Brian Allee-Walsh

Offseason breezes appear to be blowing favorably in Saints’ direction

Saints columnist Brian Allee-Walsh
Saints columnist Brian Allee-Walsh Biloxi

On the first Sunday of May, defending Super Bowl champion New England remains the team to beat in 2017 and the New Orleans Saints still don’t have a marquee edge rusher.

So what else is new?

The more things change, the more they remain the same, huh? Or so it seems one week after the NFL Draft and four months away from the start of the regular season.

By now, you know everything there is to know about the draft, the winners and losers, successes and failures, boons and busts, hits and misses. And for those whose draft appetite hasn’t been satiated, there are the way-too-early 2018 mock drafts.

In a nutshell, I like what the Saints have done to improve their roster, thinning and fattening the herd in free agency and bringing on new blood via the draft.

Still no marquee edge rusher to support defensive end Cameron Jordan, but they did secure Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore, whom many draft analysts ranked first at his position and among the best players overall in this year’s draft class.

I also like the additions of veteran running back Adrian Peterson, veteran right guard Larry Warford and blue-collar defensive end Alex Okafor.

If the Saints stand pat and don’t make another move, on paper they appear to be better equipped to eclipse the .500 mark, reclaim supremacy in the NFC South and qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Don’t take my word for it.

I cite two examples of Black and Gold support:

▪  CBS sports senior writer Pete Prisco (posted May 2): “They’ve had one of the best offseasons of any team in the league. They are ready to make a push again for a division title — and more— with Drew Brees getting help around him ...’’ In Prisco’s latest power rankings, he jumped the Saints from 24th to 13th, the biggest leap of any NFL team.

▪  Bovada Sportsbook: After opening the offseason at 50-1 odds to win Super Bowl LII and falling to 66-1 one week after the start of free agency, the Saints now are 33-1 following the draft.

And though I give the Saints’ draft a solid B, I find three decisions made by GM Mickey Loomis and Coach Sean Payton quite compelling:

1. Payton said he would have taken Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes III at No. 11 if he were there, instead of Lattimore. Kansas City traded up into the 10th slot to get Mahomes, likely knowing full well of the Saints’ interest. Last time I looked, Mahomes plays offense — he certainly isn’t ready to play in the foreseeable future, nor will he see the field as long as Ironman Drew Brees is under contract in New Orleans — and the Saints have a historically bad defense.

2. Again, the Saints were poised to make a move at No. 32 and select Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster but the San Francisco 49ers beat them to the punch by trading up with Seattle (via a trade with Atlanta). Foster had dropped from top 10 consideration to the bottom of the first round because of potentially troubling shoulder issues. Apparently, offseason surgery to repair right rotator cuff damage “didn’t take’’ and he might need additional surgery.

Instead, Payton went offense at No. 32, taking Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk, presumably as the heir apparent to replace veteran RT Zach Strief.

3. And finally, with the 67th overall pick, the Saints selected Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara after making a pricey trade with the 49ers. Loomis dealt next year’s No. 2 and this year’s seventh-round pick to get Kamara, a vertaile RB who’s seen as a poor-man’s Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles. Kamara had better produce coming out of the gate because a second-round pick is extremely valuable.

Keep an eye on all three of the aforementioned draft-day decisions. I know I will.

Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.

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