Can the Saints win it all next year? Can they keep up with Seattle?
1. I’ll go ahead and admit, after seeing that dominant of a performance by the Seahawks, I’m not so sure of the Saints’ chances to get back to the Promised Land in the near future. Thankfully the NFC West has improved as a whole, so it’s not like Seattle will just waltz into the playoffs year after year. Financially the Seahawks will not be able to hold on much longer, either. All of their big name defensive players are going to start commanding big salaries soon (starting this offseason with Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett along with others). The Saints have a solid foundation both on offense and defense, but they themselves are facing cap trouble and will need to tinker around with the roster quite a bit.
Is there anyone New Orleans has to bring back?
2. Honestly, aside from Jimmy Graham there are not any other free agents that the Saints just absolutely can’t afford to lose. Malcolm Jenkins, Zach Strief, and Brian de la Puente will be free agents as well, but none of them are worth the money that they likely will command. There really is no telling how good de la Puente actually is because he has been surrounded by All-Pro guards his entire career. Out of these three, the player that I would most want to see return is Jenkins. He’s definitely replaceable, but he is a quality starter with veteran leadership and experience.
Would the Saints have looked as bad in New York as the Broncos did?
3. Personally I wouldn’t necessarily put both the Broncos and Saints’ “bad play in the cold” in the same category. The Saints run an offense that is built to be a dink and dunk, take what you can get, and abuse the holes in the defense type offense. Unfortunately this works best indoors where it is fast-paced. The Broncos’ situation is a little more mysterious because it just all depends on how Peyton Manning is executing that day. Super Bowl XLVIII just wasn’t a good day for him because he was getting pressured and his receivers couldn’t get separation. I believe these are things that just have to be corrected with time. The NFL is a copycat league and teams will eventually figure out what formula has the most success.
What’s the realistic ceiling for New Orleans in 2014?
4. I still believe that this is a playoff contending team and that a lot should be expected from the Saints in 2014. Rob Ryan led the largest turnaround by a defense in NFL history in just one season, so there is no telling what the squad’s ceiling is with a full offseason under their belts. He will also be getting some players back that were lost due to injury along with a brand new crop of players. As far as the offense goes, I expect for Sean Payton to make the adjustments to get this team back to the way that they’ve played offense in recent years. It’s not like the Saints had a terrible season offensively in 2013 (fourth in yards per game and 10th in points scored per game), it just didn’t feel and look like the same dominate offense. In 2013 it was often difficult for them to create long drives and score points when necessary, which are both normally areas that the Saints thrive in. The roster will definitely see adjustments, as the Saints are projected to be about 12 million over the cap.