As the New Orleans Saints wrap up their preseason action, focus now turns to the final round of roster cuts. By 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Aug. 30 all teams across the league must trim their rosters down to 53 players. After which, more moves and changes will surely be made.
Wide receiver, linebacker, running back and, following a serious injury to rookie left tackle Trevor Penning, the offensive line all take center stage. But more storylines are worth watching as well, including the tough decision to be made around quarterback Ian Book who impressed in the preseason finale against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Some players, like Book, did themselves some favors Friday night furthering their case to make the roster. New Orleans will have some tricky decisions to make leading up to Tuesday’s deadline and more to follow. Here is a projection of what the initial 53-man roster may look like at each position, some possible impending transactions thereafter and a swing at the 16-man practice squad as well.
- No.2 Jameis Winston
- No. 14 Andy Dalton
- Roster cuts: No. 16 Ian Book
- Practice squad: No. 16 Ian Book
This is Winston’s team and he left no doubts on that with an excellent preseason debut on Friday night. He led a 9-play scoring drive that had to make up for 15 penalty yards along the way with what looked like effortless execution. Right behind him, Dalton put together a 9-play touchdown drive himself, both were capped off by a Mark Ingram run in the redzone. Those two are set in stone as the team’s quarterbacks going into 2022. Dalton provides invaluable depth and experience while Winston looks ready to pick right back up right where he left off last year.
Book played what was the best showing of his young NFL career thus far Friday night. But unfortunately for him, it’s more than just performance that dictates his roster opportunity. Outside of his control, the numbers may simply work against him. With Taysom Hill now playing tight end, the Saints could go into 2022 with only two signal callers on the roster and have an emergency quarterback built in without taking up an additional spot. That means Book would become a prime practice squad candidate assuming he makes it through waivers.
Running backs (5)
- No. 41 Alvin Kamara
- No. 5 Mark Ingram II
- No. 24 Dwayne Washington
- No. 34 Tony Jones Jr
- No. 46 Adam Prentice (fullback)
- Roster cuts: No. 33 Abram Smith (rookie)
- Practice squad: No. 33 Abram Smith (rookie)
The Saints also looked at backs Malcolm Brown and Devine Ozigbo this offseason, but have since moved on from both. It’s looking like the roster is pretty set at this position, though Washington has been managing an injury since the second joint practice with the Green Bay Packers. Depending on the severity of his injury, and was not dressed out for the final preseason game this weekend. If his injury is severe enough, it could lead to him going to injured reserve after making the initial 53, then opening up a spot for Smith or another player at a different position. It continuously feels like the need to stack the position in preparation a Kamara suspension is becoming less and less likely.
Tight ends (4)
- No. 82 Adam Trautman
- No. 7 Taysom Hill
- No. 83 Juwan Johnson
- No. 81 Nick Vannett
- Roster cuts: No. 88 J.P. Holtz, No. 44 Lucas Krull (rookie)
- Practice squad: No. 44 Lucas Krull (rookie)
Keeping the pair of blocking tight ends makes a ton of sense, but Vannett has been brought up in trade speculation as well. Seems unlikely that the value will be enough to take the veteran tight end away from New Orleans considering how much he fits the scheme and how much the team values his skills set. Krull has had some nice moments throughout the offseason, but hasn’t been consistent enough to trump one of the established four just yet. He could be an interesting roster elevation in certain matchups, though. Holtz showed some versatility playing int he backfield on and of throughout camp, but Prentice is firmly implanted there, keeping Holtz off the roster for now.
