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New Orleans Saints 53-man roster projection after rookie minicamp

A lot can change in the space of a week. The New Orleans Saints have signed a number of players who shake up their roster projection, including a new starter at tight end and a veteran wide receiver who will put a lot of pressure on their younger players. That’s all happening in the wake of their recent rookie minicamp practices which introduced other new faces.

So with all that said, let’s update our 53-man roster projection. We’re also highlighting 16 players who could return on the practice squad, looking for guidance on the Week 1 depth chart from last season. This outlook will change once we’ve gotten a good look at the team in practice over the summer:

Offense (25, plus 8)

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  • QB: 3

  • RB: 4 (plus 1)

  • TE: 3 (plus 1)

  • OT: 4

  • G/C: 5 (plus 3)

  • WR: 6 (plus 3)

Quarterbacks (3)

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No surprises here. Barring an injury, the only possible change is another team trading for Winston in case their own starter goes down.

Running backs (4, plus 1)

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Benjamin is our pick to get that last spot on the practice squad after the Saints picked him up last year, but he’ll have to outwork undrafted rookies SaRodorick Thompson (Texas Tech) and Ellis Merriweather (UMass) for it.

Tight ends (3, plus 1)

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Johnson and Moreau should be a formidable duo, especially if Moreau is able to fully practice throughout the summer as he’s expecting. His addition upgrades the spot Adam Trautman held last year and frees up Hill to move around and make plays everywhere. Krull should return to the practice squad again this year in case Johnson or Moreau miss time.

Offensive tackles (4)

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Storm Norton could make sense for the practice squad but the Saints have enough position-versatile blockers (who we’ll get to in a moment) that a pure right tackle like him might not be the best use of that roster spot.

Offensive guards/centers (5, plus 3)

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This is the same number of interior linemen the Saints took into Week 1 last year, with five on the roster and three held in reserve on the practice squad. Depth is important given the injury histories of their three starters.

Wide receivers (6, plus 3)

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One of those practice squad receivers could make the roster over Flowers if Shaheed is still the primary returns specialist, but his big-play ability on offense should keep that area as his focus in Year 2. Adding another veteran like Raiders slot receiver Hunter Renfrow would build more confidence in the group.

#10 Tre'Quan Smith

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Lou Hedley (Miami) has a shot at unseating Gillikin, but neither of the young kickers the Saints brought in should be a serious challenge for Lutz, and odds are they’ll stick with the same specialists we’ve seen before and hope for a rebound after last year’s disappointing season.

Defense (25, plus 8)

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  • DE: 5 (plus 1)

  • DT: 4 (plus 2)

  • LB: 6 (plus 2)

  • S: 4 (plus 2)

  • NB: 2

  • CB: 4 (plus 1)

Defensive ends (5, plus 1)

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Maybe Nick Lalos takes Zuniga’s spot on the practice squad after getting more experience in the XFL, but this depth chart appears set. Between salary cap commitments and draft pick investments it’s tough to see who gets pushed out by adding a veteran edge rusher.

Defensive tackles (4, plus 2)

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There’s plenty of competition for that fourth roster spot at defensive tackle, and Roach could very well get moved aside by Emili, Heflin, or undrafted rookie Jerron Cage (Ohio State). But the Saints would do better to sign another veteran who can help the top of the depth chart and push all of those reserves down to the practice squad.

Linebackers (6, plus 2)

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Anderson can make this roster if he performs well on special teams over the summer. Dowell and Summers were big players in the kicking game last year, too, but the Saints need fresh legs and that’s why Orji and Jackson get an edge. Another veteran free agent wouldn’t hurt.

Safeties (4, plus 2)

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It feels like Johnson does enough things well in the secondary as a safety-corner hybrid that he could carve out a role on this team, much like P.J. Williams did in the past. Monday has his work cut out for him just by returning from a season-ending ACL injury — he’s also got to fend off Abram, Johnson, and other veterans for a roster spot.

Nickels (2)

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Veteran defensive back Ugo Amadi is also in the mix here, and he could land on the practice squad if Howden surpasses him. But Roby was the team’s best option to cover the slot last season and he’ll remain there until Howden (or someone else) is ready to take over, at least when the other starting corners are healthy and playing well.

Corners (4, plus 1)

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Roby is also part of the depth chart here, even if his primary focus lies in the slot. And it’s a good group. Taylor was very impressive coming off the bench last season and he should push Adebo for the starting job opposite Lattimore. Yiadom proved to be a valuable special teams ace. Pride might be this year’s Justin Evans as a highly-regarded draft pick whose career was interrupted by injuries.

Story originally appeared on Saints Wire