Predicting best options for New Orleans Saints practice squad

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We’re a day away from the New Orleans Saints whittling their depth chart down from 80 players to just 53, but as many as 16 of those roster cuts could return to the practice squad should they clear waivers. And up to six of those players eligible for the practice squad may have unlimited NFL experience, unlike in the past. We took one last shot at predicting the 53-man roster here, so here is a follow-up in guessing at who could be a good fit on the practice squad.

Offense

  1. QB Trevor Siemian. Siemian has enough NFL snaps behind him to warrant keeping around as a last-ditch candidate should something happen to make the Saints' top quarterbacks available -- a scenario they know all too well after watching the Denver Broncos lose all of their quarterbacks to COVID-19 protocols last season, prompting Siemian's arrival in the first place.

  2. TE Garrett Griffin. The veteran tight end would be a candidate to make the team outright if both Adam Trautman and Nick Vannett aren't available with injuries to start the season, but it feels like a safe bet that at least one of them will be ready to play in Week 1. If that's the case, Griffin should return to the practice squad as experienced depth.

  3. TE Ethan Wolf. Wolf is less game-ready than Griffin, but the Saints brought him in to compete with Tommy Stevens for a developmental blocking role last year and he won that job. Keeping him around for more preparation makes sense, especially if Vannett is more of a one-year rental this season.

  4. WR Kevin White. He hasn't shown enough on offense to earn a spot on the roster (if anything, his two dropped targets against Jacksonville are reason not to roster him) but White is still a high-level athlete who could improve with more practice. He hasn't been with the team too long as it is.

  5. OL Christian Montano. The only player to snap the ball not named Erik McCoy or Will Clapp, Montano sticking around as an emergency call-up at center could end up being a good decision. If nothing else, having someone else who can deliver a clean snap in practice whenever McCoy needs a day off is worth it.

  6. OL Derrick Kelly. Kelly has been a backup tackle for a few years now, but other young players have surpassed him on the depth chart. Still, his familiarity with the system's blocking assignments is enough to justify keeping him in town should injuries start to pile up.

  7. RB Latavius Murray. Will Murray be cut? It isn't a given. Just because he's had a rough summer doesn't mean the first two years of his career were a mirage. There's no reason to think the Saints would be able to return him to the practice squad if he were waived, but you never know. Wholly cutting him off doesn't feel like the right move if he's interested in staying at a lower level.

  8. RB Devonta Freeman. Like Murray, Freeman is far from a lock to make the roster. He's been unproductive at times in preseason and made some frustrating mistakes for a player with his experience. Still, the Saints shouldn't rush to set him out by the curb. His skills set most closely aligns with Alvin Kamara's of the other backs on the team.

Defense

  1. DT Josiah Bronson. The Saints made a harder run at signing Bronson in undrafted free agency than any other rookie, and no defensive tackle has played more snaps in their two preseason games. Maybe he's worth retaining for more development before throwing into a game.

  2. DT R.J. McIntosh. McIntosh was only recently signed and hasn't had much time to make an impression. He could return for more opportunities to show what he can do in practice.

  3. LB Andrew Dowell. It almost feels unlikely that Dowell could clear waivers and stay with the Saints -- that's how impressive he's been this summer. He's just the seventh-best player at a position the Saints normally roster six.

  4. LB Wynton McManis. If Dowell ranks seventh, then McManis slides in at eighth. He's an asset on special teams with high-effort play on defense. If injuries continue to sideline Kwon Alexander or Pete Werner, having someone like him waiting in the wings could be a good call.

  5. LB Shaq Smith. Smith is another young linebacker who has had his moments. If Dowell or McManis get snapped up on waivers, it would be smart to bring him back for a longer look.

  6. S Jeff Heath. Heath played often on the special teams units after joining the Saints late in training camp. He'd be a good candidate to be called up from the practice squad on game days in that capacity.

  7. S Eric Burrell. If Burrell can be taught to protect himself better without losing the physical edge to his game, he might earn valuable minutes with the Saints defense in a year or two.

  8. CB KeiVarae Russell. It's an indictment of the Saints cornerbacks that Russell is the only one I'm interested in keeping around for a longer look. And that's because the Saints didn't get much time with him in training camp after he lost nearly two weeks on the COVID-19 reserve list. They need to continue looking for corners.

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