Sean Payton hasn't been gone long from the Saints, and we're already seeing others try to write off New Orleans and kick them when they're down. You've undoubtedly heard by now that key pieces and veterans should be on the trade block and that the salary cap situation is going to make it impossible for whoever comes in next. These claims are silly, and couldn't be farther from the truth.
The Saints are going to be able to field contenders in 2022, and whoever inherits this team as their new head coach will certainly have their work cut out for them. However, the good far outweighs any bad in this area. We'll look at a list of things that make New Orleans an ideal spot for any aspiring head coach.
Not Many Needs
There's two positions the Saints have to address in the offseason, even if Payton were still the head coach, and that's the quarterback and wide receiver spot. You can also go a step farther and include a pass-catching tight end there. Offensively, the majority of the focus is where the team has to improve. Defensively, you have most every key starter returning, and the ones who are scheduled to be free agents could return.
Those key free agent decisions on the defensive side of the ball include Kwon Alexander, Marcus Williams, and P.J. Williams. The Saints could use the franchise tag to keep Marcus Williams, while decisions on Alexander and P.J. Williams will be interesting. Pete Werner could make a huge second-year leap, and that's got to be a consensus belief if Alexander walks. As for P.J. Williams, he's played well enough to earn something better than a year-to-year contract.
What the team will also need is to backfill and retool key areas of depth through the draft and hit on some undrafted players. They can also look to free agency for some, but it feels pretty straightforward as opposed to other years.
Where do you start when you talk about the desirable building blocks the Saints have? They locked up a good bit of their franchise staples in Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Ryan Ramczyk, and Marshon Lattimore - to name a few. On both sides of the ball, there is plenty of strength and leadership to help pull you through tough situations.
Most of this key and current core will stay intact through 2023, and the younger players will undoubtedly need to elevate their play to help keep on a lengthy tradition of winning. That's also not even counting a coaching staff of assistants that's really not going to see a lot of turnover in the offseason.
The Truth About 'Salary Cap Hell'
'Eventually, the bill comes due' is something you'll hear a lot when talking heads get together on the Saints cap tactics, and that is the case at times when they use things like voidable years to spread out the cap charge. New Orleans had to deal with that last year with Drew Brees, and will also have some in 2022 ($11.5 million). They'll also have a big decision to make on Terron Armstead, who is scheduled to be a $13 million dead cap charge and become a free agent if the Saints don't get a deal done with him before the new league year starts.
The good news about the majority of the top salary cap hits for the Saints next season is that they can maneuver through them without having to cut players. Moving roster bonuses to signing bonuses is a tactic that New Orleans has used frequently, which lowers a player's cap number and still pays them in the process. However, it frees up the cap and allows them to get creative.
Furthermore, the salary cap is expected to rise in 2023, which is going to give Mickey Loomis and Khai Harley even more flexibility on how they tackle contracts. If the Saints do indeed believe they are competitors, then they can operate in this way. It drives everyone crazy, and everyone wants to count the Saints out when it comes to this. However, they've proven year after year that they handle this better than anyone and are still able to bring in free agents in the process.
Ownership and Front Office Support
The relationship between owner, general manager, and head coach are imperative to success. That's something that Sean Payton had the luxury of, working well with Mickey Loomis and the Bensons during his tenure with the team. That next person will be instrumental in keeping the same type of relationship while being their own person. That trust that Payton had will surely have to be earned over time, but that seemingly is what happened when 2006 rolled around and this saga got started.
New Orleans is definitely in unfamiliar territory, and the coaching interviews are starting to be lined up. Dennis Allen is certainly the frontrunner, while the team is also looking at Aaron Glenn, Byron Leftwich, and Brian Flores as we learned on Friday morning.
The right leader is what's key here for the Saints to somewhat pick up from where they left off. Whoever does take over will certainly live a little in Sean Payton's shadow, but they're ultimately going to inherit a great situation. Don't buy into all the things you see.
Saints Head Coaching Interviews
Dennis Allen has been with the Saints on two separate stints and would be the logical choice to take over for Sean Payton.
The Former Player
Aaron Glenn has history with the Saints, most notably as their DB coach from 2016-2020.
DC in Detroit
Glenn left the team for a promotion with the Lions to work under Dan Campbell in 2021.
Byron Leftwich has certainly had an interesting ride as a coach, and many feel he's more than ready to lead.
Leftwich's QB Lineage
Leftwich played a lot of years at QB after being a former 1st Round draft pick. Many forget he played for the Falcons, among other teams from 2003-2012.
Hard to imagine that Brian Flores got canned from the Dolphins, and the Giants appear to be one of his suitors. However, the Saints have reached out.
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