Resetting the Saints depth chart after first two weeks of free agency

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A lot has happened through the opening waves of free agency. The Saints have lost a lot of players; 13 of them from last year’s roster will be suiting up for rival teams, with some of them playing against New Orleans in 2021. But the Saints haven’t sat on their hands. They’ve also brought in some new faces of their own. So it’s time for a roster reset at the end of March. We’ll visit this again after April’s draft.

Quarterback

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - JANUARY 03: Quarterback Jameis Winston #2 of the New Orleans Saints shares a smile as he greets teammate quarterback Taysom Hill #7 during the second half of their game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on January 03, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Starter: Jameis Winston/Taysom Hill Reserves: Trevor Siemian This competition will work itself out in training camp, but reports suggest Winston has an early lead after impressing Saints coaches in practice throughout the season. Hill already got his chance to show what his version of the offense looks like, which left a bit to be desired. There’s room for both passers to improve.

Running back

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) celebrates with running back Latavius Murray (28) after Kamara scored a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

Starter: Alvin Kamara Reserves: Latavius Murray, Ty Montgomery, Dwayne Washington, Tony Jones Jr. Fullback Starter: Alex Armah Reserves: N/A Don’t expect much shakeup here unless the Saints surprise everyone and draft a running back highly. They kept Murray amid all the salary cap-cutting moves and made an effort to bring back each of their backups. But Murray is entering the final year of his contract. Armah replaces Michael Burton, who remains unsigned and could return at the veteran’s minimum to compete for the job in training camp. But Armah’s upside on special teams and higher athletic ceiling bode well for him.

Tight end

New Orleans Saints tight end Adam Trautman (82) jogs off the field after an NFL game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Nov.. 29, 2020, in Denver. The Saints defeated the Broncos 31-3. (AP Photo/Justin Edmonds)

Starters: Adam Trautman, Nick Vannett Reserves: Garrett Griffin, Ethan Wolf It’s Trautman’s show, but Vannett was explicitly brought in to compliment him as a blocking asset. The Saints have run with co-starters Jared Cook and Josh Hill for a few years now so the template is there to make this work, if Trautman can handle the heavier workload. New Orleans also typically carries three tight ends on the roster so maybe they add one more.

Wide receiver

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith (10) celebrates with teammates, including wide receiver wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) after scoring against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)

Starters: Michael Thomas, Tre’Quan Smith Reserves: Deonte Harris, Marquez Callaway, Juwan Johnson, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Jake Lampman This is Smith’s year to break out, which also happens to be the final year of his rookie contract. After the top two receivers on the depth chart, there isn’t anyone who logged many snaps; Callaway only played 24.8% of the Saints’ offensive snaps, while Johnson had 16.9% and Harris saw 15.7%. You’d like to see the Saints find another proven commodity.

Offensive line

FILE- In this Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019, file photo, New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater passes as Saints' Terron Armstead (72) and Ryan Ramczyk (71) hold off Seattle Seahawks outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, upper right, during the first half of an NFL football game in Seattle. Sundays game against the Dallas Cowboys could be an important game in the overall NFC playoff scheme, particularly if Bridgewater remains effective at quarterback until Brees is healthy. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Starters (left to right): Terron Armstead, Andrus Peat, Erik McCoy, Cesar Ruiz, Ryan Ramczyk Reserves: James Hurst (T), Ethan Greenidge (T), Derrick Kelly (G), Calvin Throckmorton (G) McCoy and Ruiz will compete for the center spot in training camp, with whoever doesn’t end up snapping the ball shifting to right guard. Hopefully Ruiz thrives at his college position in the middle, because he was a big liability at guard as a rookie. Hurst provides great depth at tackle but the depth chart is thin at guard without Nick Easton, who is still weighing his options.

Specialists

New Orleans Saints place kicker Wil Lutz (3) kicks a field goal as punter Blake Gillikin (4) holds the ball after being snapped by long snapper Zach Wood (49) during NFL football training camp in Metairie, La., Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. (David Grunfeld/The Advocate via AP, Pool)

Long snapper: Zach Wood Kicker: Wil Lutz Punter: Blake Gillikin Lutz restructured his contract early this spring, so he won’t be going anywhere despite his struggles in last season’s second half. The Saints should bring in some competition for Gillikin. While he learned a lot studying under Thomas Morstead, it’s in everyone’s best interest to make him earn that job. Maybe another promising undrafted rookie comes along.

Defensive line

Jan 3, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata (93) tackles Carolina Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel (10) in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Starters: Cameron Jordan, David Onyemata, Shy Tuttle, Marcus Davenport Reserves: Carl Granderson (E), Tanoh Kpassagnon (E), Malcolm Roach (T), Jalen Dalton (T), Ryan Glasgow (T), Noah Spence (E), Christian Ringo (E), Marcus Willoughby (E) There’s a lot of positional versatility here (don't get caught up in the individual designations), and the Saints have a couple of upper-shelf players in Jordan and Onyemata, but it’s now or never for Davenport. Maybe he can combine with Granderson and Kpassagnon to make up for the production lost in Trey Hendrickson’s departure. You’d like to add another good pressure player, either at end or at tackle, to the group, though.

Linebacker

New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Demario Davis (56) celebrates after a stop against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)

Starters: Demario Davis, Chase Hansen Reserves: Zack Baun, Kaden Elliss, Andrew Dowell, Wynton McManis Kwon Alexander was a perfect pairing with Davis, but he’s unsigned and still recovering from Achilles surgery, and can’t be counted on. Hansen played sparingly on special teams but reports suggest he’s ahead of Baun and Elliss to play in the middle next to Davis. That’s odd and doesn’t speak well for either of them. The Saints rarely field three linebackers at once; Baun got just 7.8% of snaps on defense as a rookie, mainly on running downs, while Elliss saw just 5 snaps early in the season. If the plan to convert Baun to a middle linebacker is a bust, how do the Saints adjust?

Safety

Sep 27, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) and safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson (22) celebrate after a turnover on downs against the Green Bay Packers during the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Starters: Malcolm Jenkins, Marcus Williams, C.J. Gardner-Johnson Reserves: J.T. Gray Gardner-Johnson plays in the slot almost exclusively, with Jenkins and Williams often lining up in two-deep looks over the top, so this isn’t quite the amoeba-like three safeties Saints defenses of old. But the point remains that all three of them play together and should be seen as co-starters. More depth would be good here. It’s worth noting that D.J. Swearinger is still a free agent if the Saints don’t draft a younger option.

Cornerback

New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) celebrates with strong safety Malcolm Jenkins (27) after an interception against the Chicago Bears in the second half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Starters: Marshon Lattimore, Patrick Robinson Reserves: P.J. Williams, Grant Haley, Keith Washington Jr. This is the thinnest group on the depth chart. Neither Robinson nor Williams have shown they have the chops to start out on the boundary for any length of time. Lattimore’s legal issues cast a shade over the whole situation. The Saints must find some help here, and soon. Cutting Janoris Jenkins was, from a roster-building perspective, the toughest move they’ve made all offseason.

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