By Paul Wanecski
Normally not many head coaches can weather a storm of three consecutive 7 win seasons but Sean Payton is anything but normal. Mickey Loomis has to be nearing the end of his time in New Orleans, saved likely by the uncertainty surrounding ownership. With that said, the Saints have a lot to accomplish in this draft.
Head Coach: Sean Payton
Offensive Coordinator: Pete Carmichael
1st YPG, 1st Pass, 16th Run
Defensive Coordinator: Dennis Allen
27th YPG, 32nd Pass, 14th Run
The Saints have more than twice as much salary cap space tied up in dead money than they have in available funds. Estimated about $5m after the draft, the team is in a rough spot yet again. This is not the first time. As long as Loomis is the General Manager it won’t be the last. Yes, dropping $13m for players who aren’t on the roster anymore is a fast track to being terrible, but this is common territory for New Orleans. The Saints have gambled in the free agent market the last few seasons and that really hasn’t paid off, hence all the dead money. They need the draft badly this year, which explains why they were happy to trade Brandin Cooks, their top target, for the last pick in the first round.
Coby Fleener had a major hot/cold year, which I suppose isn’t uncommon with Drew Brees targets. Still, with counting $7.5m against the salary cap, for a target that only shows up for six of sixteen weeks, the team is spending too much money on him. His cap number raises to $8m in 2018 to at or over $9m for both 2019 and 2020.
We hope you like Cameron Jordan because he is going to be a staple in New Orleans for at least the next two seasons. His contract is the 4th highest among 4-3 De. He plays in the backfield, making 32 tackles for loss the last two years combined. He is just a really expensive piece to a really bad defense that appears to be spending money in all the wrong ways.
Dannell Ellerbe – His dead money is $3.2m this year. Not too sure what they saw and why they felt he was worth $5m on a two year deal.
Jairus Byrd – Full transparency; I live in Buffalo NY. This contract was a time bomb. His release costs the team $3.4m in dead money
If you look at the current salaries, it appears the only place the Saints HAVEN’T spent money is at the cornerback position. The highest paid CB on the roster is currently Sterling Moore, who has a base salary of $775,000. They will be gaining PJ Williams back from Injured Reserve, so they will get a young injection of talent in 2017, but having the worst pass defense in the NFL should signal the need to pay some attention to that need.
The 11th or 12th selection in the NFL draft has been traded 50% of the time since 2011. With that being said, yes the Saints could use the pick but they are also just as likely to deal it.
Corey Davis (WR, Western Michigan) – Drew Brees would LOVE the crisp routes of Davis.
Mike Williams (WR, Clemson)– Big talent who is big on gaining separation. Brees always finds the open man, so Williams would make an impact right away.
John Ross (WR, Washington)– The fun pick is Ross but the team has other needs.
Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)– If Jonathan Allen is on the board, he might jump Barnett here as he will be tough to pass on at 11th overall, but New Orleans really needs to do something to fix this poor defense.
Rueben Foster (LB, Alabama)– The Saints have been searching for LBs for years now and have never really found the right combination. While it would be risky to depend on Klein, Foster and Stephone Anthony, it probably can’t be too much worse.
Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama) – Humphrey is going to take too much time to develop to be able to help the Saints this year. For that reason alone, I think he falls off the board for them at 11th.
Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)- Likely still on the board here, the Saints poor secondary might get yet another youth injection.
Haason Reddick (OLB/DE, Temple) – Reddick has the type of talent that would really flourish in New Orleans, just as long as the pass rush can allow him to float in coverage at the outside linebacker spot.
Jabrill Peppers (LB/S, Michigan) is this draft’s biggest Wildcard. He has amazing talent and if he falls all the way to the 32nd pick, Nola will be his new home.
Before we even go into this, assume nearly all these players were overpaid…we will highlight those that weren’t.
Larry Warford – Signed 4 year, $34m contract – Warford is 25 years old and for some reason, that got him about $10m more than he was worth. Given the market for Guards, players either made $8m per season or $3m per season. Warford should have been in the middle but wasn’t. He is a solid player, (and coming from the Lions, he can certainly pass protect) just overpaid.
Ted Ginn – Two years ago, we were talking about Ginn’s career being over. At 31 years old, his $11m contract is sure to be his last. It would be hard to imagine where he will be so successful that he sticks around to see the end of it. With the players still on the market currently, it’s hard to understand why you would want to pay Ginn $3m against this year’s cap and $4.5m against 2018.
AJ Klein – Klein made a name for himself as a part-time player in Carolina. This contract is truly a gamble, as he hasn’t seen regular full-time duty. He could be young and explosive in spurts, but Carolina drafted Shaq Thompson last year which bumped Klein down the pecking order, so that might say something.
Manti Te’o – Anything above $1m was overpaying a two down player who is a ghost on special teams. His $1m roster bonus will make him a candidate to be cut at final roster cuts and then resigned at a later time, bypassing the bonus. Unfortunately, his contract is structured with a $1.7m base salary in 2018. The only way he sticks around is if Klein doesn’t perform.
Alex Okafor – The Saints hope they signed the Okafor from 2014 and not the one from 2016. This defense needs a player who can consistently make plays in the backfield, which is why this contract is simply a one-year gamble.
Rafael Bush – This contract is actually fine. The team needs to add some veteran security incase Kenny Vaccaro is suspended again. For under $1m, Bush will be a fine signing with the low expectations.
Adrian Peterson makes a lot of sense for New Orleans…just saying…
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