Sean Payton must again overcome adversity to make the Saints a winner and the work starts now.
Chris Price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football. Price also authors the Friday Sports Column at BizNewOrleans.com.
illustration by Tony Healey
No rest for the weary — work starts now on the Saints’ 2019-20 season.
Entering his 13th season as head coach of the New Orleans Saints, Sean Payton finds himself in a position he’s been in before – leading his shell-shocked team out of a morass. It’s a position that he, unfortunately, has been placed in too often. Fortunately, the master motivator always seems able to rebound and have his team primed to compete at the highest levels.
Regarding the latest no-call fiasco, Payton has said, “we’ll probably never get over it,” but on the 14th of this month, the 2018 league year closes and 2019 begins. As Payton also said in the NFC Championship post-game press conference, “So what do you do? You get back up, and you go to work.”
That work started almost immediately. The team has agreed to a three-year deal with defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, and, as of this writing, may pick up former Miami Dolphins assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi. Allen re-signing is huge for the Saints. He built a defense that got stronger as the year progressed and provided a yin to the potent offense’s yang. Getting this deal done early is a great sign for the Saints’ mindset going forward. Keeping this coaching staff, and, possibly improving it, was a great sign to players, fans and opponents that the Saints are still coming.
While the 2018 team looked to be one of the best in the league, there are some obvious opportunities for improvement. The Saints have a strong core but could use help at wide receiver, including finding a strong, consistent No. 2 pass catcher; a tight end, depth on the offensive line, and an additional defensive pass rusher or two.
The 2019 salary cap is expected to be around $190.8 million, and the Saints already have a little more than $183 million on their books in active contracts and dead money deals. That gives them somewhere in the ballpark of $7.8 million in cap space to make new deals.
With only five picks — including just one in the first four rounds — don’t expect too much of a splash in next month’s draft. In previous deals, the Saints gave up their first-, third- and fourth-round picks. Their first selection this year will be late in the second round (Pick No. 62 overall). They’ll have one choice in Round 5 (Pick 159), two in Round 6 (Picks 166 & 192), and one in round 7 (225).
Several recognizable contributors are free agents this year, including Mark Ingram, Teddy Bridgewater, Manti Te’o, Craig Robertson, P.J. Williams and Will Lutz.
It will be interesting to see if they make a move to keep Bridgewater. The 27-year-old backup quarterback made $6 million last season. With Brees, 40, in the last year of his deal, will the Saints try to hang on to Bridgewater, an unrestricted free agent who may test the market for a big payday and a chance to play, or invest more time and effort into developing Taysom Hill as the team’s future play caller? The team may prefer to splash that cash on another impact position of need rather than keep it locked up on the sideline.
The fate of Mark Ingram will also be interesting. He made $4 million last season. At 29, he is an older running back, but has proved himself as half of what may be the best running back duo in the NFL. I expect the team to work with Ingram to bring him back.
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New Orleans Saints Draft Picks
The New Orleans Saints currently have only five picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, including just one in the first four rounds. They gave up their first-, third- and fourth-round picks in previous deals.
Round Pick No.