Saints offseason brings many cuts


NFL photo

Drew Brees retired from the Saints.

By Riley Brands, Staff Writer

The New Orleans Saints have made over $50,000 of cap space debt disappear in a single month of offseason moves. The general manager of the Saints, Mickey Loomis, and his vice-president Khai Harley have been partners in tackling the salary cap issue together since 2014.

Before the offseason began, the New Orleans Saints were estimated to be nearly $100 million over the salary cap but got it down to only $20 million over. To start this heroic journey, the football operations team in New Orleans had to cut multiple players with which they would not have otherwise parted. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was cut to save around $7 million; this cut means that the Saints will only have one starting caliber cornerback on the roster in Marshon Lattimore. Lattimore is available for a contract extension which will allow the Saints to maneuver around his current $10 million cap hit further down in the contract.

Loomis and Harley are known for their willingness to backload contracts with various loopholes to save the team money. Offensive guard Ryan Ramcyzk is one of the other key players on this roster who is available for a contract extension potentially lessening his $11 million salary for 2021.

The third player the Saints had the opportunity to give a contract extension was safety Marcus Williams. Williams, unlike Lattimore and Ramcyzk, does not have any years remaining on his contract which results in him leaving for free agency. However, the Saints have talked very highly of Williams ever since they drafted him in 2017; this makes it very clear the organization wants Williams to stay with the team because they used the franchise tag on him. This was most likely the Saints only big offseason signing because of the fact that they are still tens of millions of dollars over the salary cap. To help with the salary problem, some of the other cuts New Orleans ended up exercising were tight ends Josh Hill and Jared Cook. Hill was used primarily as a blocking tight end whereas Cook was originally brought to the team as a big-time receiving target. Hill was cut for the purpose of penny pinching $2.6 million and cutting Cook will only cost the Saints $2 million to void his contract completely. Cook has had ups and downs with the Saints, but the inconsistent play is the primary reason for his departure from New Orleans. Just like at cornerback this leaves only tight end Adam Trautman on the roster meaning he will likely be their guy going into his sophomore season.

One of the more noticeable cuts for longtime Saints fans was the releasing of punter Thomas Morstead. Morstead, along with Drew Brees, was the last standing member from the 2009 Superbowl winners. Brees officially announced his retirement over Instagram with a video of his children.

There was long speculation on whether or not Brees would retire which added even more fuel into ever hot quarterback fire the Saints have been trying to put out all off season. This will be the first year since 2006 that Brees is not the starting quarterback for the New Orleans Saints. In that time Brees has become the most prolific passer in NFL history and shaped the once hopeless New Orleans football team into the NFC juggernaut it is today. With Brees retiring the question at quarterback shifts back to the other candidates: Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston, and Russell Wilson.

Taysom Hill is the only quarterback that is currently on the Saints roster and he also just received a contract extension in order to lower his massive 2021 salary by $7.75 million. The extension is a 4-year contract worth $140 million however every single year is voidable which does not show a very strong commitment by the Saints. Russell Wilson is currently the starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, but Wilson has voiced his desires to be moved to another team. The Saints were one of the three teams listed by Wilson including the Chicago Bears and the Dallas Cowboys. Saints fans jumped on the Wilson bandwagon very quickly with the hope of moving from one proven elite quarterback directly into another one. While this may sound like the dream scenario the Saints would have to find a way to not only make a trade that the Seahawks will accept, but they will also have to find a way to pay the Superbowl tested quarterback. The last quarterback to talk about is Jameis Winston; Winston spent his first 5 years in the NFL as the starting quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after they selected him first overall in the 2016 draft. In 2020, Winston signed a one-year deal with the Saints to learn under Brees in this offense.

After Brees’ retirement on March 14 there have already been reports of Winston and the Saints discussing a deal. Dianna Russini at ESPN reported on Twitter: “It’s no secret in New Orleans they like Jameis Winston and want to bring him back. The two sides are working on getting a deal done, per sources. This would not mean Winston is the starter if it gets done, it was explained to me, this will be a quarterback competition at camp.”