How will history look back on the 2009 New Orleans Saints?
Will they be seen as just a flash in the pan and a feel-good story, or the beginning of something more?
In 10 years, is it possible that will we look back at Super Bowl XLIV as the launching pad for the NFL's latest dynasty?
Take a look at the roster, and the possibilities are there.
The 2009 and current versions of the New Orleans Saints appear very similar at first. All but two of last year's starters are back, as are many key role players, such as safety Malcolm Jenkins, wide receiver Devery Henderson, and tight end David Thomas.
A closer look at the two rosters, though, reveals a distinct advantage for this year's group: age.
In 2009, the Saints had 18 players who were 30 or older and 19 players who were 25 or younger. Of those players who were 25 and under, five of them played less than half the season.
This year's roster is shaping up to be a lot more youthful while still retaining its veteran leadership. Currently, there are just 12 players who have hit the 30-year-old mark, and only seven of those players were starters last year.
Conversely, there are 47 players who are 25 or under. Of course, that number is skewed, because many of those won't make the final 53-man roster. But by my count, about half of those players have a very good chance of sticking with the team.
One ingredient a team needs to establish a dynasty is a young core of players who are in their prime or on the cusp of entering it. A position-by-position look at the Saints shows that the team has this ingredient sprinkled throughout the roster.
Most importantly, the Saints have Drew Brees. Even though he's 31, quarterback is one of the positions in which players can experience their prime years in their early to mid-30s. He'll likely never throw for 5,000 yards again, but he should have four or five highly productive seasons left.
New Orleans has running back Pierre Thomas, guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks, and wide receivers Marques Colston and Robert Meachem who are just entering the prime of their career, while younger offensive players like tackle Charles Brown, tight end Jimmy Graham, and running back Lynell Hamilton are being groomed to be future starters,
Defensively, the theme of youth continues. Cornerback Tracy Porter, safety Malcolm Jenkins, and tackle Sedrick Ellis help to form a young defensive lineup that is expected to make a huge contribution this year. Tackle Al Woods, cornerback Patrick Robinson, and safety Chip Vaughn are all young guys for whom the Saints have high hopes.
There is also a large group of young linebackers, many of whom are 25 and under, vying for the starting spot vacated by veteran Scott Fujita, who left for Cleveland in free agency.
Coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis have done an excellent job building this team through the draft and rookie free agency pool. Nine of the team's starters from last year have been drafted by the Saints since 2006 and Pierre Thomas, Lance Moore, Garrett Hartley, and Lynell Hamilton have all made the team in recent seasons as rookie free agents.
Nearly every member of this year's rookie draft class seems to have a legitimate chance to make the team. Charles Brown's path was made easier by the Jammal Brown trade, and scouts around the league rave about Jimmy Graham's physical ability and potential as a tight end.
Harry Coleman seems to be one of the only long shots as he fights his way through the crowded depth chart at outside linebacker.
Hopefully, one of the Saints' young quarterbacks will emerge this year as a solid developmental prospect.
Over the next few years, New Orleans will probably lose veterans such as Jeremy Shockey, Jonathan Goodwin, Scott Shanle, and Darren Sharper (among others), but the team is already grooming young players to eventually take their place and keep the black and gold standard of excellence going for the next several years.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!