New Head Coach Dennis Allen and his staff have been handed the keys to a potential Super Bowl contender in the New Orleans Saints. With a continually great defense and several key pieces returning to the offense, bolstering the roster in free agency will be crucial to this organization’s results next season.
Through incredible contract restructuring and cost-cutting measures, General Manager Mickey Loomis has flipped a daunting $43 million over the salary cap into $30 million under budget, giving the team plenty of room to work with. Below is a discussion of the most important free agent signings so far.
After superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson’s legal charges were thrown out by a grand jury on March 11, a myriad of teams in the NFL expressed at least partial interest in acquiring him from the Houston Texans. The Saints front office was no exception. Seen as front-runners in trade talks, owner Gayle Benson made meeting with Watson and his team a priority.
After NFL insider Adam Schefter and others confidently declared the Saints and Falcons his preferred destinations, Watson would go on to shock the NFL world by waiving his no-trade clause for a new home in Cleveland for $230 million, the most guaranteed money in NFL history.
After this swing-and-a-miss, the Saints fell back on their ‘plan B’ and re-signed last season’s starter, Jameis Winston, to a two-year, $28 million contract.
Winston’s numbers were up-and-down over his six-and-a-quarter games played, but he led the team to a 5–2 record, managed an above-average passer rating, and threw 14 touchdowns to five interceptions and two fumbles, a huge mark of progress from his famously turnover-happy tenure in Tampa Bay.
The team’s main focus so far has been re-signing defensive players, such as: defensive tackles Jalen Dalton and Albert Huggins; defensive end Carl Granderson; and cornerback Jordan Miller.
Wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey has also been re-signed, and superstar Michael Thomas will be back from what feels like free agency after missing last season off of complications from ankle surgery.
The team’s next free agency move made some scratch their heads: following Marcus Williams’ departure, the Saints signed free agent safeties Marcus Maye and Daniel Sorensen to three- and one-year deals, respectively.
Maye was a decently productive safety in his five seasons with the New York Jets before tearing his Achilles tendon in November of last year. His recovery progress this offseason will be a huge determining factor for the team’s upcoming draft plan.
In his eight seasons with the Chiefs, Sorensen had always been overshadowed by other talent in the backfield, most notably LSU alum and Pro Bowl cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, a much more consistent playmaker also in free agency. Several sources have propagated rumors
that the Saints are interested in signing him, but no deal has manifested as of yet. Sorensen is, in his own words, expecting to play special teams and defense, which gives some hope to disgruntled Saints fans for a higher-upside player to be taken in the draft.
These signings, whether fully embraced by the fanbase or not, all help bring fresh energy and competition to the locker room. Remaining needs on the team include a backup running back, a tight end and another star wide receiver.
The front office will certainly look to use the remainder of this salary cap as the offseason continues; on the Saints’ official Twitter right now, their bio reads, “Keep tagging us in tweets of the players you want us to sign or draft. The more [eyes] in the tweet, the better.”