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Saints: A glimpse of the future

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Posted 11-19-2014 at 09:52 AM by lee909

In the first of a two-part article I will attempt to look at were the Saints stand in the longer term. The team is a mix of older veterans (whose contracts are above what they offer to the team) and some very promising young players. Most of the Saints big contracts can start coming off the books in 2016 as contracts like Colston, Lofton, Bunkley etc will be at a point where the dead money is not too high to be written off if the team is in need of cap space or has found a better alternative. In this first part I will look at the offense. Long term is 2016 and beyond.

Currently on Roster


Drew Brees (35) Luke McCown (33)

By the time the 2016 season starts Drew Brees will be 37 (38 by the time the playoffs start). Only two men have won the Superbowl over 37 and they are John Elway and Johnny Unitas. Brees could lead the Saints at this age and a similar style but would need a strong run game to supplement him.

Elway was throwing for around 3500 yards and 22-25 TDs over the teams two Superbowl runs. The team was carried on the shoulders of Terrell Davis running 3750 yards in 31 regular season games.

I expect the team to redo Brees contract over the offseason to free up cap space for 2015 but whether he will take a discount for a playoff push is unknown. At some point in the next 2/3 years the team must start to look for the man to eventually replace Brees as the starter but with the rookie deals being so good for teams the Saints will not want to waste years having a player sit on the bench too long.

I expect if he stays fit Brees will still be under center for the Saints until at least 2017.

Running Backs

Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Khiry Robinson, Travaris Cadet, Edwin Baker

Can the team afford to keep Ingram?

He will want to be paid as a first team RB and I donít see the Saints sticking with a work horse back when Thomas and Robinson are both fit again. Looking at it long-term it may be in the best interests to let Ingram go if the bidding starts to escalate when he tests free agency in March.

Ingram has played hard this year but has yet again missed games, this time with a broken hand (previously he missed 5 in 2013 and 6 in 2011 with various issues inclusing turf toe). While he doesnít have a lot of miles on him at the pro level his college career will have taken its toll with over 600 rushes and receptions. Salary cuts are needed somewhere and Ingram could end up a casualty.

Khiry Robinson will need a new deal for the 2016 season.

If Ingram leaves this summer it may be wise to get a deal done sooner rather than later. He needs to keep a better hold of the ball as he has two lost fumbles in his 118 rushes.

Pierre Thomas has been ever reliable and the most versatile of the Saints RBs and his contract runs through the 2016 season at good cap numbers (under $2.75ml both seasons).

Ever Reliable
Ever Reliable
After these three I would cut the rest. Cadet has shown little as a rusher or receiver and is also not getting much yardage in the return game (not that anyone has since Sproles in 2011).

Long term

Robinson and Thomas and Ingram if a deal can be reached.

Wide Receiver

I hate to say it but injuries look to be really catching up with Colston. For the majority of his Saints career he has been reliable with good hands and was a lock for 1000 yards in a season. Over the past two years he seems to have really slowed down and worse this season he has dropped a few passes that in years gone by you would have been shocked to see.

His contract is way over his production, mostly because the front office has been back loading deals for a number of years to keep the bulk of the team together. I wouldnít be shocked to see him cut at the end of the 2014 season as it would save $4.3ml against the cap but I expect to see him in a Saints uniform until the end of the 2015 season as I do not see the Saints paying him $5ml to play elsewhere. A cut prior to the 2016 season means paying him $2.7ml in dead money but that saves nearly $8ml.

Cooks and Stills both have shown really good signs of developing into good receivers though neither has that Dez Bryant/Julio Jones 6′, 200lb plus number one receiver body that when Colston moves on the team will need. As it stands 2016 will be a big year for WRs getting deal with A.J Green, Julio Jones, Josh Gordon, T.Y Hilton and Alshon Jeffery deals all ending. If any touch free agency I would be shocked if the Saints did not make a move to get that outside threat that has been missing from the offense.

Nick Toon hasnít been what was expected when the team spent a fourth round pick on him in 2012 and Robert Meachemís best days are long gone. The team has a pair of interesting wide receivers on the practice squad in Seantavius Jones and Brandon Coleman and both will be worth watching in the preseaon to see if they are showing signs of progress. Both need work especially on their hands.

Outside of Cooks and Kenny Stills there is little else on the roster the team needs to think about keeping for the long-term.

Long Term

Stills and Cooks

A bright future
A bright future

Tight End

Jimmy Graham,Josh Hill and Benjamin Watson

Nothing need said about Jimmy Graham who is outside of Gronkowski the best TE in the league. Behind Graham is Josh Hill who has shown some good progress this year with 9 receptions 122 yards and 3 TDs. Benjamin Watson is still reliable but at 33 his best days will be behind him.

Long Term

Graham and Hill

Offensive Line

Terron Armstead, Jahri Evans, Jonathan Goodwin, Ben Grubbs, Zach Streif, Tim Lelito, Bryce Harris, Senio Kelemete, Eric Olsen

Jahri Evans age and injury concerns
Jahri Evans age and injury concerns
In years gone by the Saints offensive line was one of its strengths but age has started creeping in and only Tim Lelito and Terron Armstead look like long-term options to start on the line.

While Ben Grubbs play has not been bad he has not replaced the exceptional Carl Nicks. A similar thing could be said of Zach Strief who has been a reliable member of the Saints but is far from the dominant tackle Jon Stinchcomb was, who held the spot for the 5 years prior to Strief.

Jahri Evans has been a great player for the Saints but nearly $20ml of cap space on two guards is leaving the team depleted in other areas. If the front office decided to make a change from Evans it would save $6ml in cap space next year, but the dead money would be $5ml. The same change in 2016 would save $8.7ml with only $1.5ml in dead money.

The same costing for Grubbs would be a saving of $3.6ml next year but a dead money of $6ml then in 2016 $7.3ml saving for $3ml dead money. The cost of cutting either and trying to find a replacement will likely see both stay in New Orleans next year, though if the level of performance does not improve there is a chance that either or both could be cut in 2016 to bring in younger blood on an ageing offensive line.

Long Term

Armstead and Lelito
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