The NFL season has finally come to a close. Congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs on a great season. Now it is time for the most intriguing start to the new year: the off-season. The Saints have a lot of questions to be answered, especially at the quarterback position. Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton will have a lot to think about not only in free agency but in the draft as well.
Being an NFL general manager is a tough job. Loomis has gotten a lot of credit from not only the fans but the entire league. He always manages to keep the Saints under the cap year after year. The one thing I always wonder is what is it like to run the operations of a professional football team? In this article, I am going to give it my best shot in deciding who stays and who goes heading into 2020. The Saints have 25 free agents to account for so let us get started:
Zach Wood – LS (RFA)
Keeping Wood is an easy decision. He has done a great job with Wil Lutz and Thomas Morstead. The trio stays in tack.
Dwayne Washington – RB
Another easy choice to keep. He has done well on special teams and shown flashes in limited snaps on offense. No harm, no foul.
D.J. Swearinger – FS
Swearinger was brought in late in the season as insurance in the secondary. This is a move that is a toss up. He could be retained to have a veteran presence or let walk to pursue a possible starting job.
David Onyemata – DT | Noah Spence – DL
Onyemata has continued to grow every year he has been in the league. Also, Sheldon Rankins has been plagued with injuries which is another reason to keep him onboard. The market for his position will not be big and should come at a deal similar to what Malcom Brown got last year. As for Spence, he was also insurance late in the season and never saw the field. It also would not hurt to bring him back on a “prove it” deal.
Vonn Bell | J.T. Gray – SS (ERFA)
Bell had his best season as a pro. You absolutely have to bring him back and it would not break the bank. He was always around the football and his tackling is undeniable. Gray proved to be a solid special teamer opposite Justin Hardee. He can easily be retained given his status.
Andrus Peat | Cameron Tom (RFA) | Patrick Omameh – OL
Think it is safe to say that Peat should not be brought back. His inconsistent play has made him the weak link on the offensive line. The fans have pretty much had enough and are more than happy to move on.
Tom spent last season on injured reserve and will more than likely be returning. The Saints have been high on him for a while and could provide solid depth at guard and center.
Omameh did a decent job in spot play. This would be a toss up move as well if someone better is on the market.
A.J. Klein | Manti Te’o | Stephone Anthony | Josh Martin | Colton Jumper (ERFA) – LB
Martin and Jumper both ended up on injured reserve before the season. No harm in giving them one year deals to compete for a spot. Anthony returned to the team that drafted him and even saw some time starting. However, I think it would be better to let him find a spot elsewhere.
As much as the fan base may feel a type of way towards Klein, he has done enough to earn a new contract. Not to mention the free agent class is very weak at linebacker. Te’o returned late in the season and provided solid depth. His status is up in the air depending on Alex Anzalone, who missed the whole season, and Kiko Alonso with his contract. Personally, I would give him a deal to at least compete in training camp.
Eli Apple | P.J. Williams | Johnson Bademosi | Justin Hardee (RFA) – CB
Hardee has easily been the Saints’ best gunner on special teams. He needs to be locked up long term. Bademosi was another insurance player at the end of the season. More than likely could be a one year deal or have him walk.
Apple and Williams, like Peat, are two players the fans would be fine with leaving. The team claimed Janoris Jenkins off waivers and he has one year left but could restructure or be cut and sign a new deal. Also, CJ Gardner-Johnson showed tremendous growth which makes Williams replaceable.
For Apple, I think he would be better off finding a new home. He started the season off great but was exposed later on. Williams has been solid but still has his moments as a slot corner. The only thing that could save him is a switch to safety. If that does not happen, it is unlikely he stays with the team.
Ted Ginn Jr. | Austin Carr (RFA) | Keith Kirkwood (ERFA) – WR
All three can walk. If the Saints want to play like they did back in the glory days, they need to invest in receivers who can make plays and get separation. Ginn is a deep threat but that does not fit with Brees at quarterback. Carr just did not show enough to warrant a return. Kirkwood has had flashes but just cannot stay healthy. He is the only one I would consider giving a shot in training camp. This position needs to be upgraded in free agency and the draft.
Drew Brees | Teddy Bridgewater | Taysom Hill (RFA) – QB
This is by far the most difficult decisions of them all. Everything we do in the off-season virtually rests with Drew Brees. He is already on the books for 21 million next season. There has been rumors that Hill is the quarterback of the future, which would leave Bridgewater as the odd man out. It is very hard to see the Saints keeping all three players.
For Brees, there is only two options: retire or come back. If he does return, I feel it should be his last year. At some point this relationship has to come to an end. The Saints have built the defense to win without him and it showed this past season. Also, as elite as he is, he has to take a pay cut. There is no way he can earn 30 million and have enough to spend on weapons.
Bridgewater has to do what is best for his career. The fans love him and feel he can be a bridge starter until someone is drafted for the future. Ultimately, he would have a chance to start elsewhere if that is what he desires. More importantly, teams will offer up a lot more than the Saints can. Safe to say that Bridgewater holds his own destiny.
For Hill, it depends on what the Saints want to do with him. As a restricted free agent, the team can match any offer. But the kicker is what position will he play? If they view him as a successor to Brees, then have him strictly as a quarterback. On the flip side, they can use him as a role player and at that point draft a quarterback. They cannot have the best of both worlds so the ball is in their court.
Get the popcorn ready, Who Dat Nation. The off-season special is only a month away. Get ready for a bumpy ride in 2020.