With the New Orleans Saints’ window closing, offseason acquisitions are as crucial as ever. The Saints have addressed two needs thus far, but there is more work to be done to win a second Super Bowl in the Drew Brees era.
The New Orleans front office has done a great job thus far in free agency bringing in tight end Jared Cook and center Nick Easton. Cook boasts a PFN Offensive Share Metric (OSM) of 35. He will be a consistent pass-catching threat at TE that Drew Brees has lacked since Jimmy Graham. Max Unger‘s retirement triggered an urgent need at center. The front office quickly filled the void by bringing in Easton, who spent two seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. Let’s take a look at what the Saints need to address to win another Super Bowl with Drew Brees.
Outside of Michael Thomas, the Saints lacked consistent threats in the passing game. The offense settled for three field goals in five red zone trips in the NFC Championship game. A better weapon in the slot or on the boundary opposite Thomas could have been the difference in converting one or more of those trips into touchdowns. Ted Ginn Jr. is a threat when on the field, but he will be 33 years old. He also missed 11 games with injury last season. Tre’Quan Smith flashed plenty of potential in his rookie season but lacked consistency as a WR2 at this point. The addition of Jared Cook gives Sean Payton added flexibility in the slot, but there is still plenty of need for the Saints to use their second-round draft pick on a receiver.
Protecting Drew Brees is more of a need as the Hall of Fame QB enters his forties. The Saints have solid starting talent across the offensive line, but depth is a question mark for this unit. Unrestricted free agent Jermon Bushrod is questionable to return for his 13th NFL season, and this brings a need for depth at left tackle behind Terron Armstead. Armstead has failed to play in all 16 games of a season in his six-year career. At guard, Andrus Peat received below-average grades from Pro Football Focus and needs better competition heading into training camp.
A significant factor in the New England Patriots Super Bowl run was how effectively they protected their 41-year-old QB. The Saints should not overlook this priority and should ensure Drew Brees has the protection to produce another MVP-caliber season at 40 years old.
With additions added at the center and tight end positions in free agency, defensive line shoots up the board in terms of needs. The Saints should consider a defensive lineman during day two or three of the draft, which was done in their recent mock. Holes have been created in both the pass rush on the outside and the run defense on the interior. Following the free agency departure of Alex Okafor, the Saints need a rotational pass rusher. Considering that pass-rush has been a successful part of the defense, the Saints should not risk compromising the strength of this unit.
Sheldon Rankins was the most significant contributor to the Saints’ elite rush defense. They allowed the second-fewest yards against the run last season, but the Achilles injury to Rankins has compromised his status for the 2019 season. The Saints need to add a body in the middle that can contribute snaps in Rankins’ absence.
Lesser Needs – slot cornerback and quarterback
When Patrick Robertson went down for the remainder of the season, the Saints were exposed in the slot. Robinson will return as the starter this year. However, the Saints should upgrade their depth to avoid last year’s train wreck should Robinson miss time.
The Saints’ roster is talented enough to win games if anything happens to Drew Brees, but they need to find a successor to Brees for the future. They recently re-signed Teddy Bridgewater to a one-year deal totaling $7.25 million fully guaranteed. He can earn up to $12.5 million if he hits incentives. Some believe Bridgewater is the heir to Brees’ team, but he has played very little since his nasty knee injury. The Saints should keep an eye toward the future in case they don’t like what they see in Bridgewater in the next year.