Transition Times at the New Orleans Saints?

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More than a decade now since the New Orleans Saints last graced the Super Bowl in 2009, the battle for NFL supremacy has almost become a tale of so near, yet so far. Gridiron fans in the Big Easy are passionate about their team, while the franchise itself is built around a strong desire for success.

However, the Saints have yet to go marching in towards another Super Bowl, as that objective remains just beyond reach. Following an encouraging period in recent years, albeit without landing the biggest NFL prize, the franchise could be headed towards another spell of transition. Sean Payton may be faced with rebuilding his team once again.

Almost is Never Enough

Despite being the best team in the NFC South Division for the last four seasons, the Saints haven’t been able to convert regular season form into postseason progress. The closest New Orleans came was during the 2018 campaign, reaching the NFC Championship game. One step away from appearing at Super Bowl LIII, the Saints were agonizingly defeated 26-23 in sudden death overtime.

In each of those four campaigns, the Saints were strongly tipped to be genuine Super Bowl contenders. New Orleans finished ahead of Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC South, demolishing them twice during the regular season. Yet it was Tom Brady and his crew from Tampa who had the final say, 30-20 winners in the Divisional Playoffs. That was a bitter pill to swallow for Sean Payton and his team, following such a positive and promising campaign.

To Brees or Not to Brees?

That is the question. In fact, it’s the biggest question facing the franchise ahead of the 2021 campaign. Drew Brees is a living legend, his contribution to the Saints is without compare, helping to turn a struggling NFL team into genuine contenders. Losing him would leave a huge hole to fill in the quarterback role, yet the 42-year-old remains tight-lipped about whether he will continue.

After the Saints lost their playoff duel against the Bucs, there was already speculation surrounding the future of Brees. Many had expected him to retire at the end of last season, even though he was careful not to declare any such decision himself. Brees has yet to state his intentions, as the new season edges ever closer. Whichever decision he makes, it will undoubtedly affect planning, as fans patiently wait and hope for the best.

Salary Cap Shuffles

If there is one thing that remains constant at the Saints franchise, it’s Mickey Loomis and the front office staff juggling available funds. New Orleans walk the finest line in the NFL when it comes to their salary cap space, yet like magicians, they somehow always manage to pull rabbits out of this tight-fitting hat.

While the future of star quarterback Brees remains uncertain, the Saints have placed a firm lock on safety Marcus Williams, using the franchise tag that will devour $10 million of the cap budget. Inevitably, securing his future has meant sacrifices elsewhere, including the release of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and linebacker Kwon Alexander. Still estimated to be more than $30 million over the franchise cap limit, more departures are expected.

Sportsbooks Cautiously Optimistic

Considering the core of the Saints roster will remain pretty much the same, that should put them in good stead for another strong regular season campaign. International sportsbooks have been continually weighing up the odds, placing New Orleans within the top ten Super Bowl contenders. Nevertheless, early reviews have also suggested this could be a tough year for the team, amidst talk of entering a transition period and the need to rebuild.

The majority of online bookies are tipping Tampa Bay to win the NFC South, potentially ending the Saints’ four-year divisional dominance. Rated among the top five teams in the NFC Championship race, there is plenty of confidence that New Orleans will feature in postseason. As always, though, how deep the team can go in the playoffs is like a roll of the dice. You never quite know how things will pan out in the end. Hopefully, this team will beat all the odds.

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