Two weeks ago the Saints had a chance to win a couple of tough games, move to 6-4, and almost assuredly have a shot at a playoff spot. Unfortunately the Saints lost both games, and in similar heartbreaking fashion. What that means for the team is that instead of prepping for a run at the playoffs, and possibly the division title, they are going to be fighting just to avoid another 7-9 year. It is of course possible for them to still get a wildcard spot, and I will NEVER support anything as foolish as tanking for a draft pick, but I do have a short list of things I believe the team should do for their own good.
1: Bench Terron Armstead:
Armstead is hurt, and while he has proven over and over again that he is an elite left tackle even when he isn’t 100%, the reality is that the Saints are at the best when he is. This is not only due to him being a phenomenal left tackle in his own right, but also because fielding their best possible offensive line requires them to have him and Peat manning the left side together. Terron might be able to play through injuries, but the Saints can’t continue to allow him to try. Peat has proven himself to be competent at left tackle, and the reality is that the Saints just signed him to a long term extension and it would be foolish jeopardize his long term success for what likely won’t even amount to a short term gain. Terron is one of the best in the league at what he does, and for him to have a chance to do what he does best for years to come the Saints have to put his but on the bench and hold him out until he’s fully healthy….otherwise he may never be that again.
2: Play Stephone Anthony:
Anthony is a 1st round pick for the Saints and he has every tool he needs to be an excellent linebacker for the team. The question is whether he will ever be able to realize his potential and become that player, and the only thing that will allow both us and the team to ascertain whether that is going to happen is to give him the playtime he needs to figure things out. He’s shown flashes, but the fact is that players learn best by doing, and you can only develop instincts through action. Anthony has to adjust to a new position and show everyone that he can be the player he was meant to be. The team owes him and themselves the chance to see if he can do it, and if he can’t then they have to bite the bullet and get what they can from him. At the end of the day the NFL is a business, and business is about production.
3: Keep your core together:
The Saints need to sign/extend Nick Fairley, Kenny Vacarro, Willie Snead, Brandin Cooks, and Delvin Breaux, and they need to do it soon. One of the hallmarks of good teams and good organizations is that they don’t let talent that they developed go, and when they don’t they don’t let it go for nothing. The Saints have had a bad habit of developing players, but then waiting too long and being too desperate to fight over every penny to retain them. You can look around the league and find a number of former Saints who would have helped this roster a lot who could have been kept pretty easily if the team had pulled the trigger early.
They are finally starting to build a young nucleus of talent, and the worst thing that could happen is to let that talent go make someone else’s roster better. Each of the players I mentioned above will be much cheaper to keep today than they will be at the end of the year, and for the ones with time still left on their contracts that goes double for them. The Team can both secure talented young players into the future as well as helping to ensure that they remain solvent and stable from a cap perspective by recognizing a good player early and choosing to retain them rather than the overly cautious (and sometimes foolish) approach of year’s past. Chemistry, ability, productivity, and fit are as (and often more) important for a team’s success than stars. The Saints have tried the ‘go sign a big name’ method in free agency, now it’s time to try the ‘build your own roster’ method. Having a team with a couple of ‘greats’, a few ‘very goods’ and a LOT of ‘rock solid’ players is MUCH better than having a couple more stars at the cost of depth and having gaping holes on your team. Not every contract will be a homerun, but you keep the guys you know can produce for you first, before you take the risk of bringing in others.