With a roster loaded with offensive weapons, a new defensive coordinator to fix the their woeful defense, an almost-intact roster from the previous season that saw the New Orleans Saints nearly reach the NFC Championship game, 7-9 is unfathomable. It's unacceptable, really.
The 2012 NFL season was not a good one for the Saints, to say the least. Many of their flaws were exposed: an inconsistent offense and a terrible defense, among other. So, 2013 has to be about improving their roster and acquiring new personnel that will fit into their new defensive schemes under Steve Spagnuolo. Out with the old and in with the new.
The Saints have a laundry list of players that will become free agents this offseason and, because they are tied to a few big contracts, they don't have a lot of cap space to work with. So, it will be interesting to see what moves the organization makes.
Let's take a look at a few free agents that must stay and a few that must go.
As long as No. 9 is behind center and healthy, backup quarterback Chase Daniel won't see much playing time, but he is a good backup and one the Saints must keep.
The quarterback out of Missouri has been with the Saints for three years, learning from one of the best in the game. He has improved his game each season and is a capable backup to Brees. He knows the system well, is familiar with the players and would be able to command the offense.
The aging wide receiver has spent his entire career as a New Orleans Saint, but it is now time to move on.
Henderson did not make much of an impact this season, finishing the season with 22 receptions for 316 yards and a touchdown.
With the emergence of young receiver Joe Morgan, Henderson has become expendable. He has made some big plays for the Saints throughout his career but, with various other younger and more capable weapons, the Saints must part ways to save cap space.
Chris Ivory is fast, strong, agile and, when given the chance, proved he is a capable running back that can make the big plays.
For unknown reasons, Ivory did not see playing time until later in the season, buried on the depth chart. The third-year running back's stats don't jump out of the page, with 40 carries (his longest a 56-yard run) for 217 yards and two touchdowns. What is noticeable, though, is his 5.4 yards per carry that equates to.
He has the ability to make the homerun plays and can keep the chains moving with his bruising running style. Ivory must return to the Saints.
The Pro Bowl offensive tackle had a nice season, but his price tag this offseason will be too high for the Saints and his level of play wasn't good enough to warrant the money that he will more than likely demand.
The Saints can fill his spot via free agency or one of their current lineman; perhaps Charles Brown. The money the Saints can save on not resigning Bushrod maybe allocated to fix other needs, such as holes on defense.
This is an obvious one. The tight end has definitely outplayed his current contract and now he won't come cheap. Graham has had trouble with too many drops this season, but he is a major weapon and key player in the Saints' prolific offense.
The big tight end had some injury issues this season, but was still able to produce some nice numbers. He had 85 receptions for 985 yards and nine touchdowns.
We've seen what he's capable of doing when healthy, so the Saints must bring Graham back.
The former first-round pick has been a huge disappointment. Ellis has not performed to expectations and his production further declined this season from 2011. Parting ways with the defensive tackle would be a good idea.
He was a non-factor in both the run and pass defense, compiling just 173 tackles and 12.5 sacks over five years. The Saints can save money by not resigning Ellis and look to free agency to fill his easily replaceable spot.
The second-year defensive back turned heads when he was out on the field. Rafael Bush was impressive and may compete for the starting job next season.
Bush did a good job in coverage and against the run. He finished the season with 19 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble, one pass broken up and two fumble recoveries. It would be good to see him back with the Saints. The defensive back has potential to start in the secondary.
The nine-year veteran has been a New Orleans Saint for his entire career and he has produced some good seasons, when he was a force for their pass rush. But, with his age and inflated contract, it will be tough for the Saints to resign the defensive end.
Will Smith had a decent season, pressuring opposing quarterbacks, finishing the season with six sacks, 58 tackles and one fumble recovery, but he's not the same dominant player he once was. The Saints need to look for youth on the front line. The Saints need to work on their pass rush big time.