The New Orleans Saints enter week 13 of the 2021 season on a four-game losing streak. It’s tied for the longest losing streak in the 16-year tenure of head coach Sean Payton, matched only in 2015 and 2007.
While the 5-6 Saints still have realistic playoff chances, Injuries and an ineffective offense have sabotaged a once promising season.
New Orleans has not thrown in the towel on 2021. However, this franchise also does a great job at setting up its immediate future. Last offseason, the Saints parted with 13 starters or major contributors. Many of those were for salary cap reasons.
The Saints will again need to juggle some contracts and make some difficult personnel decisions for 2022. General manager Mickey Loomis and his front office staff have always done a magnificent job navigating the salary cap to field a competitive squad.
Even with such an outstanding front office, the Saints will certainly see a change in their personnel before taking the field next year. Playoffs or not, several players will be playing to continue their career in New Orleans over the team's remaining six games this season.
SAINTS 2022 UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
- QB - Jameis Winston
- QB -Trevor Siemian
- LT- Terron Armstead
- WR- Tre'Quan Smith
- WR/RB - Ty Montgomery
- FB - Alex Armah
- RB- Dwayne Washington
Winston showed encouraging signs until his season was ended by a knee injury sustained on a dirty play by Tampa Bay LB Devin White. What the Saints decide at quarterback will be the biggest question surrounding this team entering the offseason.
Armstead is one of the league's best offensive linemen. The only concern about him is his durability. He’s missed 34 games with injuries over the last eight years, including four this season, and has never played a full year.
Armstead's talent and value to the team isn't in question , but his estimated market value is close to an average of $24 million per year. Will the Saints be willing to swing such a deal?
Remember that they already signed elite RT Ryan Ramczyk to a lucrative contract extension. What’s interesting is that Ramczyk would receive a hefty pay raise if he’s moved to left tackle.
Smith and Montgomery are two members of a receiving corps that’s been a massive disappointment without injured WR Michael Thomas. Either could be back in a New Orleans uniform, but only at a very reasonable cost and in nothing more than a backup role.
- FS - Marcus Williams
- LB - Kwon Alexander
- S - P.J. Williams
- DE/DT - Jalyn Holmes
- S - Jeff Heath
Marcus Williams was just the third player in team history to receive the franchise tag, with QB Drew Brees and TE Jimmy Graham being the others. Williams will probably have a market value of around $13.5 million yearly average, making him difficult to keep for the cap-strapped Saints.
New Orleans could look to keep a talented secondary intact by making a strong push to re-sign the playmaking defensive back. Williams has as much as any safety in the league, along with terrific ball skills and anticipation.
Kwon Alexander made a remarkable recovery from a torn Achilles suffered on Christmas Day in 2020. He’s a lightning fast linebacker with excellent coverage skills, making him an ideal complement to All-Pro LB Demario Davis.
Alexander accepted a team-friendly contract to return to the team this season. With the impressive development of rookie LB Pete Werner, it may take another cap-friendly deal for Alexander to be a Saint in 2022.
P.J. Williams has been a valuable member of the team’s secondary since 2015 because of his versatility. Capable of playing every spot in the defensive backfield, Williams is annually among the team leaders in turnovers created.
2022 RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
- WR -Deonte Harris
- DE - Carl Granderson
- DT -Shy Tuttle
- TE - Garrett Griffin
Harris has been one of the few reliable offensive weapons for the Saints this season, outside of running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. He’s also arguably the NFL's best kick returner, capable of changing a game in an instant.
Granderson is a quality depth piece at defensive end. He’s improved his run defense and can be a disruptive pass rusher along the edge. Tuttle doesn't add much as an interior pass rusher, but is a strong run defender.
Harris seems the most likely to be tendered a high offer by New Orleans. Granderson and Tuttle are both valuable members of a deep defensive line, but could be re-signed rather easily if given an offer from another team.
The Saints have done a great job at keeping their talented core intact despite salary cap issues. While there will be personnel changes this offseason, the team will still address several of their own free agents to keep them at home.