How the Saints Can Create a Bright Future
Chris James, FBGP Sr. Analyst
One of the greatest days in Saints history happened on Sunday, July 5, 1981. What happened this day you ask? Well, one of their most intense fans was created when yours truly was born. Clearly I’m being factious, but I am a huge Saints fan. WHO DAT! For this reason, I’ve both criticized and lorded the decisions made by the team for years. They’re a franchise with the greatest LB corps in NFL history: The Dome Patrol. They’re also the franchise that stopped the ultimate show of futility in the NFL’s history by allowing the Buccaneers to end their 26 game losing streak in the Superdome. They’ve had highs and lows. Through them, they’ve maintained their place as a ‘lovable’ franchise.
Most often, the lovable tag is usually associated with being a loser (of which they’ve done their fair share). The love permeated throughout the country during the 2005 season, after Katrina destroyed the Superdome and nearly cost the city its franchise. In 2006, the Saints became anew. Both the team & fan base, had no clue what was in store that season, and for the next decade. The organization got its best player (Drew Brees), best coach (Sean Payton), and first NFC championship game appearance all in 2006. They couldn’t possibly improve upon that season’s success but they did in 2009. The Saints won their first title in Superbowl 44 with one of the more high powered offenses in NFL history. The future was bright! Then, it happened. The Saints brass fell victim to its own hubris.
In an effort to recreate the magic of 2009, the Saints made big splash moves that victimized the cap. They went after guys that were of the same ilk, or so they thought, of the pieces from the 2009 team. Signings like Jairus Byrd to recreate the ‘ball hawk’ that was Darren Sharper. How about CJ Spiller to reinstitute the Reggie Bush role. They undervalued integral pieces that actually worked in those same positions (Darren Sproles & Malcolm Jenkins); guys that did the job when called upon and actually wanted less money than paid to the above signees. They also consistently moved up in the draft trading away valuable draft picks. The NFL draft is a cap relaxer as you are able to attain young talent at a low fixed cost. It seemed as if Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton were looking to prove it was their ability to wheel-and-deal that made the Saints rather than establishing chemistry. They forgot that the most important factor in success is consistency. And the lack of consistency in team make-up department, has led to mediocrity at its finest. The last two seasons have both finished 7 – 9 and 2016 ended the same way.
So, this article is about how the Saints can create a bright future moving forward. There are some fans that believe Drew Brees is the problem, while others believe he’s the solution. The truth lies somewhere in-between, and both sides have a point.
First we will go with the anti-Brees standpoint.
Drew Brees is making $17.25 mil this year and that’s roughly 11% of the 2016 cap. Anyone that’s watched the NFL recently knows that this is in line with NFL starting QB average level, which ranges from 8% – 14% of a team’s salary cap. He could take a discount a la Tom Brady, but that just sounds silly in my opinion. Brady is a specialized case and the only starting QB doing this sort of thing. Now for the pro-Brees standpoint. He has been the most relevant Saint for years and 2016 is no different. Brees is responsible for no less than three game winning drives (Seattle, Carolina, & San Diego), while putting his team in a position to win three other times (Oakland, NY Giants, & Denver). He is also the most watchable portion of a team considered to be defensively inept over the last several seasons.
The 2017 season would see Brees with a $19 mil cap hit. This is in line with the cap increase expected for next season so he would make about 11% of the team’s cap expenditure. The positive portion is the base salary amount of $13 mil of his $19 mil cap hit. This makes Brees a movable piece if the Saints look to deal him in 2017.
Listen, I’m a huge Saints fan and by no means do I want to part ways with Drew Brees. The fact remains that Brees’ best days are behind him. This doesn’t mean that he isn’t still a great QB, but you shouldn’t build an NFL team with a 37 year old QB. The Saints need the opportunity to compete for a Superbowl title and it’s clear that it can’t happen with Drew Brees as the starting QB.
Maybe this is the draft where they catch a new Brees blowing through the NFL Draft?
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