Next season should makeup for lack of off-season excitement for Saints fans
NEW ORLEANS – This isn’t a particularly exciting off-season for New Orleans Saints fans.
On course it started with the lingering anger, bitterness, resentment, etc. over the egregious defensive pass interference that was committed by the Los Angeles Rams but not called by the officials and contributed mightily to the Saints loss in the NFC Championship Game.
The circumstances of the defeat led many Saints fans to boycott the Super Bowl, in which the Rams lost to the New England Patriots.
The negative feelings from the way the season ended might be less acute than they were initially, but the wound was still festering for many as free agency got under way this week.
At least, Saints fans could have rationalized, free agency is here. It’s the first chance to for New Orleans to compete since the NFC Championship, an opportunity to feel the thrill of victory, at least on a smaller scale, with some triumphant signings.
Perhaps the Saints would land some big-name free agents and upgrade the roster to the point where fans could dream of a 2019 Saints team that would be even better than the 2018 team, good enough that one official’s mistake couldn’t keep it out of the Super Bowl.
But no such signings have occurred nor or any such signings likely to occur.
New Orleans has little to spend on free agency, though the restructuring of Drew Brees’ contract added $10.8 million to the kitty.
But that came after the Saints had lost running back Mark Ingram, who signed with Baltimore. The loss of Ingram wasn’t a surprise because it always seemed likely that Ingram’s value on the open market would exceed that of a cash-strapped team that had a Pro Bowl player (Alvin Kamara) sharing the position Ingram played.
New Orleans mitigated the loss of Ingram by signing former Raider and former Viking Latavius Murray, but the best-case scenario seems to be that he negates the loss of Ingram, not that he represents an upgrade.
The Saints added former Patriots defensive tackle Malcolm Brown on Thursday, addressing one of their primary needs.
They were meeting with other free agents, most notably former Raiders tight end Jared Cook and former Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah.
The signing of Cook would be a big boost to the offense, though it’s questionable whether New Orleans will be able to meet his price even with the Brees restructuring.
Heading into free agency, it seemed likely the Saints would lose backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a lucrative opportunity to start elsewhere – perhaps in his hometown of Miami. Then suddenly the market for Bridgewater seemed to dry up, leaving the Saints in position to keep him at a reasonable price.
Then Bridgewater went to visit the Dolphins on Wednesday and Saints fans’ anxiety returned. But as of Thursday afternoon, Bridgewater apparently agreed to terms to remain with the Saints for another season.
His return would add to the other significant re-signings such as those by kicker Wil Lutz, linebacker Craig Robertson and safety Chris Banjo.
However all of this shakes out, free agency is going to end without the Saints being major players.
The same will be true of the draft next month, with New Orleans holding just one pick in the first four rounds and their choices coming at positions 62, 169, 178, 204, 233 and 246 overall.
Ultimately there is little for Saints fans to get excited about this off-season other than the expectation that each passing day will gradually dilute the lingering feelings from the NFC Championship.
But the good news is the presence of young, still maturing stars such as Kamara, Marshon Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk, Michael Thomas, Marcus Williams, Sheldon Rankins and Marcus Davenport gives next year’s team a shot to be as good if not better than last year’s without any headliner acquisitions in the off-season.
The excitement of the fall should make up for an unexciting off-season.
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Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. His blog on SportsNOLA.com was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists and Louisiana Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. You can follow…