The New Orleans Saints had a disappointing 7-9 season that ended earlier than expected, or, earlier than hoped for. Now, they watch the playoffs from home, as other teams fight to get to the Super Bowl in the Saints' own home.
Despite having a lot of talent on their roster, there were some disappointing performances from some Saints players this season. Of course, there were also some improvements, and some bright spots.
Let's play general manager and take a look at the Saints' roster and decide what to do with the players—of course, not accounting salary-cap situations. That can get messy.
Drew Brees: Keep
This is an obvious one. Drew Brees is the face of the franchise. He's their leader and one of the main reasons why the New Orleans Saints are relevant in the NFL again.
Brees had his ups and downs in the 2012 season, but he's here to stay. Even with an off-season, he still managed to lead the NFL in passing yards (5,177 yards) and touchdowns (43). He makes the Saints an offensive threat in every game they play, and gives the Saints their best hope of returning back to the Super Bowl.
Chase Daniel: 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 if anything were to happen to Brees.
The Saints have a lot of talented running backs in their backfield, and they are all sharing carries. But at the same time, they all underachieved this season. It'll be tough to determine who should stay and who should go, so this will be a tough one.
Pierre Thomas: Trade
Pierre Thomas has been producing for the Saints for six seasons. He hasn't done anything spectacular, but his tough running is much needed for any NFL team. Thomas finished the season with 473 yards on 105 carries but only one touchdown. With the young Mark Ingram around, Thomas may be of use as trade bait.
He did average 4.5 yards per carry and was the only Saints running back to produce a 100-yard rushing game in 2012; 4.8 yards per carry throughout his career. So, Thomas does have trade value.
The Saints can get a draft pick for a solid running back like Thomas.
Darren Sproles: Keep
The explosive back was not much of a factor in the run game this season, only picking up 244 yards and a touchdown, but where he did do most of his damage was catching passes out of the backfield. Sproles had 75 receptions for 667 yards and seven touchdowns. He is a key part of the offense and can hurt defenses with explosive plays.
Mark Ingram: Keep
The former first-round pick showed some flashes of his skills but didn't have a spectacular season. I could be due to the run game not being used as often this season, or the run blocking, but Ingram still has the ability to be a big-time back.
Ingram is a bruising back that can keep the chains moving. He finished the 2012 season with 602 yards and five touchdowns.
Chris Ivory: Keep
Chris Ivory could've been huge this season, but either his inexplicable benching or his injuries slowed Ivory down.
The running back can hurt you with his speed and agility, or just by running through you. Ivory can move the chains with his run abilities but is also capable of making the home run plays.
Travaris Cadet: Keep
Travaris Cadet was almost nonexistent in the run game, only carrying the ball once, but he did contribute to special teams.
The Saints drafted Cadet because he is very similar to another back the Saints have: Darren Sproles.
Cadet has the speed and agility to be explosive out of the backfield. And while Sproles is there, Cadet can learn from him, and once Sproles is done, Cadet can take over his duties. He can be a very useful and powerful weapon.
Jed Collins: Keep
The second-year fullback wasn't used to run the ball. Jed Collins was mainly there for run blocking, but he also did contribute to the pass game, catching 15 passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns.
Marques Colston: Keep
The "quiet storm" is always a threat to opposing defenses. Marques Colston did have an off-year, being plagued with drops and fumbles, but he's Brees' No. 1 receiver and is a key player for the New Orleans Saints offense.
Colston finished the season with 83 receptions for 1,154 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Devery Henderson: Cut
Devery Henderson was a non-factor for the Saints this season. He's aging, his production level has decreased and with the emergence of young receiver Joe Morgan, and the Saints' various other weapons on offense, there really is no room for Henderson anymore.
Lance Moore: Keep
Lance Moore proved to be very valuable in the Saints passing attack. He made a lot of big plays and had himself a great season.
He was consistent throughout the season, and put up his first 1000-yard receiving season of his career. He finished the season with 65 receptions for 1,041 yards and six touchdowns.
Joe Morgan: Keep
The second-year receiver turned some heads with his acrobatic catches. Joe Morgan emerged as a playmaker and can be the replacement for Devery Henderson. Morgan finished the season with only 10 receptions, but those 10 receptions went for 378 yards and three touchdowns.
Morgan can be a key weapon for this Saints team down the road.
