New Orleans Saints fans are approaching the 2021 offseason with optimism, but For The Win’s Steven Ruiz and Charles McDonald aren’t in that number. They listed all 32 teams in their offseason power rankings based off a mix of draft capital and salary cap space, as well as the shape of rosters as they currently stand.
And, well, that isn’t a very favorable look for the Saints. They own just a handful of picks in this year’s draft after aggressively trading them last year. No team is deeper in the red than New Orleans, though the Saints are chipping away at their salary cap commitments each day. But uncertainty at quarterback, with or without Drew Brees, is yet another hurdle. Here’s what Ruiz and McDonald said to justify ranking the Saints at No. 27 out of 32:
“The Saints have a very good roster … but for how long? The team has negative cap space and a 40-something quarterback who will/should probably retire. If New Orleans comes out of this offseason with a playoff-caliber roster, just put Mickey Loomis in the finesser hall of fame right now.
Offseason priority: Find a way to make up a $62 million cap deficit.”
The good news is that the Saints started with almost $100 million in negative cap space, so they’re a third of the way towards compliance. They’ve also achieved double-digit wins in each of the last four seasons, the best streak in team history. But the question Ruiz and McDonald poise is, well, the biggest question the Saints must answer: how much of this roster can they keep together?
It’s already beginning to thin out: co-starter tight ends Josh Hill and Jared Cook were cut on Wednesday, guard Nick Easton has been released (but could return), and nose tackle Malcom Brown is subject to ongoing trade talks. They probably won’t be able to re-sign both their sacks leader Trey Hendrickson and their interceptions leader free safety Marucs Williams, who is reportedly their priority. Other starters like Sheldon Rankins and Alex Anzalone are free agents, too.
And the problem, again, is that the Saints don’t have enough resources to keep the entire group together. They can maneuver the cap and the draft to remain competitive — the bottom shouldn’t fall out right away. But the specifics in how they accomplish that make for as unpredictable a Saints offseason as we’ve ever seen.