Playoff hopes down the drain, another season without a Super Bowl; it has not been easy for the Saints organization or for Who Dat nation, but they must look forward and look into the future. And from what we've recently seen from the Saints, the future does look promising.
Some big offseason decisions must be made soon, and they have to be the rights ones to better the team and get them closer to being a Super Bowl championship team.
Let's go over a few decisions the Saints have to make this offseason.
First and foremost, the Saints have to get their head coaching situation handled immediately. Don't get me wrong, interim coach Joe Vitt has done a nice job, but he's no Sean Payton.
Payton's contract with the New Orleans Saints is set to expire at the end of this season.
Of course, there will be other suitors drooling over Payton this offseason, one of them being the Dallas Cowboys, but this is the guy who brought the Saints franchise back to relevancy. He made them a winning football team. Payton is the person who led them to their only Super Bowl championship just a few years ago.
The Saints have to figure out if they want to go into bidding wars (and there may be quite a few) for Sean Payton—money offers that will go over $10 million a year—and his services. Of course, from what we've seen he can do, he is worth it.
This season, we've witnessed the many flaws the Saints have, but the biggest weakest link is their defense. Despite signs of major improvements as of late, this team needs to drastically improve its defensive unit.
It will be difficult to sign any big names out of free agency, and it will be difficult, or just wouldn't make any sense, to re-sign some of their own players. With the cap, they don't have much wiggle space.
So, who do the Saints look for in the draft? An offensive lineman? A defensive end? A cornerback? The 2013 NFL draft is deep with defensive players, so is it wise to spend a first-round pick on yet another DE?
How about a cornerback? The Saints secondary has been getting burned almost every game this season. It could be due to lack of a strong pass-rush that gives opposing quarterbacks a lot of time to pick apart their secondary. Either way, it has to be addressed.
Defensive end Will Smith will be a salary cap casualty, so he'll be gone after this season. Another end that becomes a free agent is Junior Galette, and he must be re-signed. So, yes, the Saints would be wise to pick up a DE in the draft, but not so early.
I believe Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks would be a good pick for the Saints in the first round. Banks would improve the Saints secondary with his size and coverage skills.
Jonathan Vilma is set to be a free agent this offseason. Do the Saints re-sign the aging linebacker? Would they try to re-sign him for less?
Vilma is a warrior, a leader for the Saints, and he was a key player in the Saints' Super Bowl season. He has been incredible for the Saints organization. But he won't be able to contribute to the defense as he once used to. Not with tackling machine Curtis Lofton at middle linebacker.
Vilma's productivity has fallen, and he's been dealing with injuries. It wouldn't be wise to resign Vilma. The Saints need to save all the money they can and allocate that towards other positions that need fixing.
As mentioned in the previous slides, the Saints have some things to fix on their team. The biggest issue has been their defense.
They can either fix it through the draft or free agency. The thing with free agency, though, is that the Saints don't have much money to work with, so making big splashy signings won't be in their near future. And the other question is what position to address on defense.
There are a lot of interesting names on the free-agent list this offseason.
One of them being ex-Saint and current Denver Bronco Tracy Porter. Do they go back to him? It's no secret the Saints need all the help they can get in the secondary.
Does the team try and go for defensive end Michael Johnson? It is more unlikely that this will happen. Johnson has shown improvement each year and is having a great 2012 season with 9.5 sacks. Adding Johnson to a struggling pass-rush would greatly improve the unit.