The first wave of free agency is in the books, but the New Orleans Saints did more to keep their offense together in the first week of veteran signings rather than bringing in upgrades from the open market. Sure, they found a new starting quarterback in Derek Carr — but the biggest moves the Saints accomplished was holding onto starters like wide receiver Michael Thomas, left guard Andrus Peat, and tight end Juwan Johnson.
But what does the depth chart look like at this point in the offseason? What should it look like on offense? Let’s break it down by each position to get an idea of where more additions should take place:
QB Derek Carr
Backup: Jameis Winston
The Saints made Carr one of the highest-paid players in the league, and they’re hoping he can cure what ailed their offense in recent years post-Drew Brees. Talking Winston into a pay cut to return as the backup feels like a coup; he’s overqualified for that role and should be starting somewhere in the NFL, but for now he’s helping New Orleans by building the best quarterback room in the conference.
RB Alvin Kamara
Backup: Jamaal Williams
Kamara is still the leader in the backfield, even if Williams should expect to fill in for him during a looming NFL suspension. The Saints could use another player here, though. Both Kamara and Williams are at their best when splitting touches with another player, and Kamara’s year-over-year decline might lead the Saints to draft a possible successor as the passing-down back in New Orleans.
WR Chris Olave
Backup: Keith Kirkwood
Olave is poised to take the next step in his second year with the Saints after lighting up scoreboards in his rookie debut. He’s on the same trajectory as Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, and DeVonta Smith were once upon a time. Still, you’d like to see the Saints invest in some better depth behind him. He missed two games with injuries last season.
WR Michael Thomas
Backup: Tre’Quan Smith
Thomas returning on a one-year, incentive-laden deal feels like a coup, though he needs to prove he can finally get healthy and stay on the field. There aren’t many competitors like him around the league and we saw last season that he can still be a big asset against the NFL’s best cornerbacks. Again, more depth at receiver would be nice.
WR Rashid Shaheed
Backup: Kirk Merritt
Shaheed made the most of his opportunities in a small sample size, winning the trust of his quarterbacks with reliable hands and big-play potential. He needs to show he can sustain it in a starring role, though. The idea in adding another receiver shouldn’t be to take targets away from Shaheed so much as put him in the best position to outplay opposing defensive backs.
TE Juwan Johnson
Backup: Adam Trautman
Johnson earned a solid two-year contract extension despite being a restricted free agent, meaning the Saints chose to reward him for his hard work and ascending trajectory rather than play hardball to pinch pennies. Johnson has improved as a blocker and is an effective pass-catcher, but Trautman’s stagnation through three seasons might mean an upgrade is warranted behind Johnson.
FLEX Taysom Hill
It doesn’t feel right to list Hill at tight end anymore, even if the Saints are still doing it. He also isn’t a quarterback, though he lined up there 148 times last season per Pro Football Focus charting. Hill also got into games as a receiver on 101 snaps (40 of them coming from the slot) and inline tight end on 51 snaps. His remaining 24 plays saw him move to the backfield as a halfback or tailback.
LT Trevor Penning
Backup: James Hurst
Penning has to be expected to start at left tackle this year. The time and draft capital invested in him makes anything less than that a disappointment. It’s not his fault that his rookie year began and ended with unrelated foot injuries, but he needs to overcome that adversity and be an asset for this team. Hurst is expensive for a backup but it’s acceptable in this case; Penning’s durability concerns and the number of plays with six linemen in the New Orleans playbook justify his presence.
LG Andrus Peat
Backup: Calvin Throckmorton
Peat is back for one more year, though the reworked contract he agreed to involved a steep pay cut and makes him a free agent next offseason. Hopefully he can remain healthy, play at a high level, and build some momentum going into free agency. Throckmorton is a solid backup but his untimely penalties and gaffes in pass protection are a concern.
C Erik McCoy
Backup: Cesar Ruiz
It isn’t ideal that the go-to plan if McCoy misses time is to slide another starter out of position, but the Saints have invested too much in McCoy to spend many more resources on someone they hope never gets on the field. Maybe it’s worth targeting a center in the later rounds of this year’s draft who can back up a couple of different spots.
RG Cesar Ruiz
Backup: Calvin Throckmorton
Ruiz didn’t just look improved last year — he put some really quality reps on film and looked the part of a former first-round pick. His development under offensive line coach Doug Marrone was exceptional, hopefully he can recover from a late-season foot injury and build off of that. The Saints will need to decide after the draft whether to exercise his fifth-year option for 2024. If they don’t, he’ll be a free agent next offseason like Peat. Drafting a guard to back him up and fill in to one of those spots would make a lot of sense.
RT Ryan Ramczyk
Backup: Landon Young
Ramczyk is still one of the better right tackles in the league, even if a nagging knee injury has slowed him down as of late. Hopefully a long offseason will give him time to rest up and prepare for a rebound in the fall. Young is a natural left tackle who the Saints have been cross-training at the right side; they also signed Storm Norton as a pure right tackle with NFL experience to help reinforce this spot.