The 2022 season has completed but the NFL machine keeps chugging along. The NFL free agency period will be upon us shortly, followed quickly by the 2023 NFL Draft. Going into this off-season, the New Orleans Saints have more questions than at any point in recent history. In order to clarify the current status of the team, a list of questions have been gathered. This Q&A should assist fans with understanding the how, what, and why of the organization. These are the 2023 early off-season questions and answers for the New Orleans Saints.
Saints off-season questions and answers
Q: The Saints received a draft pick for Sean Payton, but he was retired. How does that work?
A: Even though Payton retired, his contract with the Saints is still valid. Retirement simply paused the years remaining on the contract. If Payton had never decided to return to the NFL, his contract would have remained halted with the Saints indefinitely.
Q: The Denver Broncos sent a first round draft pick to the Saints for Sean Payton. Why has this been referred to as the 29th and 30th draft selection?
A: The Miami Dolphins lost their first-round draft pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. This was a punishment for “integrity of the game violations.” The first round in the upcoming draft will be made up of just 31 selections. If the Dolphins pick was not taken away, the Saints would have received the 30th pick in the draft. Without the Dolphins pick, the pick is moved up to the 29th selection.
Q: Is this what people mean with the phrase “draft capital.”
A: Correct. Draft capital is a simple catch-all term used to mean any and all upcoming draft selections for each team.
Q: What is the Saints draft capital this year?
A: The Saints currently have seven picks in the 2023 NFL Draft. This includes the 29th pick from the Payton trade, and one pick in each round two thru four. The Saints first three picks are slated within the first 71 overall picks in the draft, setting the team up to improve multiple positions quickly.
Q: What happened to the original pick the Saints should get in the first round?
A: The Saints original first round selection was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles last off-season. The Saints acquired the Eagles 2022 16th and 19th selections in exchange for last year’s and this year’s first round selection, amongst others. This trade was used by the Saints to move up in the first round to draft Chris Olave.
Q: Are there any high-profile players leaving the team this season?
A: There are several players who could sign with other teams this off-season. The highest profile unrestricted free agents are Bradley Roby, David Onyemata, Deonte Harty, Marcus Davenport, Jarvis Landry, Mark Ingram, P.J. Williams, and Andy Dalton.
Q: What is an unrestricted free agent?
A: Unrestricted free agents have no restrictions on the team they sign with this off-season. They can sign without any input from the Saints.
Q: Are there restricted free agents?
A: Restricted free agents are players who have been with the team at least three seasons and have an expired contract. The Saints can place a tender on the player which other teams have to pay before signing the respective player. For instance, Juwan Johnson is a restricted free agent this off-season. If the Saints decide he is worth a second-round draft pick, another team would have to surrender that pick to sign Johnson. Restricted free agents often find themselves with their previous year’s team.
Q: Where does that leave the team as far as needed positions this off-season?
A: The Saints need to strengthen at several key positions including defensive tackle, edge rusher, free safety, quarterback, and running back. This could depend on what the Saints do with Michael Thomas as well. Should he leave the team, wide receiver will once again be a needed position.
Q: What is going on with Michael Thomas and his contract?
A: Thomas still has multiple years left on his current contract; however, the Saints restructured that contract in January 2023 to alleviate the salary cap hit. Thomas’ contract was shifted around to lower his salary hit but it does not remove his contract from the Saints books. Thomas’ cap hit in 2023 has been lowered to just $13 million. If he is released by the Saints in March of this year, his salary cap hit will be just $14 million in 2024. Both of these salary cap hits are still much lower than they would be should he remain on the roster.
Q: Does this mean Michael Thomas will be released?
A: It does not guarantee his release, but it does make it seem inevitable. The Saints could choose to keep Thomas, but it would cost them heavily in 2024, around $32 million extra on top of the $14 million scheduled.
Should the Saints find a way to keep Michael Thomas?
This poll is closed
No, it is time to move on
Only if the contract fits
Q: How is the Saints salary cap situation?
A: The salary cap is about the same as it always is with the Saints. Every off-season, Mickey Loomis and the Saints front office finds ways to work around the numbers though. Until the Saints stop signing players in free agency, do not worry about the salary cap.
Q: Are there any worthwhile players to pursue in free agency this year?
A: There will be several positions with interesting names this off-season. Notably, quarterbacks will have a couple of viable names like Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Baker Mayfield. On the defensive line, free agents include Javon Hargrave, Daron Payne, Dre’Mont Jones, Zach Allen, Dalvin Tomlinson, Poona Ford, Arden Key, and Melvin Ingram. Running backs include Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, Tony Pollard, and Miles Sanders. The free agent pool of wide receivers this season is very poor and will likely be a position addressed in the draft.
Q: Is there any hope for a quick turnaround next season?
A: If the sportsbooks are to be believed, the Saints currently have the 20th best odds to win next year’s Super Bowl. From the NFC, there are only eight teams who currently have better odds than this Saints team. With seven teams making the playoffs each season, this indicates that the Saints might not be too far away from potentially making the playoffs. Also working in the Saints favor is the fact that every other NFC South team currently has worse odds than the Saints. Any large moves this off-season will likely improve these odds as well. Odds taken from our friends over at DraftKings Sportsbook.