NEW ORLEANS — Finally the 2021 New Orleans Saints offseason gives us something interesting to be excited about; the NFL Draft has arrived!
The Saints 2021 offseason began with Drew Brees retiring and General
Manager Mickey Loomis having to bend the laws of physics, economics, and the NFL salary cap just so the Saints roster stayed mostly intact. This offseason has been so boring, the announcement of Kevin James playing Sean Payton in a future Netflix movie qualified as breaking Saints news.
The Saints being quiet in free agency was torture. The Saints signing free agents even though they had like $4 in cap space was as fun an annual spring tradition as Jazz Fest. Unfortunately, this year the pandemic robbed us of both. This has been the longest, most boring Saints offseason of the entire Sean Payton/Mickey Loomis Era.
By the way, NFL experts and talking heads trying to say all the Saints' salary cap shenanigans and kicking the can down the road finally caught up to them is a load of garbage. Loomis' salary cap strategy - or as the kids like to call it “Loomis Math” - is based on the belief that the NFL salary cap will always increase because television money is a never-ending fountain of cash. Only a global pandemic made the strategy not work. And guess what? The NFL just signed new TV deals that increased revenue from broadcast rights at least 50% and maybe more. So the Saints' salary cap issues are likely nothing more than a one-year problem.
Watching Emmanuel Sanders, Janoris Jenkins, Trey Hendrickson and Sheldon Rankins all have to leave was no fun at all. The only Saints major contributor to walk out the door that delivered any joy upon his exit was Jared Cook. /still mad /sorry not sorry
Which brings us to the NFL Draft and why it's so critical for the Saints. The last 3 years the Saints roster was the deepest and most talented in the NFL. They didn't win a Super Bowl but they were able to win 38 games while overcoming injuries to Drew Brees both seasons, having Michael Thomas not score a regular season touchdown in 2020, Alvin Kamara play hurt most of 2019, and other injuries too numerous to list.
From top to bottom the Saints had depth, experience, and in the regular season no injury could slow them. Michael Thomas set the NFL record for catches in 2019, and scored as many touchdowns during the 2020 season as me, and the Saints still averaged 30 points a game with the 2019 NFL Offensive Player of the Year an afterthought.
Now -- because of the pandemic creating a salary cap nightmare-- all that fantastic depth is gone. The Saints are back to living like the rest of the NFL; where good health is maybe the most precious thing you can have.
The good news for the Saints is the 2021 NFL Draft is deep at the position they need most (cornerback) and the Saints have 4 picks in the top 105 because of two compensatory third-round selections courtesy of Teddy Bridgewater signing with Carolina in 2020 and the Atlanta Falcons hiring Terry Fontenot to be their general manager. The better news? They'll likely have at least 2 third-round picks in 2022 because they get another one for Fontenot and might even get another for Trey Hendrickson going to Cincinnati. The Saints have the opportunity to restock the roster starting Thursday.
You might be thinking with so many holes to fill because of all the departures the Saints will likely not be their normal aggressive selves and trade up like they have in the previous 4 drafts.
Trading up is what the Saints do, it's as big a part of who they are as the fleur-de-lis on the helmets. My guess is they'll be unable to resist one of the top-rated corners dropping in the draft. If Jaycee Horn, Greg Newsome or Caleb Farley are still on the board at pick 20, the Saints trading up to grab them is as likely as deciding a sno-ball is the right decision on a beautiful New Orleans April afternoon.
Want to feel old? Former Saints players Joe Horn and Alex Molden both have sons who will be drafted this weekend.
The Saints drafting Joe's son, Jaycee Horn, would be magical. Horn being brilliant at his pro day means he will likely be gone by pick 15. My guess for Thursday is Greg Newsome is still available at pick 18 when the Miami Dolphins are on the clock and the Saints make their move to get him. Mickey Loomis has done business with Miami regularly, including trading up with them in 2019, so the Saints could select center Eric McCoy.
Trading up for Newsome will probably cost the Saints their 2022 second-round pick but at least we will get to talk about the Saints acquiring players for once in 2021 and not about players we rooted for walking out the door.
The post Drew Brees era will begin with the Saints doing what they always do on draft night...wheeling and dealing to get the players they love.
Ralph Malbrough is a contributing writer and Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at @SaintsForecast or download the Saints Happy Hour Podcast.