Where Sean Payton wants the Saints to improve in the 2020 draft

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What will the New Orleans Saints do during the 2020 NFL Draft? Few teams have been less predictable in recent years, thanks to the team’s strategy of filling the alignment holes through the free agency, allowing them to maximize the talent available in each class of recruit. It’s not something the Saints’ coach Sean Payton should change soon, due to a solid run of veteran free agents and a number of important new signings in the depth chart.

“Well, look, we’re going to be smart with the draft of the notes and pay attention to our scoreboard,” said Payton, highlighting the team’s plan to spot the best players available, rather than forcing a choice to one. position of needing.

The Saints no longer have huge vacancies at the wide receiver after pairing Emmanuel Sanders with Michael Thomas. They may have improved high school by bringing back Malcolm Jenkins, extending their contract with Janoris Jenkins and retaining critical depth with P.J. Williams. In advance, the surprising new signings of David Onyemata and Andrus Peat kept intact one of the best defensive and offensive lines in the NFL.

This is not to say that the list has no weaknesses. There are several areas that they can still improve on. Payton has identified a few positions the team could address in the project, while saying he expects other spots to be better approached through free agency.

Payton continued, “There are still a handful of things we are looking at in relation to kicking (or) the offensive lineman. This is something that we will pay special attention to. We believe that this project contains very good options. I think obviously there are a lot of receivers in this project. “

It should be noted that Payton cites the interior offensive line as an area that the Saints watch over; they just signed left guard Andrus Peat for a long-term contract extension with $ 33 million in guarantees, and have recruited Erik McCoy to start in the center of the last off-season. Right goalkeeper Larry Warford is in a contract year (while counting more than $ 12 million against the salary cap, the second highest level of the team), and the Saints would not have evaluated positively his performance of 2019. The Saints frequently invest resources in their inner trio, so they may be looking to acquire the Warford replacement soon.

By referencing the kicking game, Payton probably means the special team coverage units – specialists Thomas Morstead, Wil Lutz and Zach Wood are each on contract for the next few years and played well in 2019, as did the rookie rookie Deonte Harris. But the group of players whose responsibilities will include covering punt and kickoff is still evolving after Darren Rizzi’s first year in New Orleans as special teams coordinator.

Two of the top six contributors to special teams last year have yet to sign with the Saints: Dwayne Washington (295 snaps, third highest on the team) and Stephone Anthony (239 snaps) are both unrestricted free agents. Anthony was recruited in mid-season after playing with Rizzi with the Miami Dolphins in 2018. The other four players who have seen the shots of the most special teams (Justin Hardee, Craig Robertson, Taysom Hill and JT Gray) enter in the final years of their contracts, so the Saints might be looking for long-term stability if one of them left after the 2020 season.

As for all the steps that the Saints could take in free will, before the repechage (which begins on April 23)? Payton said, “I think from a secondary point of view we will be paying close attention to the local market, then I would also say as a linebacker. “

This comment was made shortly before PJ Williams agreed to sign again with New Orleans for a one-year contract with a guaranteed value of $ 2 million, so that other additions d veterans may be unlikely. It is interesting to note that the linebacker is his coda on the subject, because he is generally perceived as the most important need of the saints for the project. Two of their three scheduled starters (Alex Anzalone and Kiko Alonso) are returning from late season injuries, as is a better replacement (Kaden Elliss).

Payton’s suggestion that the Saints always evaluate linebackers for independent agents matches their previously reported interest in players like Jamie Collins and Cory Littleton (by Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football). The linebacker on the market has cooled considerably in the first weeks of free agency, but there are still names like Alec Ogletree, Nigel Bradham and Clay Matthews. Old Saints backups like Anthony, Manti Te’o and Will Compton are also available.

So while the Saints could still get involved in the free agent market, other moves should affect the middle class of the depth chart rather than the top of the list. Payton and his staff are in daily teleconference calls with Jeff Ireland’s screening department, focusing their energy on developing a successful project strategy.

Based on these comments, we should probably anticipate rapid action to strengthen the offensive line, which was common under Payton’s leadership (just look at McCoy’s trade last year or the 2017 addition of All-Pro right forward Ryan Ramczyk). The glut of receiving available talent could also end up adding another weapon to the Saints offense, if the value of choice over other available prospects is to their liking. And an athletic linebacker or defender who could bring an enthusiastic presence to special teams would also make sense.

But it is still early, and the Saints have plenty of time to take a bold step or two in search of an advantage. So keep an eye out for updates.

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