Mercifully, the New Orleans Saints season effectively came to an end when they choked away a two-score lead in their Monday night loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Saints still have very slim mathematical postseason chances, but it will be nothing short of a biblical miracle thanks to their latest choke job.
New Orleans, now 4-9, clinched their first losing season since 2016. They seem assured of their first double-digit loss season since 2005 and just their second since 1999.
With that kind of abysmal showing, there are sure to be changes. Head coach Dennis Allen and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael could, and should, be shown the door. Several other established players could be moved this offseason, either by trade or outright release. Some to create salary cap space, others for possibly more draft picks, and some simply for poor performance.
The salary cap is expected to take a significant rise in 2023. However, the Saints are again expected to be significantly over the projected cap. They'll juggle contracts, as they always do, but expect some familiar names to be gone from New Orleans after a year like 2022.
There will be plenty of time to examine which players under contract could be gone. For now, let's have a look at the Saints players who will be unrestricted free agents after the 2022 season.
- QB - Andy Dalton
- RB - Mark Ingram
- RB - Dwayne Washington
- WR - Jarvis Landry
- WR - Deonte Harty
- OT - Ethan Greenidge
- TE - Juwan Johnson (Restricted)
- WR - Marquez Callaway (Restricted)
Landry started the year strong with 7 receptions and 114 yards in the season opener against Atlanta. Since then, he's missed five games with an ankle injury and has 18 receptions for 158 yards in his other seven contests.
Landry is an experienced route runner, but it's clear he's lost a step. Unless he's willing to take another very team friendly deal for one year, it's likely he was just an unsuccessful rental.
Harty played just four games before going on injured reserve with a foot injury. In those contests, he had just two receptions while averaging a meager 2.7 yards per punt return and less than 23 per kick return.
Harty is deadly in the open field, but his size limits him in the offense. Spotrac.com estimates his next contract at an average of $8.5 million per year. With the emergence of undrafted rookie WR Rashid Shaheed, it seems unlikely that Harty is re-signed.
Nobody should expect either Dalton or Jameis Winston to be the starter for this team in 2023. Winston will likely be released. The 35-year-old Dalton could be brought back as an experienced backup at the right price.
Ingram, the franchise's all-time leader in rushing yards, could retire after the season. Washington is a valued member of the special teams and is a cheap backup. The Saints need a big upgrade at this position over the offseason.
Expect New Orleans to make a high qualifying offer to Johnson and prioritize bringing him back after career-high production. Callaway is a much different story and will probably be allowed to test the market.
- DE - Marcus Davenport
- DE - Tanoh Kpassagnon
- DT - David Onyemata
- DT - Shy Tuttle
- DT - Kentavius Street
- LB - Kaden Elliss
- CB - Bradley Roby
- S/CB - P.J. Williams
- S - Justin Evans
- S - Daniel Sorensen
- DT - Albert Huggins (Restricted)
- LB - Chase Hansen (Restricted)
There are some big names that need addressed on a defense that fell short of expectations in 2022. The 26-year-old Davenport has had terrific flashes, but has never had consistent production. Spotrac.com estimates that Davenport will get a deal worth an average of $23.2 million per year. Unless the Saints move on from other big contracts (i.e., Cam Jordan, Demario Davis, Ryan Ramczyk) to clear up cap space, that deal will not be with New Orleans.
Kpassagnon could be a candidate to be re-signed at a reasonable cost. He's a versatile lineman who's been an underrated contributor for two years. Even without spending big on Davenport, the Saints would still have a strong edge rotation of Jordan, Kpassagnon, Carl Granderson, and Payton Turner.
Defensive tackle is a much more difficult spot to project. The position has been a colossal disappointment and could be in line for a massive overhaul with Onyemata, Tuttle, and Street headed to free agency. All three have played much better in recent weeks. Tuttle and Street could be brought back on cheap contracts, with the Saints possibly looking to draft an upgrade over the more expensive Onyemata.
Roby's veteran experience is valuable, but New Orleans has a potential elite trio with Marshon Lattimore, Alontae Taylor, and Paulson Adebo. Safety is the far bigger concern. It's been the worst position on the team this season.
Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye could both be cap casualties after poor seasons. The team keeps bringing P.J. Williams back on one-year deals and could certainly do so again. Gray, Evans, or Sorensen would only be brought back on cheap deals for special teams. This position is in line for a major upgrade.
Elliss was nothing more than a backup and special teams contributor entering his fourth season. An ankle injury that knocked LB Pete Werner out for the last month changed that perception drastically.
A seventh-round choice in the 2019 NFL Draft out of Idaho, the 27-year-old Elliss has had a career year. He has 4.5 sacks, six pressures, and three tackles for loss among 60 total stops. He's been a disruptive pass rusher, terrific against the run, and much-improved in coverage duties.