackle spot. This idea not only saves the Saints a ton of money moving forward, but it allows for Hurst to expand upon what was a very good season for the 8-year veteran.
Not to mention, he should receive a lot more help as the team should get healthier around him. However, this all could change depending on what the team decides to do in this years upcoming draft as well as free agency. But if I had to rank this scenario, it would certainly be towards the top of the list.
These next few weeks should unveil the team's plans for the future and give us insight of moves to come this offseason.