It was one hell of a season for the New Orleans Saints. Between Drew Brees collecting records like they’re going out of style, going 13-3, making the NFC championship game, and losing on a Superbowl appearance because of a botched pass interference call, Saints fans probably haven’t had time to breathe since 2017. Still, a new year means new hopes, new fears, and old grudges. How did they hold up this offseason?
The unexpected retirement of Pro-Bowl C Matt Unger caught the Saints off-guard. Still reeling from the shock of their playoff run’s sudden ending, the Saints immediately went into fix-it mode. Unfortunately, there was more than one hole that needed patching.
Saints legendary RB Mark Ingram left home for the first time since he was drafted in 2011, opting for the bigger payday in Baltimore. The Saints’ record-holder (for numerous stat-lines), looks to find a different kind of playoff success in a new offense. Also, leaving for potentially greener pastures is TE Benjamin Watson, who returns to New England for a shot at Super Bowl glory once more. Also competing in a now-crowded AFC playoff picture will be DE Alex Okafor, who hopes to revamp the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense with a little of his own pass-rushing expertise.
Free Agency didn’t hit the Saints many times, but it hit hard when it did. To fill their TE vacancy, they brought in Jared Cook of the Raiders, who’s coming off of a career year in receiving (yards and receptions). RB Latavius Murray (the former Viking) looks to slot immediately into Ingram’s old role, following blocks laid down by the former Raven G Nick Easton.
Potentially the best offseason move by this team was to extend DE Cam Jordan’s contract by 3 years, and re-sign backup QB Teddy Bridgewater, knowing that Drew Brees is not ageless. DT Malcolm Brown left his Super Bowl-winning side for a different stroke in New Orleans, on a new-look defensive line alongside DE Mario Edwards Jr. The Saints also chose to bolster their un-formidable (and quite forgettable, allowing the 4th-most PYPG in the league) secondary with CB Marcus Sherels. The signing of special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi was a welcome move for Saints fans, who appreciate anyone willing to bring the ball out of the end zone.
With no 1st-round draft picks, the Saints didn’t get to add new youth to their roster until day 2, where they added C Erik McCoy in the 2nd-round with the 48th overall pick to plug the substantial hole left by Unger. The rest of their picks were few in nature, with a total of only 5 players drawn by the Big Easy, notably featuring 4th-round S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.
New Orleans isn’t really that new at all this year, with limited turnover in most departments. The real concern is whether or not they can shake the ever-growing frustration at the league and focus on trying once more to win a Super Bowl starting in week 1. A fair and even-handed offseason from an organization that has done it a thousand times before might be just what they needed to shake those postseason jitters and get back into the rhythm of season/offseason life.
Starting at 11 wins is a reasonable expectation for Saints fans, assuming Brees hasn’t aged all that much in the past few months, and a playoff appearance is all but expected. The question remains, though; can they pull off a legitimate Super Bowl run? With teams like the Rams and Bears posing serious threats to them, the Saints will need to fight like never before to hold onto home-field advantage and secure a spot in Miami in February. Realistically, this might end in NFC Championship disappointment again. Best of luck to you all, New Orleans.