Excitement for NFL draft growing
We’re still five months away from the start of the 2017 Saints season, but excitement for opening day is building with every addition the team makes to its roster.
After three straight 7-9 seasons, the New Orleans Saints were ready for rebirth. And ever faithful and hopeful, Saints fans have reason for their growing belief that this may be a special year.
No one need remind the Who Dat Nation that the Saints are coming off of three straight losing seasons on the field and off. The team has consistently had one of the worst defenses in the NFL, and has been thin on depth on both sides of the ball, no doubt due in part to busts in free agency, including safety Jairus Byrd, running back C.J. Spiller, and cornerback Brandon Browner. All three are now gone.
Heavy salaries spent on less than star players who were eventually cut left the Saints paying more than a quarter of their 2016 payroll to guys who weren’t on the roster.
The Saints entered the offseason with about $30 million in salary cap space to build the 2017 team. Management once had a way of finding players – some returning from injury – who were signed and turned into stars, including Drew Brees, Scott Fujita, and Jonathan Vilma.
The Saints re-signed defensive tackle Nick Fairley; picked up guard Larry Warford, receiver Ted Ginn, Jr., linebackers A.J. Klein and Manti Te’o; and traded wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the New England Patriots for a first-round draft pick (32nd overall).
Te’o captained the San Diego Chargers defense for the 2016 season, but in late September his year ended when he was placed on injured reserve with a torn Achilles. The Saints are hoping he is healed and can fill a gap they’ve had at middle linebacker.
This week, they also converted a $5 million roster bonus for offensive tackle Terron Armstead into a signing bonus to add $4 million in cap space to this year’s budget. That will help them clear the $7 million they’ll need for rookie contracts after the NFL Draft at the end of April.
With their star quarterback turning 38 in January, the Saints are clearly preparing for life after Drew Brees. This week the team had talks with Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes and Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs. Yesterday, the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said Saints head coach Sean Payton met with troubled free-agent quarterback Johnny Manziel in Houston during Super Bowl week in February.
Manziel, 24, has been a star on the college stage. He was the Cleveland Browns’ first-round pick (22nd overall) out of Texas A&M with in 2014. But his off-field shenanegins led the Browns release him a year ago. He’s been out of football since.
The Saints need to do what’s best for the team. That’s making them the best team that they can be. Economically, he could likely be had for the veteran league minimum contract, so economically, it wouldn’t be a huge financial gamble.
I’m all for second chances, and I wish Manziel the best in his recovery. But, I don’t like the potential move.
Manziel would be a distraction. And New Orleans might not be the best cultural home for him right now.
The team currently has Luke McCown and Garrett Grayson behind Brees. Right now, neither appear ready to be the team’s long term solution under center.
Still, the team has options – much safer options – who will not draw a media circus to a team that needs to be united and focused on winning.