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NFL 2024 Team Breakdown: New Orleans Saints


The Saints have had some pretty bad luck lately. They've had some relatively loaded rosters, but have gone 16-18 in the last two years. Is it the QB? Is it the head coach? Is it horrible cap space and asset management over the past three offseasons?


We break all of it down, and more, for my 24th ranked team heading into 2024.


Photo: Perry Knots/GettyImages

 

Strengths


  1. Great Secondary

  2. Strong Linebacker Core

  3. Solid WR and TE Rooms


The Saints secondary doesn't get talked about enough. In 2023, the Saints had a coverage grade of 90.3, which ranked 6th among all NFL teams. Their three starters at cornerback - Marshon Lattimore, Paulson Adebo, and Alontae Taylor, combined for 28 pass breakups and 6 interceptions. Tyrann Mathieu and Jordan Howden were solid as well, as Tyrann added 4 INTs, and Howden had a 25% forced incompletion rate.


Demario Davis and Pete Warner have been this defenses' backbone since 2021. Demario has thrived in coverage, while Pete Warner has added much needed run support. To lighten the load on both of them, they brought in Willie Gay via free agency to help out in passing situations, and Jaylan Ford via the draft as a developmental piece who has good athleticism and a solid foundation.


Chris Olave has the ability to be a true WR1 in this league, he just needs a QB to get him the ball. Joining him is Rashid Shaheed as their big play threat, and AT Perry who is a big body, go-up-and-get-it option. They have less effective "clones" behind them, in Cedrick Wilson, Bub Means, and Equanimeous St. Brown respectively. Add in a deep tight end room with Juwan Johnson, Taysom Hill, Foster Moreau, and a fun rookie in Dallin Holker, this offense can be a headache to handle if deployed properly.


Weaknesses


  1. Cap Room Hell

  2. Horrible Offensive Line

  3. Below Average First Round Talent


I know everyone says cap room is fake, but it is very real in the Saints case. They had a chance to blow it up a few yeas back, but they opted not to by overpaying Alvin Kamara, signing Derek Carr to a hyperinflated contact, giving Taysom Hill a bizarre contract despite never playing more than 500 snaps in a single year (he has a nearly $18 million cap hit in 2025), and they decided to retain aging veterans who are all good, but not good enough to get this team over the hump with lacking talent elsewhere. If the Saints decided to trade away key pieces and load up on draft capital, they could potentially be building a much stronger and cheaper roster than they currently have.


The Saints are on track to have the worst OL in the league. Ryan Ramczyk looks like he'll be out for the year as he hasn't recovered properly from knee surgery, Cesar Ruiz has never had a blocking grade above 59 in any given year, and Trevor Penning is on bust watch. Erik McCoy has put some good years together, and Taliese Fuaga and Nick Salvierdi are unproven. I'm confident in only two of their starters, and one hasn't even played an NFL snap yet; it looks bleak at best for NOLA's trench tyrants.


Out of the 11 first rounders on roster, only 4 are projected to be starters going into 2024. The worst part is, nine of those eleven guys were originally drafted by the Saints. For the guys that haven't been mentioned, Payton Turner has played just 340 snaps over three seasons, Bryan Bresee has been nursing a shoulder injury since 2021 - and was pretty abysmal in his rookie year as a result, Chase Young isn't the same player he was as a rookie, and Cameron Jordan is turning 35 heading into training camp. Oh, and Johnathan Abram, that's all.


Key Additions


  1. Taliese Fuaga - Offensive Tackle

  2. Kool-Aid McKinstry - Cornerback

  3. Chase Young - Edge Defender


Tackle was a major need for New Orleans - even if Ramczyk was healthy, and drafting Taliese was a great choice. The Saints have struggled as a run blocking unit up front, and Taliese is one of the best maulers in this class. He also has some decent pass protecting chops, giving him a clear path as a starter for 2024 and beyond.


Kool-Aid is a great long term investment, as Paulson Adebo and Alontae Taylor see their contracts expire in 2024 and 2025 respectively. Given one or both of them will command an expensive contract from the Saints, they'll most likely let one or both of them go, meaning McKinstry will be a shoe-in starter come 2025. He's got the tools to be a lockdown corner, as he excels in both man and zone coverage, and knows when to play through the ball versus through the receiver.


The Saints needed pass rush help, as well as a potential replacement for Cameron Jordan beyond 2024, so they bring in Chase Young on a one-year-prove-it deal. Chase actually became less efficient as a pass rusher when he was traded to San Fran, as his pressure rate dropped from 15.38% to 12.02%. He still did well overall, however, and Dennis Allen will be able to get Chase Young more favorable looks.


Dark Horse


Spencer Rattler - Quarterback


It's not often a Day 3 QB has a path to starting, but it could happen for Spencer. He's matured immensely over the past several years, and in hindsight, getting benched for the best QB prospect in the past decade isn't bad at all. From a football standpoint, he's got a piss-missile for an arm, solid overall athleticism, and a knack for navigating broken pockets; all things that Derek Carr lacks at this stage in his career. Given Carr's contract, they could cut him next offseason before his salary becomes fully guaranteed on March 17th, saving over $34 million for the Saints over the next two years.


Record


6-11


Hot take: Spencer Rattler takes over as the starter by Week 10. There's a good chance they start 1-4, or even 0-5 if the Panthers come out hot Week 1. If they split all of their divisional games, and given the slate of winnable games on their schedule, I could see the Saints winning 9 games at most. In reality, they play some really good pass rushing units and high level passing attacks, which will put a strain on them in almost every contest.


Photo: Marc Lebryk/USA TODAY Sports

 

Final Notes


If the Saints season goes this way, they need to blow everything up. Embrace Rattler as the starting QB for the next few years, get rid of the aging vets on ridiculous contracts, reset the cap, and look towards life after 2025.

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