Need #1: Interior Offensive Line

Notable Free Agents:

  • Andrus Peat (2015 1st rounder, started career as a tackle but has proven to be a better fit at guard, has 60 career starts, missed 6 games in 2019 due to injury and has never gone a full 16, performance in 2019 was good but he is not a dominant blocker, has experience at LT - so offers value if Armstead ever misses time) 
  • Patrick Omameh (versatile guard/tackle backup, made a start at LT in 2019 and played admirably) 

Notable Players Under Contract:

  • Larry Warford (above-average guard, has started 44/44 games at RG since joining the team in 2017 and has been voted into the Pro Bowl in each of those seasons, 2020 will be a contract year) 
  • Erik McCoy (2019 2nd rounder, started all 16 games at center and excelled as both a pass protector and run blocker, made the Pro Bowl as an alternate, he's already regarded as one of the better young centers in football) 
  • Nick Easton (lost the starting center job to McCoy after signing a $23 million extension last offseason, ended up making 6 nondescript starts at LG as a fill-in for Peat, his contract is too big to justify a depth role - so unless the Saints view him as a replacement for Peat - expect a trade or release) 

Need Level: High

Need to Address:

  • The Saints will need to either resign or replace Peat (unless they regard Easton as a replacement). 

Updates:

  • Resigned Andrus Peat ($57.5 million seems a bit rich) 
  • Resigned Patrick Omameh
  • Drafted in 1st Round: Cesar Ruiz (3-year starter at Michigan,  played both center and guard, highly athletic for a lineman but also very technically sound, though may struggle with powerful DLs early on, has the makings of a future Pro Bowler, will likely play guard for the Saints - could this selection signal the end for Warford in NO?) 
  • Released Larry Warford (inevitable after the selection of Ruiz) 

Need #2: Linebacker

Notable Free Agents: 

  • A.J. Klein (solid / unspectacular veteran LB) 

Notable Players Under Contract:

  • Demario Davis (one the of the most valuable members of the team from an on-field performance and leadership standpoint, earned All-Pro honors in 2019, led the team in tackles and was also effective as a pass rusher and in coverage, tremendous all-around LB) 
  • Alex Anzalone (highly athletic LB, when healthy is a sideline to sideline difference-maker but shoulder injuries have been his demise since college - and limited him to only 2 games in 2019) 
  • Kiko Alonso (made 4 starts in 2019, tore his ACL - for the third time - in the Wild Card game, when healthy he is a solid and experienced backup but he will need to restructure his bloated contract in order to stick around) 
  • Craig Robertson (experienced reserve LB and special teamer) 
  • Kaden Elliss (2019 7th rounder, flashed upside in the preseason but got hurt in Week 3 and spent the rest of the season on IR)

Need Level: High

Need to Address: 

  • The Saints lack stability behind Davis and will need to either resign or replace Klein. 

Updates:

  • Restructured Kiko Alonso
  • Signed Anthony Chickillo (was a rotational 3-4 OLB in Pittsburgh - did not play much in 2019, offers special team ability if nothing else) 
  • Signed Nigel Bradham (veteran LB with lots of starting experience, provides much needed depth at the position, would not be surprised to see him make multiple starts)
  • Released Nigel Bradham (surprising - seemed like a good fit)

Need #3: Cornerback

Notable Free Agents:

  • P.J. Williams (2015 3rd rounder, versatile player - covered out of the slot, on the outside, and at safety in 2019, superb tackler, but coverage can be inconsistent, solid depth) 
  • Eli Apple (former 1st round pick, is inconsistent in coverage but tackles well, at 25 years he still has time and the athletic pedigree to take his game to the next level) 
  • Johnson Bademosi (core special-teamer) 

Notable Players Under Contract:

