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2024 Free Agency Preview: Biggest Positional Needs For The New Orleans Saints

Derek Carr - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

The Saints are caught in purgatory. They're not bad enough where their chances of drafting an upper-tier level starter at the quarterback position are good and they're not good enough where they're legit contenders. Their cap situation is dictating their moves, almost going as far as taking the choice out of their hands. No other team has the kind of salary-cap mess that New Orleans has. On top of that, most teams have more draft picks. The Saints are in a dire position. Their best-case scenario is getting lucky and making a playoff appearance. That's the ceiling.

Previous Divisional Editions breaking down each team's 2023 season, their offseason assets, and their top-three positional needs going into the 2024 NFL season can be found here:

The Saints are tied to Derek Carr for a few more seasons and despite the plethora of outstanding head-coaching options this offseason, the Saints felt compelled to stick with Dennis Allen even though his record is abysmal. At this point, they have no choice but to keep trudging ahead; however, they have few assets to truly make their team better. If you want to take advantage of all of our great premium tools, please use promo code "BOOM" to receive a 10% discount. 

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!

Season Review and Offseason Assets

The Saints are such a strange team. They seem addicted to mediocrity or maybe they’re just in too deep, but there’s nothing they can do about it. They finished with a 9-8 record and missed the playoffs. They were ninth in points scored and 14th in yards gained. They let go of offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael and have since hired Klint Kubiak, who was previously the passing game coordinator for the 49ers. They decided to retain Dennis Allen as their head coach despite his 24-46 head- coaching record. Allen has been a head coach for four full seasons. 2023 was the first time he finished with a winning record. At 9-8.

Their defense was eighth in points allowed and 13th in yards given up. They have a good, but not good enough roster and every season they dig their heels in deeper by essentially running it back again with a minor switch-up here or there. It hasn’t worked in the past three seasons, ever since Sean Payton and Drew Brees left. It’s not going to work in 2024.

The Saints are a hilarious $40 million over the cap even after restructures for Derek Carr and Erik McCoy, which saved them close to $30 million this season. It gets even crazier, though. They have $305 million in liabilities already established for 2025, which is already an estimated $45 million over the cap. However, to get underneath the 2024 salary cap, the Saints have given themselves no choice but to restructure a whole bunch of highly-priced contracts, which will only increase their 2025 liabilities.

Of their 10 highest-paid players, all of whom have cap hits over $12 million, cutting any one of them does not save more than $3 million against the cap. They’re backed into a corner with virtually no good way of getting out. It’s all bad and lazy math and at this point, it’s making it impossible for them to upgrade their roster.

New Orleans owns the No. 14 (first-rounder), No. 45 (second-rounder), No. 148 (fifth-rounder), No. 166 (fifth-rounder), No. 168 (fifth-rounder), No. 173 (fifth-rounder), No. 191 (sixth-rounder), No. 200 (sixth-rounder), and No. 229 (seventh-rounder) overall picks in this year’s draft.

While they may have nine picks, they’re without their third- and fourth-round picks and have just two picks in the top 145. The way the Saints do math combined with their limited number of draft picks is a good way to tank your team’s future while hamstringing the present. If that’s the goal, then mission accomplished.

 

Biggest Needs

1. Offensive Line

New Orleans' offensive line was a disaster in 2023. Cesar Ruiz, James Hurst, Andrus Peat, and Trevor Penning combined to play 3,207 snaps at left/right guard and left tackle last season. Peat’s 2024 cap hit is technically a void year as of March 13, 2024, making him a free agent. Penning played the fewest snaps with 417. Out of 153 guards and tackles with at least 400 snaps played, Ruiz was 131st, Penning was ranked 119th, Hurst was 101st, and Peat was 93rd in PFF’s blocking grade.

Ruiz, Penning, and Hurst combined to give up 14 sacks, 16 quarterback hits, 68 hurries, 98 pressures, and committed 19 penalties. They finished tied for 31st in yards per carry average at just 3.6. The Saints can truly only feel confident in Erik McCoy at center and Ryan Ramczyk at right tackle. Even Ramczyk will be 30 years old and finished 2023 on injured reserve. The Saints finished 23rd in PFF’s final offensive line rankings and the play from Hurst, Peat, Ruiz, and Penning were a big reason why. They need better play from three out of the five offensive line positions.

2. Pass-Rusher

The Saints finished 27th in quarterback hits (38), 29th in sacks (34), 28th in pressures (118), and 28th in pressure percentage (18.7%). They had one player (Carl Granderson) in the top 50 in sacks. He finished 33rd with nine. They had one player in the top 100 (!!!) in quarterback hits. That was also Granderson, finishing at 36th with 11. They had one player in the top 60 for total pressures. That was Granderson as well, finishing 32nd with 58. Granderson is a good pass-rusher, but not nearly good enough to make up for a team that has no one, literally no one else helping him get after the passer. The Saints were one of the bottom-five teams in the NFL in getting after the quarterback.

3. Wide Receiver

Michael Thomas has played in just 20 games over the last four years. In the 10 games he appeared in this past season, Thomas was on pace for 108 targets, 66 receptions, and 761 yards. Given his contract, he’ll likely be back with the Saints this year, but that doesn’t mean they should be expecting much from him.

Behind Chris Olave, the Saints have just Rashid Shaheed, Thomas, and 2023 sixth-round pick, A.T. Perry. Shaheed is a boom-or-bust receiver with little to no consistency from week to week. He played 15 games last season. He had nine games with less than 40 receiving yards. He had seven games with less than 30. He had three games with less than 15. He had three games with more than 70. He had more games with less than 30 yards (seven) than he had games with more than 40 (six). He had 10 games with three receptions or fewer.

Shaheed is basically Marquez Valdes-Scantling or Gabriel Davis, which is fine. That’s his game, that’s his role -- to be a deep threat. That’s all that he is. He can disappear for long periods. He had a three-game stretch where he combined to have just 11 targets, five receptions, and 61 yards. He had another four-game stretch where he combined to have just 21 targets (nine came in one game), 13 receptions, and 91 yards. That is not a dependable player. However, Thomas and Shaheed played the second and third-most snaps at receiver for the Saints last season. The Saints only have Olave, Shaheed (downfield decoy), and Thomas (broken).

4. Other Positions of Need: Defensive Line

 

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