New Orleans Saints’ 5 Biggest Offseason Needs
Below are the five biggest offseason needs for the New Orleans Saints, who just completed their third-consecutive 7-9 season.
1)---Pass Rusher---Whether it be a defensive end, or an outside linebacker, the top priority for the Saints this offseason should be to acquire a pass rusher, either in free agency or the NFL Draft. Only five teams had fewer sacks than the Saints (28.0) in 2016. Cameron Jordan (7.5) led the team in sacks, while Nick Fairley, who is a free agent was next (6.5), and he's an interior pass rusher. The Saints may get some help from Hau'oli Kikaha, their second round choice in the 2015 NFL Draft, who missed 2016 with a torn ACL. Kikaha had 4.0 sacks in his rookie season, but he has to improve on that number, and is coming off of a major injury, so they certainly need more help. Pass rushers are in high demand in the NFL, but the Saints have to do all they can to get one this offseason.
2)---Cornerback---The Saints finished last in the NFL in 2016, allowing 274.0 pass yards-per-game. Now, some of that is misleading, as Delvin Breaux, who is the team's top corner, played in only 6 games this year, while P.J. Williams, the other starting corner, played in only two. To make matters worse, Kyle Wilson and Damian Swann missed the entire year, and the Saints had to rely on Sterling Moore and B.W. Webb, two castoffs from other franchises, as their starting cornerbacks. Breaux could return to his 2015 form next year, but he'll be 28-years old and is coming off an injury-plagued year, while Williams and Swann have had concussions issues, and both Moore and Webb, who are only marginal players anyway, are both free agents. The Saints have to get some more help at the cornerback positions.
3)---Guard---Jahri Evans turned back the clock a little bit in 2016, playing far better than expected, and helping the offensive line to play much better in the process. Evans, who was released by both the Saints and Seahawks in the last calendar year, will be 34 at the start of the next NFL season, if he even elects not to retire. And if he does return, he shouldn't be expected to play at the same level he did this past season. Andrus Peat, the team's first-round draft choice in 2015, played well at left guard, but also had to fill-in at tackle, and there's a possibility that the Saints may move him to right tackle next season. Tim Lelito is a nice guy to have on the bench, someone who can play both guard and center, but he simply isn't a reliable starter. Because of age and uncertainty, improving the guard position is one that must be addressed by the Saints.
4)---Offensive Tackle---This position is similar to the offensive guard position. Zach Strief played way better than was expected of him in 2016. But, like Evans, he shouldn't be expected to repeat his level of play next season, when he'll be 34-years old. There's also a chance the Saints won't bring back Strief, and his $5.1 million salary, and move Peat to right tackle, a position they drafted him to play. Terron Armstead, one of the more talented young tackles in the league, suffered an injury-plagued campaign in 2016, playing in only 7 games. I'd like to see Armstead healthy next year, Strief back, and Peat put permanently at left guard, but even with those things, the Saints could still use some help at the position.
5)---Linebacker---The Saints released James Laurinaitis in November, Dannell Ellerbe is a free agent, and Stephone Anthony, one of the team's two first-roud draft choices in 2015, may not even be on the team in 2017. Craig Robertson was a great signing last offseason, and the Saints may get some linebacking help in terms of a pass rusher, but they definitely need to upgrade this position. Keep in mind too; linebackers are generally athletic, and can help on special teams, a place that the Saints can also use a lot of help.