Wide receivers (6)
- No. 13 Michael Thomas
- No. 12 Chris Olave (rookie)
- No. 80 Jarvis Landry
- No. 1 Marquez Callaway
- No. 11 Deonte Harty
- No. 85 Kirk Merritt
- Roster cuts: No. 10 Tre’Quan Smith, No. 87 Kawaan Baker, No. 84 Dai’Jean Dixon (rookie), No. 89 Rashid Shaheed (rookie)
- Practice squad: No. 10 Tre’Quan Smith, No. 84 Dai’Jean Dixon (rookie), No. 89 Rashid Shaheed (rookie)
Smith will be another to watch for the initial roster that could soon be moved to injured reserved depending on the severity of the injury faced Friday night. But if not, he could be outright cut. The rise of Callaway and Merritt has been unmistakeable and although the Saints re-signed Smith on a two-year deal, it’s not cost-prohibitive (just $2 million in dead cap) to move on. Dixon is a matchup nightmare who could easily see some key elevations throughout the season. It’s another example of how deep the Saints roster is going into 2022 and how revitalized this position has been just one year removed from a mroe depleted unit.
Offensive tackles (4)
- No. 71 Ryan Ramczyk
- No. 74 James Hurst
- No. 67 Landon Young
- No. 66 Lewis Kidd (rookie)
- Roster cuts: No. 62 Derrick Kelly, No. 63 Khalique Washington (rookie)
- Practice squad: No. 63 Derrick Kelly
- Injured reserve: No. 70 Trevor Penning (rookie)
With a major injury setting in on Penning, it’s not beyond reality to expect a preseason move to injured reserve. That would end his season. But if the Saints want to wait give themselves maximum flexibility, they could carry him on the roster day one and then move him to injured reserve. In that case he’d be able to return as early as Week 5, but could stay on the list longer while the team works with him leaving a late-season debut open to the realm of possibility. This projection takes the tougher route of storing him away for his rookie year and not risking further issue.
New Orleans will need a depth option on the left side. That could be Kelly, but it seems like a veteran in free agency or perhaps a look into the trade market may be more likely. There are options available in whichever route they choose.
Offensive guards/centers (4)
- No. 78 Erik McCoy (center)
- No. 75 Andrus Peat
- No. 51 Cesar Ruiz
- No. 76 Calvin Throckmorton
- Roster cuts: No. 68 Josh Andrews, No. 72 Nick Martin, No. 64 Derek Schweiger (rookie)
- Practice squad: No. 72 Nick Martin, No. 68 Josh Andrews
It was hard not to keep Martin on the roster as the most experience center depth the Saints have had in some time. But a move for him on the practice squad could be of undervalued importance. No real shockers here. McCoy has been incredibly consistent all season, Ruiz and Peat are looking good, and Throckmorton is one of the team’s most versatile assets.
Special teams (3)
- No. 3 Wil Lutz (kicker)
- No. 4 Blake Gillikin (punter)
- No. 49 Zach Wood (long snapper)
- Roster cuts: N/A
- Practice squad: N/A
Even before moving on from kicker John Parker Romo, this unit was set. It’s been great to see Lutz back on the field handling field goals and extra points, which fans could not take for granted last year. Between 59-yard field goals and Gillikin’s 81-yard punts, the special teams operation is in good hands. Especially with the always reliable hands of Wood in the mix.
Defensive ends (5)
- No. 94 Cameron Jordan
- No. 92 Marcus Davenport
- No. 98 Payton Turner
- No. 96 Carl Granderson
- No. 90 Tanoh Kpassagnon
- Roster cuts: No. 54 Taco Charlton, No. 60 Niko Lalos
- Practice squad: No. 54 Taco Charlton
Getting Charlton to the practice squad is going to be a task but if the Saints can do it, that would be a bit of a heist. The veteran plays a premium position in the NFL which means many teams have watched him consistently produce in preseason action. It’s a stacked unit in New Orleans as long as the room stays healthy.
Defensive tackles (4)
- No. 93 David Onyemata
- No. 99 Shy Tuttle
- No. 91 Kentavius Street
- No. 97 Malcolm Roach
- Roster cuts: No. 59 Jordan Jackson (rookie), No. 57 Josh Black (rookie)
- Practice squad: No. 59 Jordan Jackson (rookie)
- Injured reserve: No. 95 Albert Huggins
No big surprises here. Rookie Jackson gets to continue his development on the practice squad while the Saints add veteran Street to the mix. Huggins was carted off on Friday night after sustaining an injury. Depending on the severity, preseason IR would make sense for him. Black shouldn’t be forgotten about either, another possible practice squad player to watch. Otherwise, this position is in better than than it was last year with Onyemata available to start the season, Street’s addition and the development of Brown.