Courtney Roby: Keep
Courtney Roby was not used much in the offense, only having one reception for nine yards, but he still is important in his special teams role and can still contribute.
The New Orleans Saints offensive line is usually a good group, giving Drew Brees enough time to do what he does, but this season they weren't on their game; they were some what inconsistent compared to past years.
Drew Brees was pressured a lot, and the Saints run game production had decreased in 2012. But at the same time, it's important to keep the core players around; they are familiar with the playbook, and it keeps their line stable.
Zach Strief: Trade
Zach Strief struggled at times this season. He wasn't consistent, and the Saints may look to find a less expensive alternative. Strief is a good lineman and can be used to pick up a late draft pick .
Ben Grubbs: Keep
The guard got signed last offseason to replace Carl Nicks. He did a decent job, so he's not going anywhere.
Charles Brown: Keep
William Robinson: Keep
Jahri Evans: Keep
Evans had a good season, earning himself a Pro Bowl bid. In a year where the Saints offensive line was struggling, the lineman stood out and played some good football.
Jermon Bushrod: FA
The Pro Bowl lineman will be a free agent this offseason, and his price tag will probably be too high for the Saints to afford. The team has enough problems to deal with with their cap, they're going to have to let Jermon Bushrod go.
Eric Olsen: Keep
Brian de la Puente: Keep
It's only the center's third year, but he's done a nice job at center. He knows the offense and is comfortable with the playbook and communicating with Drew Brees.
Rick Henry: Keep
Jimmy Graham: Keep
Of course the Saints keep superstar tight end Jimmy Graham. Yes, he did have his struggles with drops (14), but Graham is a huge part of the Saints offense and their success.
He's a big, physical tight end that is hard to stop and will be a weapon for years to come. He had an off-year, but he still finished the season with 85 receptions for 982 yards and nine touchdowns.
David Thomas: Keep
David Thomas did a decent job this season. He was a solid blocker and did contribute something in the Saints' pass attack. He had 11 receptions for 86 yards and four touchdowns.
Michael Higgins: Cut
Michael Higgins wasn't much of a factor. He was added to the 53-man roster later in the season but did not do much. Saints will look to fill other positions that need fixing.
It's no secret the Saints defense was awful, to say the least. It struggled putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, it struggled stopping the run at times, so outside of Cameron Jordan, the line had a pretty disappointing season.
Cameron Jordan: Keep
The second-year defensive end played to his potential this season, showing he has a bright future ahead of him.
Cameron Jordan was a force on stopping the run and did a good job in pressuring opposing quarterbacks. Jordan finished the season with 66 tackles, eight sacks and three forced fumbles. He will be a force to be reckoned with on the Saints defensive line.
Will Smith: Gone
Will Smith will be owed a lot of money this upcoming season, but his performance recently does not warrant that sort of payment. He's due to get paid like an elite pass-rusher, yet he is not one.
Smith's production level has gone down, so the Saints won't keep the aging defensive end.
Junior Galette: Keep
The speedy edge rusher is not an every-down player, but he is an excellent situational pass-rusher. He has the quickness and speed to get to the quarterback and cause problems.
Junior Galette finished the season with 20 tackles, one forced fumble and five sacks. The young lineman has room to improve, but he can only get better.
Turk McBride: Cut
Turk McBride was brought in as a situational pass-rusher but has not contributed to the defense. He was nonexistent this season, so it's time to cut him loose.
Sedrick Ellis: Cut
The defensive tackle really chose a bad time to stumble; it's his contract year. He was a disappointment and wasn't really a major contributor on the defense. The Saints should save their dollars and look to allocate them elsewhere.
Brodrick Bunkley: Keep
Brodrick Bunkley was a major disappointment. The Saints brought Bunkley in, and paid him big money, to help with their struggling unit. Bunkley did not do that. He was inconsistent throughout the season or just not there.
Bunkley has the potential to be the force the Saints brought him in to be. If he can live up to the his talent level, he can be of major help to a struggling defensive unit.
Akiem Hicks: Keep
The defensive tackle showed a lot of promise this season and can potentially start next season. He has the talent and can be a good run-stopper. Akiem Hicks finished the season with 20 tackles and a forced fumble.
Martez Wilson: Cut
The second-year defensive end did not do much damage this season. He did get some pressure on quarterbacks sometimes, but was mostly a non-factor on defense. Martez Wilson had 19 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble.
