The New Orleans Saints, along with the rest of the NFC South, were very disappointing in 2014. It seems like just a few seasons ago this was the top division in football; and now they’re coming off a season where not a single team managed a winning record, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the worst record in football.
The Saints offseason started out just as bad as their season did. For a while there, head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis were having a team garage sale, everyone needed to go and went to the highest bidder.
When March started with the Saints releasing Pierre Thomas and Curtis Lofton, fans were right to be nervous. But, when the team traded Pro Bowl tight end and fan-favorite Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks, fans started to call for Loomis’s head. At the time it was a reasonable reaction—after all, the team just traded Graham for a center (Max Unger) and the 31st overall selection in the draft…
The team proceeded to trade away Ben Grubbs and Kenny Stills for a fifth-round pick and a third-round pick, respectively. Not the best value, especially for Grubbs; but the Saints were stocking up on draft picks they can easily use later.
Fortunately, before the riots started, the Saints began to make some good moves to fill up the holes they created during the fire sale. C.J. Spiller was a great replacement for Thomas, and he balances out the backfield that consists almost solely of Mark Ingram.
The Saints also managed to add former Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner. Browner alone would be an immediate asset to a bad secondary unit; so with Browner alongside a healthy Jarius Byrd combined with another solid season from the pass-rushing duo of Cameron Jordan and Junior Galette, this defense has a legitimate chance of jumping into the top 10.
Heading into the 2015 NFL Draft, the Saints biggest concern was to fill up the offensive holes created acquiring all of their draft picks. The team used its offensive surplus up, and now needed to find a replacement tight end, a couple of receivers, and maybe a guard.
At 13th overall the Saints called Stanford tackle Andrus Peat, who honestly looked surprised to hear his name called. It may have been a little early, but Peat was a good choice by the Saints. At 36 years old, protecting Drew Brees is crucial; and with Spiller and Ingram in the backfield having a good offensive line could mean a good run game—something New Orleans hasn’t seen since the duo of Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister back in 2006.
With their 31st overall selection from the Seahawks, the Saints selected Clemson linebacker Stephone Anthony. After a horrible season by Curtis Lofton in 2014, Anthony will be an immediate improvement at a position that has given the Saints trouble since Jonathan Vilma retired.
The real head-scratcher from the Saints draft was the second round pick of Washington d-lineman Hau’oli Kikaha. With his history of knee injuries, most teams didn’t even have this guy as an option. Even if Sean Payton and staff were committed to this guy, they could have waited until the later rounds or traded down. Hopefully everything works out, but given his past that’s a long shot.
Garrett Grayson, P.J. Williams, Davis Tull, Tyeler Davison, and Damian Swann round out the Saints pre-seventh round selections. Williams and Swann were fantastic picks for a shallow secondary. Williams should have no problem starting come September, and even Swann will be able to rotate in on this team.
Overall, it was an interesting offseason. After a horrible start, things started to come together in New Orleans; and the defense should be significantly better in 2015. The only growing concern for fans should be the offense: Drew Brees is fantastic, but only time will tell if the Saints gave up too much of their offensive weapons in exchange for defensive help.