We’re still months away from the 2022 season finale, but it’s already clear that the New Orleans Saints will have many difficult decisions ahead of them come the offseason. Their roster needs work at a variety of positions, and there are real questions about whether they have the right coaches to get back to their winning ways.
While the Saints are going to be without their best draft asset after trading their 2023 first round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles, they’ll still have selections in other rounds to help improve the team. And they’re always active in free agency. For now, here is our ranking of the Saints’ top NFL draft needs:
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This is obviously the biggest concern. Jameis Winston has been too prone to turnovers, stalled-out drives, and injuries during his time with the Saints. Andy Dalton will be a free agent in the spring, and it doesn’t feel like practice squad quarterback Jake Luton is long for New Orleans. Winston does have another year on his contract but it shouldn’t prohibit the Saints from going in another direction. The Saints should look for a quarterback who can make the most out of weapons like Chris Olave and Alvin Kamara.
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Here’s the list of running backs to take a snap on offense this year: Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram II, Tony Jones Jr., Dwayne Washington, Latavius Murray, and Jordan Howard. Kamara is the only player in that group under contract for 2023, and he’s probably going to miss time at some point with a suspension stemming from his alleged involvement in a Las Vegas fight early this year. The Saints haven’t gotten the most out of Kamara without Drew Brees conducting the offense, but he isn’t getting any younger, and injuries are starting to limit him too. They should look for a high-upside No. 2 back who could supplant him someday.
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All four defensive tackles on the Saints’ 53-man roster right now are headed for free agency, with David Onyemata leaving a significant financial penalty (at more than $10.1 million) if he isn’t re-signed due to past contract restructures. While it shouldn’t be hard to re-up guys like Shy Tuttle and Malcolm Roach (and Kentavius Street), to be honest the Saints could get better production out of that group. They should look for upgrades. With so many resources already sunk at defensive end, bolstering the interior is a better use of draft picks and salary cap dollars.
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Cesar Ruiz has played well enough at right guard to earn some trust that he can be a long-term solution there, and the Saints just signed Erik McCoy to a multiyear contract extension, so the center spot is in good shape too (assuming he bounces back from this injury). We can’t say the same about left guard Andrus Peat. He’s sidelined by another injury and hasn’t played more than 13 games in a single season since 2017 (back before the 17-game regular season was introduced). Peat would be welcome on any line around the league given his abilities, but his unavailability is a real concern. His contract structure makes it hard to part ways with him before June 2023, but that shouldn’t stop the Saints from scouting his replacement.
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Yes, the Saints just moved mountains to draft Chris Olave, but he’s all they’ve got at wide receiver. Michael Thomas might not be on the team next year, and if he is he’ll be recovering from another season-ending injury. Jarvis Landry missed a lot of time early this season with injury, too, and he’ll be a free agent in the spring. Olave and Tre’Quan Smith are the only receivers on the team with 200-plus receiving yards right now and who are under contract for 2023. They should be on the lookout for more help at this position.
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Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye both signed multiyear contracts this offseason, but Maye has missed half the season so far with injuries and Mathieu hasn’t been the transformational presence the Saints thought he’d be. They could use fresh legs at the position. Ideally they’d look for someone who can guard the slot while preparing to replace Mathieu or Maye in a year or two — ironically the exact sort of player New Orleans traded away in C.J. Gardner-Johnson.