NEW ORLEANS — I could ask you if you are ready for the new era of New Orleans Saints football with new coach head coach Dennis Allen. I could spin you some yarn about how it's a new Saints era without Sean Payton and Drew Brees and with free agency starting, things are going to be different in 2022. I could tell you the days of 2020, when the Saints got weird and went YOLO trying to use the Cleveland Browns salary cap space to acquire Jadeveon Clowney, are in the past. I could tell you teams usually only have a Hall of Fame quarterback once, and once they are gone, teams need to operate in a new less fun and reckless way.
I could lament the fact our days of laughing at the salary cap nerds and experts by watching Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and vice president of football operations Khai Harley bend the cap to their will are in our rear view mirror. But I'm not here for that. You aren't here for that. You read this here column to inject your Saints fandom with hope, dreams, and spending Gayle Benson's money so we can get excited about the upcoming Saints season.
This year Saints free agency will be fraught with the potential of Jameis Winston, Terron Armstead, and Marcus Williams all leaving. That would be terrible, but I can't see the Saints letting all 3 leave because the NFC South is a complete dumpster fire and the worst division in the NFL. The Saints are going to try and compete to win it, and 9-8 might well be enough to get a fifth division title in 6 years.
So I present you with my Saints free agency plan I like to call 'NFC South Tiger King'.
First up... re-sign Jameis Winston. I know for a hot minute over the weekend Saints social media was all a buzz about the Saints reportedly exploring a trade with the Houston Texans for Deshaun Watson. I'll just go on record as a very hard NO THANK YOU for Watson. The guy might not be criminally charged in the allegations 22 women have made against him, but the Saints trading for Watson would divide the fan base and I don't want to spend the next 7-10 years rooting for a guy like that. I know Jameis has a past, I know Alvin Kamara could have charges pending in Las Vegas, so most of the time with the Saints I'm rooting for laundry and ignoring the personal failings of the players off the field.
The thing is with Watson, it would likely cost the Saints 3 first round picks, 2 starting players, and maybe more to get him, and I haven't seen enough from him to know if he's sorry or if he is going to stop this reckless and awful behavior. If the Saints trade for Watson and he continues this behavior, his career with the Saints- at least- would be over, and the Saints would be ruined for perhaps a decade. Let another team make that gamble, hopefully one not in the NFC South. I'll just stick with Jameis, the guy with baggage and missteps in his past, but also a guy who has shown he's changed.
If the Saints want Jameis, it's likely going to take a multi-year commitment to keep him in New Orleans. They'll have to marry him, so to speak.
Mickey, get down on one knee and give Jameis a giant bag of money.
While the Saints are locking up their quarterback by keeping Jameis, I expect safety Marcus Williams to leave. When he does, he will be the biggest loss in free agency since Mickey Loomis became general manager in this sense; the Saints value him incredibly highly and did nearly everything to try and keep him. They franchised him before 2021, when no one thought it was possible to do so being $100 million over the salary cap, but they couldn't come to an extension before the deadline to do so last July. I'm stunned they didn't tag him again, but it seems like the Saints have decided they aren't going to pay him a record setting contract for a safety. Make no mistake, when free agency starts Monday with the legal tampering period, Marcus Williams will be the richest safety in NFL history very quickly.
I can't see the Saints leaving a hole like that in their defense, so who should replace Williams?
Two words, kids: Honey Badger. Tyrann Mathieu even liked an Instagram post of him in a Saints uniform. He's practically a Saint already! Tyrann Mathieu isn't as good as Williams, and he's older, but he will be much cheaper and HE'S THE FREAKING HONEY BADGER. Only one of the most beloved LSU players ever and he's from New Orleans. Yes please. Make this happen Saints. I'm going to make a prediction; I think the Saints will sign Mathieu before Marcus Williams signs with his new team. It'll be the deluxe version of what happened with Mark Ingram in 2019. You remember when the Saints signed Latavius Murray before Ingram signed with the Baltimore Ravens and we were all sad because we loved Ingram and that let us know he was leaving before he actually left. Same thing could happen with Honey Badger, except this time if Mathieu comes on home, we will lose our minds in the best way. Also, all Saints fans can just pull out our old LSU Mathieu jerseys from the closet and be good to go on game day. What is not to love about this?
If the Saints replace Williams with Mathieu they should have some extra money laying around to add a receiver and I have just the guy. The Cleveland Browns just traded for Amari Cooper and told Jarvis Landry he can seek a trade. Jarvis, my friend, I know a team that needs a receiver in the WORST WAY.
Oh, and he did this at LSU. We haven't had a fun LSU offensive player on the Saints since Devery Henderson and our lives are poorer because of it. Rectify this Mickey Loomis.
Sure, Landry's production has declined the last 3 years but his 52 catches for the Browns in 2021 would make him the Saints second best receiver by a mile. He, like Mathieu, should come at a reasonable price and we need to save those pennies for my final two moves of operation 'NFC South Tiger King'. Up first, the Saints need to keep linebacker Kwon Alexander in New Orleans. Alexander's stats don't show the energy and play-making he brings to the Saints defense. The guy finds the football and good things happen. Sean Payton raved about his energy and nose for the football, I'm gonna guess Dennis Allen feels the same. I know the Saints usually have an allergic reaction to LSU players, but IT'S A NEW DAY AND MY TIGER DREAMS KNOW NO LIMITS.
Which brings us to the final piece of my Saints free agency plan... re-sign Terron Armstead. Yes, I know he's 30 and injured a lot, but he's also a top 3 left tackle in football when healthy. Plus, he's going to count 13 million against the cap whether he's on the team or not so why not just keep him? Terron Armstead has also said repeatedly all offseason that he isn't closing the door to return and I just sense there is deal to be made both sides will be happy with.
The Saints can steal my 'NFC South Tiger King' plan, and not even give me credit. I'll be tweeting “Go Tigers” and “Honey Badger Don't Care!” so much I won't even care.
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.