It is no secret that the New Orleans Saints will need a new quarterback under center for the 2021 season. The pending retirement announcement of Drew Brees is bound to happen very soon. However, other pressing needs may need to be addressed outside of quarterback if the impending salary restraints come into play.
Over the weekend, Brees decided to renegotiate his deal so that his cap hit could be spread over the next two seasons. According to reports, the Saints now free up to $24 million in cap space due to Brees’ restructure.
Recent information has stated that the projected 2021 salary cap for the league is expected to be around $180-181 million. Even with the extra $24 million in cap combined with the NFL’s projected salary cap number, the Saints are expected to be $79 million over the salary cap.
With the available money, New Orleans will have to make essential decisions on the players that may or may not be in their price range. There’s one player that came out of nowhere and overachieved on the Saints defensive line in 2020. That particular player is Trey Hendrickson.
Hendrickson was tied second in league with current NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Aaron Donald, with over 13.5 sacks. Hendrickson was expected to be a rotational player who would be a part of the New Orleans defensive line. Defensive end Marcus Davenport was supposed to be the player who put up the Hendrickson numbers in 2020.
So far, that has not been the case. “Certainly, we want him back. I can’t really say how strong a play we can make for that until I understand where the cap’s gonna be this year and as we go through the roster evaluations and start making our choices,” Loomis said. If the Saints cannot sign Hendrickson to a new deal, there are three scenarios where New Orleans can make an effort to replace his production. The Saints Discussions Section examines three possible strategies combined with a predicted outcome for how New Orleans will address the situation.
In 2018, the Saints moved up in the draft Marcus Davenport out of the University of Texas, San Antonio. The price New Orleans paid for moving up to select Davenport was the forfeiture of two future first-round picks in return for his selection. Davenport was recognized as a player that the Saints had to have on an already talented defensive front.
At times he has shown flashes of the type of player he can become. But over the last three seasons, he has missed significant time in the rotation due to injuries. On a positive note, Davenport finished out the recent regular season and not on the injury report. If Davenport can stay healthy for the entire 2021 season and put up a fraction of Hendrickson’s numbers in 2020, then the Saints will be difficult to deal with on the defensive line.
Like Hendrickson, Carl Granderson is another player selected in the later rounds of the draft and has outperformed Davenport to a certain extent. “Carl did a great job in the offseason; he got his body weight up, (and to) get his strength up. So he’s been more of a complete player first down to third down. Carl can rush the passer, but I’m really proud of them in terms of his run fundamentals and how he’s playing the run.” Said defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen before the season started.
In the opportunities that he saw time in the lineup, Granderson showed the impact he could have on the Saints pass rush. If given a chance to be the man to line up opposite of Cameron Jordan, New Orleans could have a future star in the making.
Free Agency/NFL Draft
If the Saints feel that both Granderson or Davenport are not ready to fill the void that Hendrickson left behind, they can pursue available options through free agency. A veteran that is not entirely out of his prime and won’t be expensive to sign could be a solution that the Saints may pursue. They can also stay young at the position by drafting another defensive end in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Even though the draft route would be cost-effective, New Orleans would be taking another massive risk of expecting a defense player to contribute. At times, the NFL Draft can be a crapshoot at best because a team never knows what they will get from a player fresh out of college.
Saints Discussions Predicted Outcome
Regarding how the Saints will address this situation, Saints Discussions predict that there will be a training camp battle between Carl Granderson and Marcus Davenport. Either Granderson or Davenport will assume the role that Hendrickson left behind. However, we also believe that New Orleans will draft a defensive end in the mid to later rounds of the draft to add more depth. If Davenport can record six to eight sacks for the team next season, it will show significant improvement as his time in the league progresses.
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Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Saints.