  • Marshon Lattimore (a true shut-down corner who can handle the beastly receivers of the NFC South, he deserves a contract extension) 
  • Janoris Jenkins (joined the team in December, proved to be a nice fit in the secondary, one of the better ballhawks in football - his 5 INTs were tied for the second-most in the league, did an excellent job vs. Diggs in the playoffs, may finally be the CB2 the Saints have been searching for, will be a free agent once the 2020 season concludes) 
  • Patrick Robinson (veteran backup, inconsistent play and injuries have been a limitation - has played in only 14 games over the past two seasons) 

Need Level: High

Need to Address:

  • The Saints are set on the outside with Lattimore and Jenkins - but both of them are set to become free agents after the season - so replacements should be considered. The team will also need to resign or replace P.J. Williams. Depth is also an obvious need.

Updates:

  • Resigned P.J. Williams 
  • Resigned Johnson Bademosi 

Need #4: Wide Receiver

Notable Free Agents:

  • Ted Ginn Jr. (still has enough speed to make plays as a WR3/WR4 - but at 35 years old - the team will likely move in a younger direction) 
  • Austin Carr (only 10 career receptions, caught one pass in 2019, has shown promise in the preseason, but at this point is a special teams-only player) 

Notable Players Under Contract:

  • Michael Thomas (the best WR in football.) 
  • Tre'Quan Smith (2018 3rd rounder, 46-661-10 across 26 career game appearances, the playmaking ability is evident but consistency is needed, he has the talent to emerge as a force in 2020) 
  • Lil'Jordan Humphrey (2019 UDFA, made the team but did not record a catch across 6 game appearances, was a productive college WR but lacks speed) 
  • Deonte Harris (2019 UDFA - voted 1st team All-Pro as a return specialist, offensive contributions were minimal but he did have a big catch in the Wild Card game, expect HC Payton to find more ways to utilize his explosiveness in 2020)

Need Level: High

Need to Address:

  • The Saints need to add a few more targets for Brees. The depth behind Thomas is alarmingly thin. 

Updates:

  • Resigned Austin Carr
  • Signed Emmanuel Sanders (solid veteran WR2, gives Brees a reliable option opposite Thomas, adds another dimension to a dangerous offense, he's not a long-term fix but this is an excellent fit)
  • Signed Bennie Fowler (has spent his career as a reserve WR, brings needed experience to the table)

Need #5: Defensive Tackle

Notable Free Agents:

  • David Onyemata (underrated - is one of the team's most valuable defensive pieces, broke out in 2019 and established himself as one the league's better run-defending DTs, he's also a solid pass rusher with 7.5 sacks over the past two seasons, if the Saints can afford him - he's the type of player they'd be wise to bring back) 

Notable Players Under Contract:

  • Sheldon Rankins (2016 1st rounder, emerged as a force in 2018 - with 8 sacks and 12 TFL, he tore his ACL in January 2019 but was able to recover and ended up suiting up for 10 games in 2019 - before injuring his other Achilles in December, when healthy Rankins is a quality starter - but at this point - his status/reliability is questionable) 
  • Malcolm Brown (started 16/16 games in his first season in NO, was a key part of the Saint's top-tier run-defense, he's a very solid and reliable player) 
  • Shy Tuttle (2019 UDFA, flashed impressive upside as a rotational DT - with 2.5 sacks and 4 bat downs, role could expand in 2020) 

Need Level: Moderate 

Need to Address:

  • The Saints will need to add some competition and depth if Onyemata is not retained - though Tuttle is a strong internal replacement candidate. Also, note that Rankins is entering a contract year. 

