New Orleans Saints 2024 NFL offseason primer: League's worst cap situation is major challenge

New Orleans Saints' 2023 season: 9-8, missed playoffs

Overview: Failing to clinch the team's first playoff berth since the 2020 season didn't cost head coach Dennis Allen his job. But he certainly felt the heat, prompting some changes to his coaching staff, most notably at offensive coordinator with the hiring of Klint Kubiak (former San Francisco 49ers passing game coordinator) and the firing of longtime coordinator Pete Carmichael.

Quarterback Derek Carr, an object of scorn for Saints fans, will be charged with leading the offense, which figures to be the primary offseason focus for New Orleans' upgrades.

And prepare to watch the Saints do their jiu-jitsu routine against the salary cap.

(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)
(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

Key free agents

OT Andrus Peat
G Trai Turner
OLB Zack Baun
CB Isaac Yiadom

Who's in/out: Peat, a three-time Pro Bowler, feels like a priority signing for the Saints, considering the consistency he brings to the offensive line, which needs it. Turner never made it out of training camp in 2023 after a season-ending quad injury. It's unclear if the Saints want to gamble again on the veteran who is entering his 11th NFL season.

Head coach Dennis Allen and the Saints have the NFL's worst salary cap situation. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Head coach Dennis Allen and the Saints have the NFL's worst salary cap situation. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Key free agent needs

Offensive tackle
EDGE rusher
Defensive tackle

Why the holes? Peat could walk, and the Saints are still recovering from Trevor Penning's shortcomings and flirtation with being a first-round draft bust. The Saints' defense is in need of someone to put more heat on the quarterback as New Orleans tallied only 34 sacks last season, tied for fourth fewest in the league.

Do they have the money?

The Saints have one of the worst salary cap situations in the NFL. They’re $9 million over the cap according to Spotrac, even after restructuring Derek Carr's deal and re-signing Tyrann Mathieu.

Potential notable cuts

WR Michael Thomas
RB Alvin Kamara

Why they might be gone: The "Can't Guard Mike" of old is long gone as a No. 1 threat at wideout. He's now a $12.4 million scheduled hit against the cap in 2024. As for Kamara, again, the Saints are facing those pesky salary-cap issues, and their star running back is an $18.9 million scheduled hit against the cap.

2023 NFLPA report card

(Yahoo Sports)
(Yahoo Sports)

Draft picks

1st round: No. 14
2nd round: No. 45 (from Broncos)
5th round: No. 149
5th round: No. 167 (compensatory)
5th round: No. 169 (compensatory)
5th round: No. 174 (compensatory)
6th round: No. 189
6th round: No. 198 (from Eagles)
7th round: No. 232 (from Broncos)

Good draft fit

Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia

Why him? Bowers ranked No. 3 on Nate Tice's top 40 NFL Draft prospects, lauding the Georgia star for his versatility — especially for a creative offensive coordinator. "Bowers is a willing blocker, but has limits from the in-line position. Having said that, his ability to win on the outside and from the slot in the passing game, along with the ability to create explosives whenever he touches the ball, is worth the price for a team with a plan," Tice wrote.

What can move the fantasy football needle this offseason?

The Saints were a pinball offense for most of the Drew Brees-Sean Payton era, but it has fallen off since. It was below average two seasons ago and slightly above average last season. It's possible Kamara might not return, and Carr's the classic midlevel quarterback struggling with his limitations. The most exciting thing this offense could do would be to fully unlock third-year receiver Chris Olave through a combination of playbook adjustments. If Olave has the spike season that's within his reasonable range of outcomes, he could jump into the first round of 2025 fantasy football drafts. — Scott Pianowski