16, 19. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (9-8)
LAST SEASON: New Orleans opened 5-2 in the first season that Jameis Winston took over for franchise all-time leading passer Drew Brees. But Winston’s season ended with a knee injury in his seventh game. New Orleans lost four straight with Trevor Siemian filling in as the starter before rallying back into contention when Taysom Hill returned from injury and took over. Ultimately, the Saints were eliminated on the last day of the season by San Francisco’s dramatic comeback at the Los Angeles Rams. The winning record came despite having to start four QBs in all and despite top receiver Michael Thomas missing the entire season because of his ankle injury. But long-time coach Sean Payton decided to retire after the season and was replaced by defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, whose unit performed well during the past half decade and was the strength of the team, especially the past two seasons.
FREE AGENCY/TRADES: Traded their 18th overall draft pick, a 2023 first-rounder and several current and future later-round picks to the Eagles for picks 16 and 19 and 194 (sixth round). Released K Brett Maher and QB Blake Bortles. Lost LT Terron Armstead, S Marcus Williams, QB Trevor Siemian, WR Ty Montgomery and TE Garrett Griffin. Signed S Marcus Maye; DTs Kentavius Street and Jaleel Johnson; QB Andy Dalton; TE J.P. Holt; S Daniel Sorensen; and DE Taco Charlton. S Malcolm Jenkins retired.
THEY NEED: LT, WR, S.
THEY DON’T NEED: DT, Edge rusher, LB, K, P.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett; Mississippi QB Matt Corral; Ohio State WR Chris Olave; Alabama WR Jameson Williams; Arkansas WR Treylon Burks; Northern Iowa OT Trevor Penning.
OUTLOOK: GM Mickey Loomis and Allen brought back Winston, added Dalton as his backup and asked Hill to become a full-time tight end. But Winston’s two-year deal is really just guaranteed for one year, so the Saints could draft a QB in the first round — and could move up to do so by exchanging their two mid-round choices for one higher pick. If they can’t work out a deal for the QB they want, they’d have three picks in the top 49 to try to bring in players who could contribute right away. The Saints have retained numerous core players from four straight playoff seasons between 2017 and 2020. So, bringing in a left tackle and receiver with two first-round picks could bolster Allen’s chances for winning right away. That’s something he’ll have a sense of urgency to do after going 8-28 in his first head coaching job with the Raiders from 2012-14.
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