Saints, Loomis face myriad challenges this offseason
METAIRIE – The New Orleans Saints 2022 season just ended and the 2023 offseason is about to kick off.
The football team completed its schedule with a disappointing 7-10 record and now the front office faces arguably the most challenging offseason schedule in the NFL.
Only seven teams in the NFL had worse records than the Saints and six others had the same record.
That means the Saints have some catching up to do – not just to the teams that will be in the playoffs that start this weekend, but also to others that already are beginning their offseasons.
If the Saints are going to do better next season it doesn’t mean just improvement from Dennis Allen, his staff and the players in the fall, but also from executive VP Mickey Loomis and his staff during the offseason.
Loomis met with reporters Friday to discuss the myriad challenges facing the organization in the coming months.
Chronologically, here’s what’s facing him:
1. Staff and player evaluations
Loomis confirmed that Allen will return for a second season as head coach. He said staff and player evaluations will take place next week and that no other team has yet asked for permission to interview any coaches.
The Saints can block any coach under contract from accepting an offer to make a lateral move to another organization. Loomis noted that co-defensive coordinators Ryan Nielsen and Kris Richard would be free to accept a coordinator’s position that included play-calling responsibilities.
2. Getting under the salary cap
The Saints have more cost-cutting to do ($54.5 million) than any other team in the NFL in order to get under the salary cap in the next two months.
“The cap is a challenge,” Loomis said. “It’s always been a challenge for us for the last five or six years. When you have a good team, that’s what happens. … We’ll deal with it. It’s always concerning. I don’t want to say it’s not concerning and I think we do a good job of handling that.
“We’ve got to catch up. We’ve got to manage this back to the middle. That’s been our plan all along, and obviously the COVID year and the reduced cap and the reduced league-wide revenues and the smoothing out of all that has impacted that.”
3. Free agency
The Saints have 16 players that are due to become unrestricted free agents in March. None of them are players they absolutely have to have, but several are important contributors whose departure would further weaken a roster that Loomis acknowledged already has “some holes.”
And many are clustered in a couple of areas.
The list of free agents to be includes three starters – tackles David Onyemata and Shy Tuttle and end Marcus Davenport – as well as two useful reserves – tackles Kentavius Street and end Tonah Kppassagnon – on the defensive line.
The list also includes five defensive backs – Bradley Roby, P.J. Williams, J.T. Gray, Daniel Sorensen and Justin Evans.
And cutting $54.5 million from the payroll is only the first part of the job. The Saints will have to trim further and creatively restructure existing deals in order to create enough room under the cap to sign free agents capable of upgrading a roster that just produced the team’s worst record in 17 years.
“We have to take a hard look at our roster, be honest with ourselves and be honest about what we can do – and go forward with that and we will,” Loomis said. “I think we do a good job of that on a year-to-year basis and we’ll do the same thing.”
The Saints recently agreed to a restructured contract with former All-Pro wide receiver Mike Thomas that would make more cap friendly an offseason release of Thomas, who has played in just 10 games in the last three seasons because of injuries.
“It’s just something that we mutually agreed to do and it really buys us some time to figure out where we’re going to settle on all that,” Loomis said. “It’s part of cap management really.
“The main thing here with Mike is for him to get healthy and get back being the player that he’s been for us in the past. I was really excited about him at the beginning of our season and unfortunately he had the toe injury and that had to get taken care of. That’s not anything he can’t come back from.”
4. The draft
The Saints don’t have a No. 1 pick in the April draft, having sent it to Philadelphia last offseason as part of multiple moves than enabled them to draft wide receiver Chris Olave and tackle Trevor Penning in the first round last year.
Olave had an outstanding season, emerging as the No. 1 wide receiver after early-season injuries to Thomas and Jarvis Landry and finishing with the second-most receiving yards of any rookie in franchise history, while Penning was limited to one start because of multiple injuries.
“I like the players that we ended up with in this last draft so today I wouldn’t change that,” Loomis said. “I’m not happy that Trevor was injured and that slowed his progress, but we’re really excited about Trevor and Chris being part of our team.”
5. Sean Payton
One wild card in the Saints’ ability to upgrade the roster is the status of former head coach Payton, who’s under contract with New Orleans for two more seasons. Any team attempting to hire Payton while he’s still under contract would have to negotiate compensation with the Saints.
Denver, Houston and Arizona have received permission to talk to Payton and Loomis said the Saints have given them a sense of what compensation would be necessary in order to hire the coach.
“We haven’t settled on exactly what the compensation is going to be yet,” Loomis said. “They’re well aware there is going to be compensation. …
“I absolutely want the best for (Payton). But I also recognize that his contract is a valuable asset to our club and it’s our duty to maximize that.”
- < PREV Ascension Christian seeking applicants for head football coach position
- NEXT > Scott Wattigny named Holy Cross football coach
CCS/106.1 FM/Daily Iberian
Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. The New Orleans area native’s 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. He has since become a valued contributor for CCS. The Jesuit High…