The New Orleans Saints wrapped up their 2022 offseason by continuing to stay "#onbrand" as the saying goes and do what they've done almost every spring the past decade-plus - trade up and make aggressive moves in free agency. This year, general manager Mickey Loomis just made us wait until late April for the fireworks.
If you told me in February the Saints would:
- Sign Jameis Winston to a team-friendly 2-year contract,
- Sign Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye to replace Marcus Williams and Malcolm Jenkins,
- Draft an elite receiver and get a top offensive tackle prospect to replace Terron Armstead,
I'd have been euphoric and wearing a Honey Badger jersey everywhere I went to celebrate the last three months.
Don't let the weird timing of all the Saints' big offseason moves distract us from the fact they just got a whole lot better.
The flurry of the fun Saints offseason moves started last Thursday night during the NFL Draft the way seemingly every Saints draft starts; with a trade-up to get the player they covet.
The Saints like to trade up in the NFL draft on days that end in y and continued that tradition by moving from the 16th pick to the 11th pick and grabbing Ohio State receiver Chris Olave. We need to schedule the Saints drafting Ohio State players each spring like regularly occurring New Orleans events such as the Jazz and French Quarter fests. We know it's happening every year, we enjoy it and need to mark our calendars to remind ourselves it's here.
Of course, the football draft and analytics nerds hated the Saints trading up but Mickey Loomis understood exactly how the draft was going and knew Olave wasn't going to be there if the Saints stayed at 16. I'd argue if the Saints had stayed at 16, they would have missed out on getting any of the truly elite receivers in the 2022 draft.
So the Saints did what they do and used picks No. 98 and No. 120 to trade and go get the number one receiver on their draft board. We will only care about how much it cost them if Olave isn't any good.
I won't pretend to be one of those draft analysts who watch hours and hours of tape, but Olave according to most draft experts was the most polished and ready to contribute receiver in the 2022 draft. The Saints believe they can compete seriously in the NFC in 2022, and a plug-and-play receiver is exactly what the 32nd ranked passing offense needs.
With their second first-round pick the Saints took Trevor Penning, an offensive tackle from Northern Iowa. Like most of you, I didn't know Penning even existed until NFL draft season arrived, because I've watched not a single second of a Northern Iowa football game in my entire life.
What I can tell you about Penning is his Relative Athletic Score (RAS), which the Saints valued highly, was a 9.95 out of 10. What's that mean? If we built an offensive tackle in a lab with the perfect physical traits like height, weight, speed, arm length, quickness, and power, that tackle would be Trevor Penning.
Will Penning's athletic gifts translate to the NFL? That's new Saints offensive line coach Doug Marrone's big challenge. Marrone might have struggled as a head coach but he's one of the best and most respected offensive line coaches in the NFL. I'm gonna trust Marrone and Saints assistant offensive line coach Zach Strief will help Penning maximize all his athletic gifts and do so probably sooner than everyone expects.
Penning and Olave are the picks that matter and how we will judge the 2022 Saints draft. The other really interesting rookie player the Saints acquired last weekend was Smoke Monday, a safety from Auburn.
How does a guy with the perfect football name of Smoke Monday go undrafted? The rest of the NFL not knowing potential greatness is the Saints' gain. Did I mention Smoke Monday is a Saints fan and has been spotted in a Drew Brees jersey AND after he signed with the Saints he drove by the Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta and talked trash to the Falcons?
He's a Saints legend already without even playing a snap.
The Saints topped off a fun draft with the free-agent signing deep down every Saints fan has been dreaming of since he visited the Saints facility in March; the Saints brought Tyrann Mathieu home.
The local kid from St. Augustine High School, and besides Joe Burrow, the most iconic LSU player of the last 20 years, is going to wear black and gold.
The Saints had 2000 plays at safety to replace when Marcus Williams left in free agency and Malcolm Jenkins retired. From the moment in round two of the draft when safety Jaquan Brisker got selected by the Chicago Bears one pick before the Saints' turn, the Honey Badger went from someone the Saints thought of as "he'd be nice to have" to an absolute must.
The Saints wasted no time getting the deal done and Mathieu agreed to become a Saint on Monday morning. The Saints now have a secondary with Marshon Lattimore, Chauncey Gardner Johnson, and Tyrann Mathieu. Receivers and quarterbacks everywhere will be frustrated and insulted. Somewhere Tom Brady just threw another tablet in disgust. The Honey Badger creating mayhem in the Superdome is going to be one of the most fun Saints fan experiences of our lives.
The Saints 2022 offseason went from sleepy and kind of depressing to awesome in four short days.
The experts will tell us the Saints' reckless way of trading away future picks to get players they believe are elite in the draft isn't sustainable but the Saints took a look around the NFC and believe they can compete, and if things fall right, or just better than 2021, be in the mix to go to the Super Bowl.
Y'all the NFC is terrible. Green Bay got worse, Tom Brady can't even beat the Saints, Dallas is just waiting to hire Sean Payton, San Francisco is about to play a quarterback with two career starts, and the Los Angeles Rams were a dropped 49ers interception or Buccaneer defensive meltdown from not even making the Super Bowl.
Oh, and the NFC South is the worst division in the NFL because Atlanta and Carolina have no quarterbacks, mediocre coaching, and the look of franchises embarking on decade-long rebuilds.
I'll fear Tom Brady when he manages to score a touchdown in Tampa against a Dennis Allen defense.
The Saints acted last weekend like a team that still believes it's a contender, filled its biggest needs, and injected the excitement of bringing an LSU icon home. 2022 Saints football can't arrive fast enough.
Ralph Malbrough is a contributing writer and Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at email@example.com, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at @SaintsForecast or download the Saints Happy Hour Podcast.
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