Nov 8, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Brandon Browner (39) reacts with free safety Jairus Byrd (31) after a penalty during the second half of a game against the Tennessee Titans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Titans defeated the Saints 34-28 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
With the New Orleans Saints ending their beleaguered 2015 season this Sunday, you can bet there will be changes coming very soon and not that much longer after the final whistle blows on the road vs. the Falcons at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
I know the talk of head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees being traded or released to breathe some fresh air and life in the organization, not to mention the salary cap, has been heavily debated.
I really don’t think Payton is going anywhere and neither is Brees despite the rhetoric being bounced around that the once fiery coach has lost his spark and his ultra-competitive quarterback is “eating up much needed cap space”.
My friends, it goes much deeper than that (paging Junior Galette).
No, the changes will be to the roster that has been a mismatch after looking at the pieces assembled in not only the draft, but from free agency as well over the past few years.
Aug 7, 2015; Canton, OH, USA; General view of 2015 NFL draft selection cards of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Jameis Winston), Tennessee Titans (Marcus Mariota) and Jacksonville Jaguars (Dante Fowler). Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Saints are well known for their head-scratching picks they’ve made from the college ranks, yet free agency hasn’t been kind to them either.
Free agency is usually meant to help plug one or two major holes, while signing others to compliment your roster — instead of using it to basically sandbag your whole depth chart.
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The Saints over the past few seasons have swung and missed in free agency along with the draft; which is not a good combo when the performance outputs are outweighed by pricey contracts that sink your already meager salary cap, and little return is given back from the investment.
Linebacker Victor Butler is the first to come to mind, when former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan came on the scene in 2013 as the guy who was going to help the team transition to the new scheme and be the glue holding things together.
A well placed Mark Ingram helmet hit to the knee during organized team activities later, and Butler never saw any action and was released the following year after he never could get back to his old self.
Cornerback Champ Bailey is another failure when the Saints signed the aging player to allegedly seal up the patchwork secondary during the 2014 offseason.
Aug 28, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Champ Bailey (27) against the Baltimore Ravens during the first half of a preseason game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
But like Butler, Bailey injured himself not long after and missed most of the preseason and then was unceremoniously released before the start of the regular season.
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Throw some injuries into the mix and the Saints have found themselves treading water with bags of sand when the free agents they’ve banked on are on injured reserve or cut because they just weren’t who they appeared to be.
Decisions will have to come in the coming weeks on some recent acquisitions the team has made, and the results may not be as cut and dry or easy as some are thinking.
Ok, I’ll give you one easy one which is linebacker David Hawthorne who carries a $4.51 million dollar cap hit for the 2016 season.
When he was with the Seattle Seahawks, he was known as “The Heater” for his vicious hitting style; but for New Orleans he’s only been hitting the salary cap and heating up the bench — mostly due to injury and poor performance.
However, others like safety Jarius Byrd, cornerback Brandon Browner, and running back C.J. Spiller present a different challenge.
So with that, let’s take a look at what the Saints options are if any, with the free agent “busts” they’ve filled their roster with, in the last couple of seasons.
And we’ll start with this guy…….
Next: Is Byrd Really the Word?