Updates:

  • Resigned David Onyemata
  • Signed Margus Hunt (went from 5 sacks in 2018 to 0 in 2019, will be 33 years old when the season kicks off) 

Need #6: Safety

Notable Free Agents:

  • Vonn Bell (good box safety - adds a lot of value to the Saint's top run defense - but is only average in coverage)
  • D.J. Swearinger (roller coaster career - talented player who tends to wear out his welcome, has a considerable amount of starting experience, solid depth) 

Notable Players Under Contract:

  • Marcus Williams (2017 2nd rounder, one of the better coverage safeties in football, but struggles with tackling) 
  • Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (2019 4th rounder, showed quite a bit of promise covering out of the slot as a rookie, improved as the season wore on, needs to work on coverage penalties, has a bright future) 
  • Saquan Hampton (2019 6th rounder, was a special teams-only player across 5 game appearances as a rookie, projected as a box safety coming out of Rutgers) 

Need Level: Moderate 

Need to Address:

  • The Saints will need to resign or replace Vonn Bell. 

Updates:

  • Resigned D.J. Swearinger
  • Signed Malcolm Jenkins (very accomplished player, incredibly durable, sideline to sideline style - lineups and makes plays all over the field, though he's getting older at 32 and some noticed a decline in performance last season) 

Need #7: Quarterback

Notable Free Agents:

  • Teddy Bridgewater (could not have done a better job filling in for Brees, went 5-0 with a 68% completion rate and 9 TDs to 2 INTs, he's earned an opportunity to start somewhere else) 
  • Taysom Hill (adds another element to the Saint's offense and is particularly valuable in goal-line situations, when he enters the field it makes the defense scramble and spread out, that said... he's shown virtually no signs of becoming a functional NFL QB - he's a gadget player - an effective one - but a gadget player nonetheless) 

Notable Players Under Contract:

  • Drew Brees (missed 5 games in 2019 due to a thumb injury, when healthy he continued to be one of the most effective QBs in football - completing 74.3% of his passes for 27 TDs and only 5 INTS, his performance in the Wild Card game - which did not feature enough downfield passing - due to declining arm strength - fell flat - and was another reminder of his relatively disappointing postseason track record, the Saints have already signed him to a two-year extension)

Need Level: Moderate

Need to Address:

  • Drew Brees is year to year at this point, so a long-term replacement must be considered. A capable backup is also needed. 

Updates:

  • Resigned Taysom Hill (for a team that's low on cap-space - spending $21 million over 2 years on a gadget player is confusing - but Sean Payton deserves the benefit of doubt) 
  • Drafted in 7th Round: Tommy Stevens (literally played a Taysom Hill-type role at PSU, though he's bigger than Hill but not as fast, his college passing production is not indicative of an NFL caliber QB, worthwhile late-round pick if Payton has a role in mind) 
  • Signed Jameis Winston (mercurial - can move the ball and score as well as anyone - the only other QB in the league with as much gunslinging talent is Mahomes - the problem is the interceptions - which show a lack of dedication to the craft - that said... this is a BRILLIANT singing - Winston immediately becomes the most talented backup in football and has more than enough ability to eventually replace Brees - who should be an excellent role model for the time being)

Need #8: Offensive Tackle

Notable Free Agents:

  • None

Notable Players Under Contract:

  • Terron Armstead (excellent veteran LT, elite pass protector and strong run blocker, Pro Bowler in 2018 and 2019, only knock has been durability - missed 21 games from 2016 to 2018, though only one in 2019) 
  • Ryan Ramczyk (he's the best RT in the NFL, elite pass and run blocker, deserves a mega-extension) 
  • Will Clapp (versatile backup OL - can play along the interior and occasionally lines up as a jumbo TE) 

Need Level: Mild

Need to Address:

  • The Saints have the best offensive tackle duo in football - but lack a proven swing tackle. 

Updates:

  • Signed James Hurst (versatile and experienced OL - 44 career starts over six seasons in Baltimore, fits the swing tackle bill but can also play along the interior, will miss the first four games of the season due to a PED suspension) 

Need #9: Tight End / Fullback

Notable Free Agents:

  • None 

Notable Players Under Contract:

  • Jared Cook (first season in NO was an overwhelming success - showed great chemistry with Brees and reeled in 9 TDs, he's not a long-term option but a very good one for the remainder of the Brees era) 
  • Josh Hill (reliable TE2) 

Need Level: Mild

Need to Address:

  • Both of the Saint's TEs are old (Cook is 33 and Hill is 30) - so long-term replacement options should be considered. 