Curtis Lofton: Keep
Curtis Lofton was an excellent pickup for the Saints last offseason. He was a solid tackling machine and was a leader on defense.
He was all over the field, flying to the ball. Not exactly a playmaker, but a solid contributor and the team's leading tackler. He finished the season with 123 tackles, two forced fumbles and a sack.
David Hawthorne: Keep
The linebacker was another good acquisition by the Saints last offseason, but he was slowed down by injuries this season and was not productive. Hawthorne finished with only 38 tackles. If healthy for next season, David Hawthorne can be a key on the Saints defensive unit.
Jonathan Vilma: Trade
The linebacker is not what he used to be. Jonathan Vilma's age and his injuries have slowed him down, and it was obvious this season.
Vilma still has the skill to contribute to a defense, and with his resume, some team will look for a linebacker like Vilma for his services. The Saints can deal Vilma and get a draft pick out of it.
Scott Shanle: Cut
Scott Shanle was M.I.A this season, he was a non-factor to the team and was slowly phased out of the defense.
Will Herring: Cut
The Saints haven't gotten much out of the linebacker, and he's scheduled to make around $1.9 million next season. Cutting Will Herring would clear up some cap space.
Jonathan Casillas: Keep
Jonathan Casillas can't be an every-down player, but he is effective in schemes that utilize his speed. He's good at coverage and has the speed to get to quarterbacks. This season, Casillas didn't have much of an impact, but he was a contributor on special teams.
The Saints secondary struggled big time. They were 31st in pass defense, allowing 292 yards per game. This unit needs help.
Roman Harper: Cut
The veteran safety was a tackling machine and did make some big plays, but he was not good in pass coverage and his mistakes were costly.
Next season, Roman Harper has a $7 million cap figure, so if the Saints release the safety, they can save some money.
Malcolm Jenkins: Keep
Like Harper, Malcolm Jenkins struggled in pass coverage. But Jenkins is younger and can still contribute to the defense. Again, like Harper, Jenkins was a tackling machine, finishing the season with 94 tackles.
Rafael Bush: Keep
Rafael Bush showed flashes of his potential. The second-year cornerback was not a starter, but he did prove he can be starting material down the road. He is good in pass coverage and can make the open-field tackles. He finished the season with 19 tackles, one forced fumble and an interception.
Patrick Robinson: Keep
Patrick Robinson was given the role of guarding the opposing team's top receiver, and he struggled immensely. He was a victim of a lot of big plays.
He is still young, and does have talent, but he has to be more consistent and improve on his pass coverage. He had 63 tackles, one forced fumble and three interceptions this season.
Jabari Greer: Trade
The aging cornerback is at the later stage of his career, and it's probably time to move on. The Saints must think of the future, and think about getting some younger people. Jabari Greer, who probably had his worst season as a Saint, did make a few big plays in the season, but his production level hasn't been up to par, and also has been inconsistent for the most part.
He is still a decent cornerback, compared to all of the cornerbacks in the league, and the Saints can use the veteran as trade bait.
Isa Abdul-Quddus: Keep
Isa Abdul-Quddus showed a lot of potential this season. He has the ability to be a big playmaker on the defensive side and showed he is good at pass coverage.
Abdul-Quddus, a steady contributor, finished the season with 45 tackles and two interceptions.
Johnny Patrick: Cut
Second-year cornerback Johnny Patrick had a terrible season. He got burned often and receivers would often get some big plays when Patrick was on them.
Patrick did not so much this season in either run defense, and especially pass defense. He finished the season with 25 tackles.
Corey White: Keep
The rookie, Corey White, did struggle in the beginning but showed a lot of promise on defense, as the season progressed, before he injured his knee.
White has a lot of potential and can be a solid contributor to the defense for the Saints down the road.
Elbert Mack: Keep
Elbert Mack has done a solid job in coverage and is serviceable. He had 14 tackles and one interception in 2012.
Thomas Morstead: Keep
The punter had a stellar season, and almost held the record for best net punt average. He will be making his first Pro Bowl appearance, and he deserves it.
He helped pin teams back, but that could've helped the Saints, if the Saints had a defense that could stop opposing offenses.
Garrett Hartley: Keep
The kicker has made some big kicks in the past, but was a bit shaky this season. But overall, he's a solid kicker. This season, he made 18 out of his 22 field-goal attempts.