The new league year doesn’t begin until March 13 but for all practical purposes the annual NFL combine, which is in Indianapolis now through Monday, typically gets the ball rolling.
With regards to the New Orleans Saints, team officials have had six weeks to deal with the shocking end to their season, process their grief and get on with the business at hand of tweaking their roster for another serious run at the Lombardi Trophy.
Thus, it’s as good a time as any to climb atop my observation deck and express thoughts and concerns going forward. In other words, I will lend a guiding hand to GM Mickey Loomis and Coach Sean Payton, et al.
The good news is the Saints are operating in the black with approximately $10 million in salary cap room. A modest sum of disposable income perhaps but better than in years past and Loomis can stretch cap dollars with the best of them.
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Past personnel decisions have left them with only one meaningful draft pick -- a second-rounder, plus five additional picks in rounds five through seven. So, Trader Mick must be creative.
For the most part, the Saints roster is on relatively solid footing. That said, they have a few problem areas. In no particular order:
▪ Though left tackle Terron Armstead is a proven commodity, he has shown to be injury prone during his six NFL seasons. Dubbed an athletic freak of nature coming out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff in 2013, he has missed all or part of his last five seasons. My feeling is he’s an “old’‘ 27.
▪ A big-play threat at tight end or a budding young star in the draft would help QB Drew Brees immensely. I know Brees always goes through his progressions but he still seems to only have eyes for receiver Michael Thomas in crunch time.
▪ With defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins coming off a ruptured Achilles and defensive end Alex Okafor poised to test free agency, Saints officials may be forced to address the defensive line in the coming weeks and months. Upgrading the pass rush is a never ending proposition.
▪ Finding a reliable No. 2 receiver should be a priority, aside from finding a good, pass-catching tight end. Maybe, he will come off the current roster (Ted Ginn Jr., Tre’Quan Smith, Cameron Meredith, Keith Kirkwood) or maybe from outside the organization, but somebody needs to step up and provide weekly help.
Overall, I wouldn’t expect too many fireworks this offseason when it comes to player acquisitions. Team officials should make wise, cost efficient decisions and prepare to eventually pay big-ticket items such as running back Alvin Kamara and Thomas down he road.
Happy Mardi Gras!
Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.