Super Wild Card Weekend did not disappoint on Saturday, as the matchups were fairly entertaining. The Sean Payton buzz is only going to grow after the Chargers collapse in Jacksonville. For New Orleans, we keep things going with our 'State of the Saints' outlook by position going into the offseason. Today is about the team's pass rush.
Previous Previews: Defensive Tackle
Defensive End Overview
Players Under Contract: Cam Jordan, Carl Granderson, Payton Turner, Jabari Zuniga (reserve/future)
Free Agent Outlook: Marcus Davenport, Tanoh Kpassagnon
Priority Level: High
2022 produced 48 sacks for the Saints, with 18.5 coming from the edge rushers. Cam Jordan led the way with 8.5 sacks in 790 snaps (nearly 70 percent). Carl Granderson emerged in a big way down the stretch to become the favored edge player with his snap share and set a career high with 5.5 sacks.
The Saints are going to have make decisions on what to do with Cam Jordan and his future, as well as whether to keep Marcus Davenport or not. Like we touched on with David Onyemata's contract, New Orleans has a little bit more time to work out a deal with Davenport before a void date of Mar. 14. The charge comes to $7.6 million currently.
Granderson looks to be a big part of next year's plan, and as far as Payton Turner, that remains to be seen. The biggest problem with Turner is availability, which is something that has been a problem for him. If he can get there, then it might help the rotation a good bit.
A Davenport return would really go under a microscope in terms of the pricing and contract commitment if the Saints re-sign him, especially being that he finished with just a half-sack on the year. Furthermore, you had a combined effort of Turner and Kpassgnon producing 4.0 sacks, and they played just 37 more snaps total more than Davenport. Of course, it's not always that simple, but a defensive end is paid to get after the quarterback and get him down.
Under Ryan Nielsen, the Saints use a ton of rotation in their approach with the defensive line. Nielsen has been requested for an interview by the Falcons, so we'll pay attention to what happens there. Regardless, the Saints will have to bring in some edge rushers to the mix, even if Davenport and Kpassagnon come back.
As far as Cam Jordan's outlook goes, does he want to leave for a Super Bowl contender or try to finish out his career with the team that drafted him? That's one of the big dominoes the fall first. He'll be out of the country in Spain until May after a defensive line vacation to an undisclosed location, so it'll be a key storyline to pay attention to.
Going into free agency, I'm a strong advocate of not going for flash. New Orleans can shop for bargains and avoid trying to make a big splash signing at any position. The fact that Granderson, an undrafted free agent, outplayed two first-round picks this season is both encouraging and alarming. If the Saints look to draft an edge player on Day 1 or 2, then you can bet your bottom dollar that it'll be met with some pessimism given the past couple of high picks.
Like always, New Orleans will just have to find a way to make it work. However, we might be surprised at the end result.
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