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Saints ranked 17th among the NFL’s best rosters

For the last four seasons, the New Orleans Saints have been in the conversation of having one of the best rosters in the National Football League. During the current stretch of dominance, the Saints have appeared in the playoffs four times.

Those four playoff appearances include a trip to the NFC championship game, and consecutive NFC South titles dating back to the 2017 season. None of those accolades could have been achieved without building a solid roster to compete with the NFL’s elite franchises.

Due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the league was not able to generate the type of revenue that is used to build the rosters that we currently see in today’s NFL. In addition, the pandemic caused issues such as salary cap constraints which resulted in teams moving on from players that they would typically keep in years prior.

The Saints had to make drastic moves such as releasing players such as Emmanuel Sanders, Janoris Jenkins, Nick Easton, Jared Cook and trading Malcolm Brown to the Jacksonville Jaguars. These moves were made because of the Saints not having the cap flexibility they would usually have in years without a global pandemic.

As it currently stands, the Saints have $5,830,248 in salary cap space, according to Over the Cap. Based on the moves that occurred around March, the Saints are now salary cap compliant. In a recent post conducted by ESPN+ in conjunction with Pro Football Focus, analyst Ben Linsey placed the Saints at 17th among the league’s best rosters.

“Biggest strength: Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk form the league’s top returning tackle duo. Both players play an integral role in New Orleans’ rushing and passing attack. Over the past four seasons, no team in the NFL has had a higher conversion rate on runs off left or right tackle than the Saints (29.3%). Armstead and Ramczyk rank first and seventh, respectively, among all tackles in pressure rate allowed over that same time frame. It’s difficult for an offensive line to fail with that kind of play at the tackle position.

Biggest weakness: The receiving depth behind Michael Thomas will likely mean that he will see 2019 levels of target share. In that 2019 season, Thomas single-handedly recorded over 50% of the team’s receptions and receiving yards coming from the wide receiver and tight end positions — a statistical outlier when comparing across the remainder of the NFL. Secondary options headlined by Tre’Quan SmithMarquez Callaway and Adam Trautman mean a similar performance may be necessary this season.

X factor for 2021: Jameis Winston passed for 33 touchdowns and 30 interceptions the last time he had a starting quarterback job. That’s about as X factor as it gets. It will be interesting to see not only how coach Sean Payton integrates both Winston and Taysom Hill into this offense but also how the passing offense evolves with Winston as the projected starter. Winston led all qualifying passers in average depth of target (10.8 yards downfield) in his five seasons with the Buccaneers. Over that same stretch, the Saints’ offense ranked 32nd in aDOT (7.5 yards).”

The 17th ranking given by ESPN is a fair assessment of the Saints’ current roster as it stands right now. However, an argument can be made that the Pittsburgh Steelers should not be ranked ahead of the Saints at 16. New Orleans has a far better offensive line right now compared to what is on the Steelers roster. The Saints also have a rushing attack that is one of the league’s best going into the 2021 season. Hopefully, the extension of Ryan Ramczyk will allow New Orleans to go out and sign veteran free agents that will understand the philosophy of the defense that is already in place.

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Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Saints.

Meet Derrick Branch, the founder and chief wordsmith at Strike 7 Sports. With a sharp focus on the NFL and the NBA, Derrick's expertise in sports is matched only by his passion for sharing it with others. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communications from the prestigious University of Arizona Global. Let his insightful and engaging writing take you to the heart of the action.

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