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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
John Sigler

1 veteran player on roster bubble at each position group for the Saints

Some training camp competitions are brewing for the New Orleans Saints, who signed a number of veteran free agents before spending seven draft picks and investing in 13 undrafted rookies. The end result is that some of their more-experienced teammates are going to feel pressure for their job, or be the target of poaching by other squads.

Here’s one veteran player on the roster bubble at each position group to watch closely this summer:

QB: Jameis Winston

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

It feels like a stretch to suggest the Saints would release Winston after he agreed to return on a pay cut, so it’s more likely that his departure would come through a trade to another team. If injury strikes another squad and they get desperate for help under center, maybe a team reaches out to see whether he’s interested and available.

RB: Eno Benjamin

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Benjamin is in a tough spot after the Saints signed Jamaal Williams and drafted Kendre Miller to back up Alvin Kamara. He needs to show he can help out on special teams and make the most of his limited touches on offense.

TE: Miller Forristall

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints are very thin at tight end right now, so there’s opportunity for someone like Forristall to carve out a role and earn more reps. There’s also the possibility that he loses the numbers game with Lucas Krull, Joel Wilson, and maybe Foster Moreau if the Saints can seal that deal.

OT: Landon Young

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

The Saints have invested a lot of time in converting Young to right tackle, but that didn’t stop them from adding several players with experience from that alignment: former Los Angeles Chargers starter Storm Norton signed as a free agent, while Nick Saldiveri played very well from that spot in college.

IOL: Lewis Kidd

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Kidd was able to earn a roster spot last season, but will he repeat that performance? The Saints have loaded up with more interior linemen, including highly-paid undrafted free agent Alex Pihlstrom and veterans like Yasir Durant and Koda Martin. And that’s not even considering the possibility that Saldiveri and Mark Evans II (their highest-paid undrafted rookie) could compete for snaps at guard.

WR: Tre'Quan Smith

AP Photo/Derick Hingle

Smith has gotten by off the strength of his blocking in years past, but the Saints added a free agent with similar chops and greater receiving ability in Bryan Edwards. If Edwards can reestablish his connection with Derek Carr and do as well as Smith has in the run game, Smith might not have a spot on this roster.

ST: Wil Lutz

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints have brought in two different young kickers to push Lutz over the summer: Alex Quevedo (who got a tryout last offseason) and Blake Grupe (an undrafted rookie from Notre Dame). It’s a competition Lutz should win, but if he’s still as shaky from 30-to-50 yards (making 13-of-19 tries) as he was last year, the Saints could go in a different direction even after bringing him back on a pay cut.

DE: Payton Turner

AP Photo/Derick Hingle

It’s tough to look at Turner’s first two years and not see it as a disaster for the Saints. He ended his second season as a healthy inactive in a meaningless Week 18 game, having played a total of 10 snaps the week before. He’s missed too much time with injuries and hasn’t shown much ability to impact games when he has been on the field. Now the Saints have brought in second-round pick Isaiah Foskey to compete for his already limited snaps.

DT: Malcolm Roach

AP Photo/Derick Hingle

The Saints just brought him back on a one-year free agent contract, but Roach has some competition for his spot at the bottom of the depth chart in Prince Emili (returning from last year’s practice squad) and Jerron Cage (an undrafted rookie from Ohio State). He could be in real jeopardy if the Saints add another veteran like Matt Ioannidis or Shelby Harris.

LB: Zack Baun

AP Photo/Derick Hingle

The Saints have too many bodies at linebacker for Baun to hang around for his work on special teams — he’s going to feel pressure from guys like D’Marco Jackson, Andrew Dowell, Nephi Sewell, Ty Summers, Ryan Connelly, and undrafted rookies Nick Anderson and Anfernee Orji. The strongside linebacker just doesn’t feature in many plays for the Saints’ nickel-heavy defense and a more versatile player could gain an edge here.

S: Smoke Monday

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints were already crowded at safety before they signed veterans like Ugo Amadi, Johnathan Abram, and Lonnie Johnson Jr. while drafting Jordan Howden. Monday didn’t flash much in training camp last year before his injury and now he really has his work cut out for him.

CB: Vincent Gray

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Gray is one of the few rookie defensive backs who held onto their practice squad spot last season, but the Saints have brought in some competition for his role at the bottom of the depth chart. He needs to continue playing well in practice so he can hold onto it. Look for former Carolina Panthers draft pick Troy Pride Jr. to push him.

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