The New Orleans Saints just missed reaching Super Bowl LIII after losing the NFC Championship Game to the Los Angeles Rams in overtime. It was a heartbreaking defeat for the Saints, who looked like the NFL’s best team heading into the postseason.
If the Saints want to get to the Super Bowl next year, they’re going to have to address some issues. Here’s a look at the three most pressing fixes that need to happen in New Orleans.
Get Brees extended
Drew Brees just turned 40 and he’s still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He earned second-team All-Pro honors this year after leading the league in completion percentage (74.4), and passer rating (115.7), finishing second in Total QBR (80.7), and throwing 32 touchdowns against just five interceptions. If not for Patrick Mahomes, Brees would have been a runaway MVP this season.
The Saints and their long-time quarterback need to sit down and plan the future. They should extend his contract (he’s only signed through 2019) and also have a very real conversation about how long he wants to play. That will allow the franchise to marshal its resources and know when to pull the trigger on drafting his eventual successor.
Brees loves that franchise and he’ll finish his career there. Both sides just need to be honest about the future and work to continue the partnership as long as he wants to keep playing.
Find a new tight end
Brees loves to utilize his tight ends, but over the last few years that hasn’t been the case. The reason? He hasn’t had reliable guys to go to.
From 2010 through 2014, Brees helped turn Jimmy Graham into one of the most dangerous targets in football. During his final four seasons in New Orleans, Graham caught 355 passes and had 46 touchdown receptions. In 2015, Ben Watson took his place and caught 74 balls for 825 yards and six scores. Since then it’s been a succession of misses at the position. Coby Fleener didn’t pan out, Watson has left and returned and Josh Hill doesn’t look like a future security blanket.
The Saints don’t have a first-round pick in 2019, but should target a tight end somewhere in the draft. There should be a solid crop tight ends in this year’s class, so getting a good one won’t be a problem.
Develop Marcus Davenport
The Saints have a really good, young defense that is getting better each year. In 2018 they were 14th in yards allowed (349.1), and points allowed per game (22.1) and improved as the season went along. New Orleans also ranked fifth in sacks (49), but could be even better if one player takes a leap in the offseason.
Marcus Davenport had a great rookie season. The 2018 first-round pick was on the PFWA All-Rookie squad and was picked for the Pro Football Focus team as well. The only problem was Davenport’s lack of sacks, as he finished with just 4.5.
At 6’6″ and 265 pounds, Davenport is a physical freak who ran a ridiculous 4.58 40 at the combine in 2018. The Saints loved him so much, they surrendered their 2017 and 2018 first-round picks to move up and select him with the 14th pick in the 2018 draft. He’s an absolute monster, but can take his game to the next level by developing as a pass rusher.
Davenport won’t turn 23 until September so he’s got plenty of growing to do. But if he takes a big leap forward this summer, the Saints’ defense could improve exponentially.