Updates:

  • Drafted in 3rd Round: Adam Trautman (ultra-productive small school prospect, caught 70 passes for 916 yards and 14 TDs over 11 games in 2019, checks boxes in terms of size/length and athletic ability, looked good at the Senior Bowl, the transition to the pro game could take some time - but he has clear starting upside) 

Need #10: Running Back

Notable Free Agents:

  • Dwayne Washington (special teamer and reserve) 

Notable Players Under Contract:

  • Alvin Kamara (played much of the 2019 season at less than 100% due to variety of knee/ankle/back injuries, production fell but was still impressive - 1,330 total yards, 4.7 ypc, and 81 receptions, remains one of the NFL's most explosive and dangerous playmakers, though efforts must be made to conserve his health for the length of the season)
  • Latavius Murray (high-end RB2 - made two starts in 2019 and went for over 150 total yards in each of them, finished the season with 637 rushing yards, a 4.4 ypc, and 6 total TDs, nice security blanket)

Need Level: Mild

Need to Address:

  • The Saints could use an upgrade at RB3.

Updates:

  • Resigned Dwayne Washington
  • Signed Ty Montgomery (WR/RB hybrid, like the fit - provides pass-catching ability at RB should Kamara miss time, Payton can probably find multiple ways to use him) 

Need #11: Defensive End / Edge

Notable Free Agents:

  • Noah Spence (reserve DE, joined the team in December, former 2nd round pick still looking to establish a role for himself) 

Notable Players Under Contract:

  • Cameron Jordan (arguably the Saints best overall player, 15.5 sacks and 15 TFL in 2019, elite pass rusher and run defender, he will be 32 when the 2020 seasons kicks off - but is coming off the best season of his career and has never missed a game, legit SUPERSTAR)
  • Marcus Davenport (2018 1st rounder, took a step forward in 2019 with 6 sacks and 5 TFL over 13 games, went on IR in December, has the talent to emerge as a Pro Bowl pass rusher in 2020 - but that will require a step-up from his good but not great 2019 performance) 
  • Trey Hendrickson (solid rotational lineman - 4.5 sacks in 2019) 
  • Carl Granderson (2019 UDFA, flashed some upside across 8 limited game appearances, he was a talented college player who only went undrafted due to an off-the-field issue, a 2020 emergence is certainly possible) 
  • Mario Edwards Jr. (rotational DL - 3 sacks on 293 snaps) 

Need Level: Low

Need to Address:

  • The Saints are set with Jordan and Davenport as starters and have solid depth in Hendrickson, Granderson, and Edwards Jr. Though, they could begin developing a replacement for Jordan - who will be a FA in 2021. 

Updates: 

  • Resigned Noah Spence 
  • Drafted in 3rd Round: Zack Baun (ultra-productive senior year at Wisconsin - 11.5 sacks and 19.5 TFL, explosive athlete with great bend off the edge, plays with tenacious energy, projects as 3-4 OLB who can rush the passer but also drop into coverage due to fluid movement ability, he's a bit small at 6-2/238 to play as a full-time DE in the Saint's scheme - so a hybrid DE/LB role could be his calling card, tremendous value - Baun's athletic ability and college production was 1st round worthy, could be the steal of the draft) 

Need #12: Special Teams

Notable Free Agents:

  • None

Notable Players Under Contract:

  • Wil Lutz (top 5 kicker, converted 32 of 36 FG attempts in 2019 - including a career-long 58 yarder, he also converted 48 of 49 XPs) 
  • Thomas Morstead (probably the best punter in the NFL, of his 60 2019 punts - 29 landed inside the 20) 

Need Level: Low

Need to Address:

  • The Saints have the best kicker/punter duo in football.