- No. 56 Demario Davis
- No. 20 Pete Werner
- No. 55 Kaden Elliss
- No. 58 Eric Wilson
- No. 50 Andrew Dowell
- No. 47 Jon Bostic
- Roster cuts: No. 53 Zack Baun, No. 40 Chase Hansen, No. 45 Nephi Sewell (rookie)
- Practice squad: No. 53 Zack Baun, No. 45 Nephi Sewell (rookie)
With injuries being a concern for second-year linebacker Werner, veteran depth becomes the focus. Wilson and Bostic both have extensive NFL experience and have spent time at both middle and weakside linebacker. Dowell has been a team favorite for a long while and has been consistent throughout camp. Sewell is the name to watch. He moved into first-team snaps the final week of camp and performed well in his preseason reps against the Charger and Houston Texans.
Baun has been asked to change his focus after excelling as a pass rusher in the collegiate ranks. He’s another name to watch in the trade market as his ability as a pressure player could spark interest around the league. If he gets to a system that lets him pin his ears back a bit more than the New Orleans scheme allows, he’d be in a favorable situation to realize his potential. Otherwise, he’s a shoe-in for the practice squad.
- No. 32 Tyrann Mathieu
- No. 6 Marcus Maye
- No. 22 C.J. Gardner-Johnson
- No. 26 P.J. Williams
- No. 48 J.T. Gray
- No. 30 Justin Evans
- Roster cuts: No. 25 Daniel Sorensen
- Practice squad: No. 25 Daniel Sorensen
Evans has been such a great story all offseason. After not playing an NFL snap since 2018, he’s been electrifying on the field and maximizing all of his opportunities. He’s a versatile player who can be utilized multiple ways on defense and has special teams acumen as well. That’s exactly the mix necessary to claim a spot above Sorenson, who claims the final veteran practice squad slot.
- No. 23 Marshon Lattimore
- No. 29 Paulson Adebo
- No. 21 Bradley Roby
- No. 27 Alontae Taylor (rookie)
- Roster cuts: No. 39 DaMarcus Fields (rookie), No. 35 Vincent Gray (rookie), No. 43 Quenton Meeks, No. 37 Brian Allen
- Practice squad: No. 35 Vincent Gray (rookie), No. 43 Quenton Meeks
With Taylor having dressed out Friday night, it looks like the hip flexor injury is on the mend. That’s great news for the rookie and his defense. Fields had a tough preseason while Allen’s was a bit up and down. Vincent Gray showed some safety versatility in the preseason finale that might elevate him above the other young corners. Meeks had a strong camp and could provide some experience depth to the practice squad. His size (6-foot-1 and 209 pounds) is hard to pass up and he’s done a good job impacting plays at the catch point in practices. A valuable skill.
Practice squad (16)
- QB No. 16 Ian Book (1 accrued season)
- RB No. 33 Abram Smith (rookie, 0 accrued seasons)
- TE No. 44 Lucas Krull (rookie, 0 accrued seasons)
- WR No. 84 Dai’Jean Dixon (0 accrued seasons)
- WR No. 89 Rasheed Shahid (rookie, 0 accrued seasons)
- OL No. 62 Derrick Kelly (1 accrued seasons)
- DT No. 59 Jordan Jackson (rookie, 0 accrued seasons)
- LB No. 45 Nephi Sewell (rookie, 0 accrued seasons)
- CB No. 35 Vincent Gray (0 accrued seasons)
- CB No. 43 Quenton Meeks (2 accrued seasons)
Two or more years’ experience:
- WR No. 10 Tre’Quan Smith (4 accrued seasons)
- OG No. 68 Josh Andrews (6 accrued seasons)
- C No. 72 Nick Martin (6 accrued seasons)
- DE No. 54 Taco Charlton (5 accrued seasons)
- LB No. 53 Zack Baun (3 accrued seasons)
- S No. 25 Daniel Sorensen (8 accrued seasons)