Munich – The worst cap situation in the league and question marks on the quarterback position. The New Orleans Saints are sort of where they were a year ago.
Apart from the fact that the success coach is now gone.
The Saints are now the ninth team in the NFL to seek a head coach. Sean Payton is leaving the franchise after 16 successful years, only Bill Belichick has had longer under the current NFL head coaching team.
No coach has won more games in franchise history, with a record of 152-89 and four seasons with 11 or more wins, Payton has the team, along with ex-franchise quarterback Drew Brees, a constant contender for the Super Bowl title made. In 2009/2010 it was even enough for the only championship in the history of the Saints.
New Orleans Saints: Payton resignation at ideal time?
“On behalf of our entire organization, I offer Sean Payton the highest appreciation for what he has meant to the City of New Orleans since 2006,” said owner Gayle Benson, thanking the 58-year-old for his accomplishments.
How things will continue for Payton is not yet clear. He doesn’t know that himself yet. The only thing that is clear is that he does not want to coach in 2022. “I don’t like the word ‘retired’, it’s overrated. I still have my eye on doing things in football and, quite honestly, I could coach again at some point,” he announced at the press conference.
He chose the timing of his retirement well. With a record of 9-8 in the first season after superstar Drew Brees, the Saints fought for the playoffs for a long time, although with the roster and a few injuries that was certainly not to be taken for granted.
For the California native, the timing could have been a rewarding opportunity to exit the franchise on a positive season. It is doubtful that the Saints will be more competitive in the coming season than this year.
New Orleans Saints: Questions on Quarterback Position
The quarterback position hasn’t progressed a step compared to last year.
Jameis Winston tore his cruciate ligament on matchday eight after a good start to the season and had to sit out the rest of the season. Backup Taysom Hill did manage to play to his strengths in the running game, but raised questions about his passing skills and Trevor Siemian and Ian Book didn’t show enough to make long-term picks for the starter job.
So General Manager Mickey Loomis has to think carefully about which path he wants to take now.
New Orleans Saints: Free Agent, Draft or Bridge Solution?
Is he keeping an eye on the quarterback market in the league, hoping to get a shot at potential top quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson? This would probably spare the Saints the immediate upheaval, they would automatically be in all-in mode and would have to tackle the fastest possible title win.
Or does he build on the draft and bet on a rookie quarterback from the thin class of 2022? There would be the problem that the Saints only hold the 18th pick, some other teams with quarterback need would have an advantage and could get the supposed top candidates Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett off the board.
The bridge solution would be Jameis Winston. The free agent has been content with a low salary for the past year and could try in a second season to build on the strong opening weeks of the current season. That would save the Saints time, avoid exposing themselves to the risk of a rookie quarterback, while also conserving cap space.
New Orleans Saints: Salary cap causes concern again
That would be the next construction site. New Orleans is currently an estimated $70 million above the cap. That’s a whopping $34 million more than the Green Bay Packers, who are in second place.
Last season, Loomis already showed that he can use a pocket calculator. The franchise was in the doldrums at $111 million and managed to get under the cap just in time for the new season.
However, a lot of contracts had to be restructured for this. Converting some players’ base salary into the signing bonus and spreading it evenly across outstanding contract years is a clever transitional solution, but it’s also exactly the mechanism that puts the Saints in the same situation year after year – despite the annually increasing salary cap .
“It’s definitely going to be challenging, but I don’t want to speculate just how challenging it will be until we know exactly how much money we’ll have in the years to come,” said Loomis. Apart from the Corona year, the salary cap has been steadily increased in recent years. The Saints will have to build on that in the years to come.
The question is whether to shovel some salaries again over the next few years, or make room by terminating or trading expensive contracts.
New Orleans Saints: More restructuring or upheaval?
Michael Thomas would be a candidate for that. According to “Spotrac”, the actual top receiver should be on the books in 2022 with 24 million dollars. Way too much money for a player who only started seven games in the last two seasons.
There are also professionals like Cameron Jordan (soon to be 33), Malcolm Jenkins (34), Taysom Hill (31), Terron Armstead (30) and Demario Davis (33), all of whom are expected to earn well over ten million dollars in the coming year. Partly extremely important players, but certainly not building blocks of the future.
In any case, in New Orleans, the squad is considered good and fit enough to postpone a change. “We have a great team and I can’t see anything that stops us from saying that we will do everything we can now to win and play for the title,” said the general manager.
Loomis will have to decide with the new head coach whether it makes sense to restructure all these contracts again and postpone the upheaval due to the slim hope of a championship.
In any case, Sean Payton doesn’t have to deal with it. Maybe because he knew what kind of situation awaited him. At least he knows that from last year.