Saints mailbag: Should Lamar Jackson have been drafted instead of Marcus Davenport?
We're just over a week removed from the end of the NFL season, and we keep wondering what the New Orleans Saints will do first ahead of the new league year. Free agency starts on March 18, and the Saints have an estimated $12.3 million in cap space currently. Of course, things can and will wildly change soon, as we await the final number for the league's salary cap and restricted free agent tender costs. To help pass the time, I tackled some of your Saints questions. Thanks for all the submissions.
Since he's 'obviously' on on his way out, would Drew Brees be willing to surrender the No. 9 jersey when they draft Joe Burrow?
No player will ever wear No. 9 again for the Saints once Drew Brees hangs it up. I get the intrigue, but I can't realistically see them trying to trade up for Burrow when they have a legitimate shot at a Super Bowl run with who they have right now.
Does the Saints' trend of signing obvious need guys in free agency in order to free up BPA (Best Player Available) opportunities in the draft continue? They're still a pretty loaded team, though I understand there's a large number of players about to hit free agency.
It feels like it's headed that way. They have a good bit of depth right now to go along with a strong core, which certainly helps. However, it goes without saying that this is the most important offseason ever for the Saints. Once the quarterback situation gets resolved with Drew Brees, at least knowing what direction New Orleans will go, then that will open up the checkbook and trying to balance the books to prepare for free agency.
You can never count out the Saints for being spenders in free agency, no matter what the cap space says. Eventually, the bill comes due for everyone, but the way Mickey Loomis and company have been able to tackle it has been pretty impressive. The most interesting part of free agency right now is trying to figure out where the Saints would spend the most. If they keep players like Vonn Bell and David Onyemata from hitting the market, then that helps alleviate some potential spending. They have some depth there that could possibly step up and start, but that just depends on the coaching staff's belief in said players.
Should the Saints have drafted Lamar Jackson instead of Marcus Davenport?
Hindsight is obviously in play here. 31 other picks prior to Jackson, and before the Saints traded up to get Davenport, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Josh Rosen were all drafted before him - all in the Top 10. Entering the 2018 season, the Saints needed a pass rusher. Remember what they had outside of Cameron Jordan? Alex Okafor (4.5 sacks) had a decent season as a free agent the Saints took a chance on him, Hau'oli Kikaha was next at 4.0 sacks, and then it was George Johnson (2.5 sacks), and rookie Trey Hendrickson (2.0 sacks) coming off the edge. So, the need was there and the Saints felt really good about Davenport.
Naturally, things didn't turn out the best for his rookie season, but some of the tape was there as a strong pass rusher. Davenport appeared in another 13 games for New Orleans and increased his sack, tackle, and forced fumble production. If you are an analytics person, then here's where I think the best representation of Davenport comes into play. In 2018, Davenport's Pro Football Focus grade came in at 69.7, hardly a good score. However, in 2019 his score finished out at 84.1, which ranked him as PFF's 18th overall edge defender. For perspective, Jordan was 11th at 86.9, and Davenport finished ahead of Trey Flower, Jadeveon Clowley, Olivier Vernon, Vinny Curry, Von Miller, and Shaquil Barrett to name a few.
The way the Ravens run their offense cater to Lamar Jackson, and the Saints could have done something similar had he been here. Taysom Hill seems to be their guy right now. However, we'll just have to see what happens with Drew Brees before we worry about that.
Do we need better coaching in the secondary? It seems we are plagued by bombs from mediocre passers.
Unless we know the exact play called, schemes, and assignments, it's tough to ridicule everything in the secondary. Now, speaking in terms of the Minnesota Vikings game, there were some clear breakdowns that allowed Kirk Cousins to look like a rock star, and that's one of the reasons we saw Marshon Lattimore visibly upset. Overall, Aaron Glenn has done a great job with the secondary.
Are the Saints trading up to the second round?
The Saints have had eight picks in the second round under Sean Payton, most recently trading up in last year's draft to nab Erik McCoy. The team is without a second and seventh round pick this season, and has a full compliment of picks in 2021. It's no secret that if there's a player and the scouting team really wants, they'll find an appropriate trade partner and likely dip into the cookie jar next season.
Do you think Alvin Kamara rebounds next year and any chance we're able to keep Janoris Jenkins?
If I were a betting man, I'd absolutely put a bunch of money on an Alvin Kamara rebound. We know that there was something wrong with Kamara, but he played through it. I would highly encourage you to listen to the Rapsheet + Friends podcast he appeared on during Super Bowl week. Kamara said it wasn't until the last two or three games of the season until he felt like himself. He's a big part of the Saints offense, and having him at full strength will be a big shot in the arm for New Orleans. He still had similar production in 2019, but really fell short in the touchdown department. In all three of his seasons, he's had 81 receptions in each year.
As for Jenkins, he would be a prime candidate to extend. Jenkins will be 32 at the end of October, and it looks like Eli Apple could be destined to find another team on the open market. With that being said, the biggest question is what kind of price tag the Saints would offer to Jenkins with them having to pay Marshon Lattimore the next season. It's hard to assume that you can satisfy both, let alone the rest of the 2017 draft class you'll have to pay.
Is Justin Jefferson an option the Saints are looking at?
Daniel Jeremiah paired him to the Saints in his first mock draft, so there's that. Watching a ton of LSU football, he's a crazy specimen. He'd fit just about any offense really well. You're likely going to hear over the next few months that the Saints visited with him, but of course that's normal for every team to visit with virtually every prospect ahead of the draft.