After missing out on the playoffs for the second year in a row, the New Orleans Saints had a decision to make. Up against the salary cap with several of their key players aging out most teams would trade what players they can, cut other players with high salary cap hits, and bite the bullet and head towards a rebuild.
In the Saints case, it made all the sense. Two years after Drew Brees retired the Saints hadn’t found the answer for the quarterback position, and it just seemed even more different without head coach Sean Payton despite having pretty much the same roster intact the Saints looked like a shell of what they used to be. General manager Mickey Loomis had quite the task to determine what the next step was for the New Orleans Saints.
Derek Carr: The Saints started the offseason with a bang as they met with former Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr prior to the offseason to see if a trade was possible rather than have Carr meet with other teams after the Raiders released him. Carr was cut and eventually signed a four-year, $150 million contract with the Saints signifying that the Saints were retooling and not rebuilding the roster ahead of the 2023 NFL season. Now they had their franchise quarterback who could get them back in the postseason.
Michael Thomas and Juwan Johnson; While these moves weren’t technically free agent pickups, the Saints had to surround Derek Carr with weapons, and many viewed Juwan Johnson as the team's top priority after the breakout year he had. Johnson has gone from team project to team-building piece.
Many thought star receiver Michael Thomas was on his way out of the door after missing most of last season again, and the team restructuring Thomas’s contract just before the season finale against Carolina it seemed like the Michael Thomas era was coming to an end. When the Saints went after Derek Carr it looked like Michael Thomas was a part of the recruiting process and a part of the pitch to bring Carr to New Orleans, and now on paper, the offense could be something to admire this season.
Jamaal Williams: The Saints needed another running back to pair with Alvin Kamara, who could still face a suspension, and with Mark Ingram joining the FOX pregame team. Insert Jamaal Williams, who led the NFL in touchdowns last season with 17 and posted a 1,000-yard season on the ground as well. Williams will bring that same fire and energy that Ingram brought to this offense and could be money on the goal line and short yardage which is something the Saints have lacked since the Brees sneak.
Khalen Saunders and Nathan Shepherd: The defensive tackle group will certainly look different this season. The Saints lost David Onyemata and Shy Tuttle to division rivals Atlanta and Carolina, respectively. The Saints needed to replace and improve the interior defensive line group as they struggled against the run at times last season. Saunders comes over from Kansas City and should make an impact immediately as the team's new 1-technique. Shepherd comes from the New York Jets and should bring some pass rush to this group and can play across the entire defensive line, which is something the Saints value.
The New Orleans Saints on paper put together one of their best draft classes since 2017. They should get immediate help from players like Bryan Bresee and Isaiah Foskey on the defensive line as both players should see significant playing time in Year 1. Kendre Miller and Jordan Howden both have the talent and skill to see plenty of opportunities this year depending on how their respective position groups play out. Nick Saldiveri, Jake Haener, and A.T. Perry should develop and could see roles as starters in the future.
The New Orleans Saints are very much competing in 2023. With a wide-open NFC South and a weaker NFC conference, Mickey Loomis once again moved the due date for the team’s credit card and is going all-in this year with a mixture of old and new faces in the big easy. Our partners at DraftKings Sportsbook give the Saints the best odds in the NFC South to make the playoffs. The line is currently at -195, a slight change from where it opened at -200.
The Saints have the team to make the playoff push, now we wait and enjoy the 2023 NFL season as it inches closer and closer to kickoff.