This off-season there are several significant New Orleans Saints free agents. The upcoming decisions will affect both sides of the ball. The Saints salary cap issues have been well documented throughout the media. The general manager office of the Saints has always found a way to better the team. With Drew Brees‘ retirement decision looming, the Saints could treat the 2021 season as a rebuilding year. Each of the last four years, the Saints have won 10 or more games. A down year might be due. No matter the direction it is almost assured that the 2021 iteration of the Saints will look very different from the previous season.
New Orleans Saints Free Agents Means Team Will Look Different in 2021
There are fewer free agents on the offensive side of the ball than defensive for the Saints. But several backup and players that provide depth are unrestricted free agents. This includes wide receiver Bennie Fowler and multi-positioned Ty Montgomery. The most significant starter from 2020 is tight end Jared Cook. The most intriguing is quarterback Jameis Winston. The Saints defense also could take several hits to the top-five unit from 2020. The Saints stand to lose at least one player from each position unit on the defense. The linebackers, secondary, and front seven will all provide the Saints with tough decisions this off-season. Here are the significant New Orleans Saints free agents in the 2021 off-season.
Saints Offensive Free Agents
Jared Cook, Tight End
Cook appeared in 15 games for the New Orleans Saints in 2020. He started five of those games. The lasting image that will stick with Cook will be his fumble in the 2020 playoffs. Until that point, Cook was a very reliable tight end for the Saints. Cook had only two drops on 60 targets in 2020. He also caught seven touchdowns and averaged over 13 yards per reception. If Cook does not re-sign with the Saints that could be because the Saints drafted Adam Trautman last year. Trautman showed flashes in his limited action in the 2020 season and should absolutely see more playing time if Cook is not back with the team.
Jameis Winston, Quarterback
The Saints decision regarding Winston will most likely hinge on what Drew Brees decides to do this off-season. Most reports expect Brees to retire. Recently, Sean Payton stated that he sees Winston as having a good shot at being the Saints starter going forward. Payton stated, “Jameis is one of those guys that we have a big interest in.” If Brees retires, re-signing Winston might be a top priority of the Saints front office. The relationships built between Winston and the rest of the Saints organization could have an impact on Winston’s decision as well.
Saints Defensive Free Agents
Sheldon Rankins, Defensive Tackle
Sheldon Rankins was a 2016 first-round pick but he has not lived up to his draft status. Being drafted as the 12th player overall pick carries higher expectations. Rankins has only started one game in the last two years. He has appeared in 22 games but the production has not been game impacting. Rankins has accounted for 3.5 sacks and 20 quarterback pressures in the past two years. Unless he takes a significant pay cut, Rankins will likely not be a Saint in 2021.
Trey Hendrickson, Defensive End
Trey Hendrickson might end up being the hardest Saint to re-sign this off-season. He is coming off of a monster 2020 campaign. Hendrickson matched Aaron Donald with 13.5 sacks on the season, trailing only T.J. Watt. He also had 25 quarterback hits and 25 tackles. Defensive ends are highly valued throughout the league. With the Saints salary cap issues, it is difficult to see Hendrickson playing for the Saints in 2021. The Saints will try to keep Hendrickson but the cost might be too much.
Marcus Williams, Free Safety
Marcus Williams was one of the Saints defensive key contributors in 2020. Williams has started 14 or more games every season he has been in the league since the Saints drafted him in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft.. Williams has 13 interceptions over the past four years and 246 tackles. His play has made him another Saints player who will be targeted by other teams this off-season. Williams has endeared himself to the Saints and the city of New Orleans. He will be a huge loss if he is a salary cap casualty.
Alex Anzalone, Linebacker
When the Saints acquired Kwon Alexander midway through the 2020 season, Alex Anzalone‘s snap count decreased. He was a third-round draft pick in the 2017 draft. It is likely that his value has been capped behind Alexander and Demario Davis. Although, Anzalone did appear in all 16 games for the Saints and contributed 41 tackles. Depending on the market for linebacker depth this off-season, Anzalone could still be re-signed.
The New Orleans Saints have many significant decisions to make this off-season. Several players, including Craig Robertson, P.J. Williams, and Ken Crawley contributed to the Saints in 2020 but were not mentioned in the above breakdown. The Saints could replace some of this depth with other signings or draft picks. With all of these free agents, it is clear that the Saints will likely look vastly different in the 2021 season.