The Saints haven't made a ton of moves in free agency, but are making some of the right ones to gear up for the new season. New Orleans hasn't been a huge player in free agency due to a strong emphasis on keeping their own, bringing in just three new faces to the team thus far, but that could rapidly change over the next couple of weeks. We take a look at the team's most pressing needs that should be addressed between now the NFL Draft at the end of the month.
Aside Demario Davis, who is a giant stud on the defense, there's a lot of unproven players there. Kaden Elliss, Zack Baun, Andrew Dowell, Chase Hansen, and Wynton McManis headline the list of talent New Orleans is currently rolling into the new season with. That can certainly change, but that seems to be an area of concern for the team going into 2021.
There's some team confidence in some of these younger players, and it's not set in stone that they don't reunite with Kwon Alexander. However, that's a 'wait and see'. Hansen is probably the most intriguing of the bunch, and the hope would be to see Zack Baun making a major leap from last season. New Orleans didn't play a ton of base traditional defense, but when they did, Baun was their guy.
Losing Janoris Jenkins was a surprise, and it didn't take him long to latch on elsewhere. Pairing opposite of Marshon Lattimore, it was easily the team's best cornerback tandem since the days of Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter. Now, they'll have to find that player again. Bringing Kris Richard into the fold after losing Aaron Glenn proved to be a smart move. There was reported interest in Chidobe Awuzie, someone Richard coached at Dallas, as well as interest in veteran Richard Sherman.
The Saints are going to need a full-time starter, and the answer doesn't appear to be on the roster. It's hard to see Patrick Robinson being that player, and others like P.J. Williams won't fill the void left by Jenkins. Drafting at 28th overall, this could be an area where New Orleans would need to make a trade up to get anywhere close to appealing targets like Patrick Surtain II and Jaycee Horn. Caleb Farley and Eric Stokes could be two realistic options. No matter how you slice it, it's one of the most unsettling openings on the roster.
Michael Thomas should have a huge bounce back season, and there's quite an opportunity for someone to step up as the No. 2 option with Emmanuel Sanders gone. Tre'Quan Smith is in the final year of his original rookie deal, while Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harris showed some promise when called upon. The Saints dealt with injuries at the position last season, which ended up inserting players like Juwan Johnson and Lil'Jordan Humphrey into the lineup. They both could also do some growing up real fast.
No matter who ends up being the starting quarterback for New Orleans, Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill are going to need some weaponry, reliability, and familiarity. What will be most intriguing to watch is how they both can push the ball down the field. It's been a somewhat missing element for the team over the past couple of seasons. You'd like to see a veteran come in to help the group, but the choices are very slim right now. Perhaps it's the year to pull the trigger on drafting one, but what they have right now won't scare many.
- Tight End - Nick Vannett is going to help with Adam Trautman set to be a bigger presence, but we're also placing a lot of faith in Garrett Griffin and Ethan Wolf right now. It's hard to see the team not taking a chance on a veteran or looking to the draft, whether it be undrafted or not. Taking a flier on a Trey Burton, Jordan Reed, or Tyler Eifert sounds about right. Charles Clay, who opted out of the season last year, would also be an intriguing one to target.
- Defensive Tackle - David Onyemata should have a stellar season, but Sheldon Rankins and Malcom Brown are no longer in the picture. Shy Tuttle and Malcolm Roach could make some big leaps in 2021, and two other names to keep an eye on are Ryan Glasgow and Jalen Dalton. One thing to give the benefit of the doubt to is that Ryan Nielsen has been an excellent coach along that line.