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New Orleans Saints 2022 Offseason Preview: Pending free agents, team needs, draft picks, and more

The New Orleans Saints are in a peculiar spot regarding their pending free agents, team needs, and draft picks for the 2022 NFL offseason.

The New Orleans Saints head into the offseason after a peculiar season. They began 5-2 and seemed to be cruising toward the playoffs. However, they lost Jameis Winston in their Week 8 game against Tampa Bay, and five straight losses ensued. Winston wasn’t setting the world on fire, but he didn’t need to for the Saints to win football games. They must find a way to bring him back healthy and cheaply next season. He’s their best chance for winning football games in 2022. Let’s take a deep dive into New Orleans’ offseason, including their pending free agents, team needs, and draft picks.

New Orleans Saints 2022 Offseason Preview

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis is a wizard, but he has an incredibly long road ahead of him if he wants to keep this team even relatively intact for 2022. New Orleans has continuously pushed money back year after year. But with a slew of Saints players nearing free agency and the club in the red financially, it seems this defense that’s stuck around together for so long may be nearly unrecognizable next season.

I’m no cap wizard, so my brain goes into a puzzle looking at the Saints’ projected figures for 2022. Bear in mind that they do not even have a long-term solution at QB and need to figure that out this offseason. When you consider that in context with the figure you are about to read, it makes you feel a little queasy.

The Saints have -$61.6 million in projected cap space

Source: Spotrac (as of Jan. 9)

Twelve players are projected to account for $10 million or more on the Saints’ 2022 cap. Marcus Davenport is just shy of that mark on his fifth-year option. Marshon Lattimore, Michael Thomas, Ryan Ramczyk, and Cameron Jordan make up 47.1% of New Orleans’ salary cap in 2022.

It looks like a close to impossible situation and it is hard to see how they get out of it. There are lots of small cuts they can make, and the likes of Bradley Roby would free up $9.5 million. The problem for the Saints is that really the only way out is to restructure or extend. However, all that does is continue to push the problem into the future. Even trading some of their top adders won’t make a huge dent in this while they are in.

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Drew Brees also has an $11.5 million cap hit (dead money) in 2022, which is 5.52% of New Orleans’ total cap. Between Brees, Winston, and Hill, the QB position will count for $26 million in cap space. Two of them are not set to be on the roster right now and we are not even sure if the third one is actually going to be the Week 1 starter.

The Saints are far over the salary cap already, and they don’t even have all their key contributors under contract for 2022.

Saints’ pending free agents

Terron Armstead and Marcus Williams are the two biggest pending free agents for New Orleans as we head into the offseason. Their skill sets do not lend themselves to cheap paychecks. Armstead’s market value is over $20 million on a per-year basis, and Williams is worth $13.5 million annually, according to Spotrac.

Winston is also a free agent heading into 2022, as his contract will void, but he’ll be coming off a torn ACL and MCL, which will undoubtedly drive his price down. Unfortunately for the Saints, a Halloween bucket full of teams could use his services in 2022.

Defenders P.J. Williams, Kwon Alexander, Shy Tuttle, and Carl Granderson will all be without a contract in the offseason. The same goes for Trevor Siemian, Tre’Quan Smith, and Deonte Harris on offense.

Last offseason was brutal for the Saints and it does not look like getting any better. Without some real wizardry in the front office, this team is going to have a huge talent downgrade from 2021 to 2022.

How do the Saints’ free agents rank among the best available in 2022? Be sure out our list of top free agents available at each position to find out.

Saints’ team needs

The Saints’ most significant team need is cap space. But as they’d have to use all six Infinity Stones to create that world, I guess we can move on to what needs to be addressed once New Orleans magically becomes cap compliant.

If Armstead leaves they need a left tackle. Maybe we see Ramczyk slide of there, but then they will have a hole at right tackle to fill. Offensively they are a mess. Even if they don’t trade Michael Thomas, a receiver is a major need and knows who will be throwing them the ball at this point. On defense, safety and cornerback both need to be addressed. However, if they have to release players, more needs could arise.

Saints’ top five needs in the 2022 NFL offseason

  • Left tackle
  • Free safety
  • Quarterback
  • Wide receiver
  • Cornerback

Saints’ 2022 NFL Draft picks

New Orleans has seven picks in the draft, and four of them look set to potentially fall inside the top 100. They’ll need to find some contributors in the 2022 class if they want to compete for a Wild Card spot next season. They may yet need to use this draft capital to get someone to take some inflated contract off their hands.

Here’s how the Saints’ 2022 NFL Draft picks currently stand according to the draft order:

  • Round 1 (Pick 18)
  • Round 2 (Pick 17)
  • Round 3 (Pick 34 & 35)
  • Round 4 (Pick 15)
  • Round 5 (Pick 18)
  • Round 7 (Pick 16)

Dalton Miller is the Lead NFL Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can read more of his work here and follow him @daltonbmiller on Twitter and Twitch

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