The New Orleans Saints have been a Super Bowl contender ever since Drew Brees and Sean Payton came to town. They haven’t always been the biggest and the best team in the NFC, but thanks to their coach & quarterback combination they have often been among the most entertain teams in the NFL.
Entering 2018 there was a lot of hope and expectations for the Saints. They departed the 2017 season on the back of the “Minneapolis Miracle” after a strong rookie class had added the firepower needed to fuel a deep playoff run. With all those pieces returning for the 2018 season fans and pundits alike were expecting greatness from the Saints and they nearly got it. New Orleans secured the #1 seed in the NFC and were on their way to the Super Bowl until a terrible no-call in the NFC championship game opened the door for the LA Rams to come back and win.
Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about awful referees in Madden 19, where the Saints are one of the best teams available. They have an overall rating of 85, powered by an 89 rated offense and 85 rated defense. That level of balance and talent makes them one of the most dangerous teams you can play with both in online and one-off games as well as in Franchise Mode.
However, it isn’t all easy going if you use the Saints in Franchise Mode. There are difficult decisions coming down the road for the Saints, from old players coming close to retirement to impending free agents and the struggle of working within the salary cap. Let’s start by looking at just how financially flexible the Saints are when you start Franchise Mode.
New Orleans Saints Salary Cap
You start Franchise Mode with 62 players on the roster and $47 million in cap space. This is quite a strong place to begin, and that cap space can be increased a little too. You’ll need to cut 9 players to get down to the regular season roster size of 53, and there are 24 that can be released with no penalty on the cap. This includes receiver Dez Bryant, who is costing you $1.25 million on the cap and is out for 43 weeks with an Achilles tear. You can also save $1 million by cutting poor free safety Chris Banjo.
This gives you just over $50 million to play with. You can make some serious additions to the squad with that kind of cap space, but first you should look at which players you need to re-sign for season 2 so you can maintain the strength of the squad.
New Orleans Saints Impending Free Agents
The Saints have 27 players who start Franchise Mode in the final year of their contract. Most of these players can be easily replaced or improved on, but there are some that will be tricky to succeed without.
Running back Mark Ingram is an impending free agent, and while it is tempting to just ride with Alvin Kamara’s youth and speed you still need some power for short yardage situations and end game scenarios. This is why Mark Ingram is still a necessity. He is a powerful runner that can break tackles and still has the speed to get yards in the open field and can even play a part in the passing game too.
The heart of the cornerback position is also up for new contracts. Ken Crawley, PJ Williams, and Justin Hardee are all going to hit free agency after season 1. While they aren’t key players you need good cornerback depth as you’ll have three on the field most of the time and they make up a good chunk of special teams play too. Both Williams and Crawley are worth keeping and will be tricky to replace with exceptionally better players.
Up front there are some issues too. Tyeler Davison is one of three defensive tackles that are in the last year of their contracts and backup guard Josh LeRibeus is as well. You can’t ignore these gaps that will develop if you let them walk.
Other key impending free agents: WIll Lutz (K), Ben Watson (TE), Teddy Bridgewater (QB), Craig Robertson (OLB)
New Orleans Saints Roster Needs
The Saints roster has very few holes at the start of Franchise Mode. They have a future Hall of Fame quarterback, two good running backs, an elite receiver, and a strong offensive line. The one spot on offense you may want to improve is at tight end, where 37-year-old Ben Watson heads the depth chart.
Defensively there is more to be considered. The Saints defensive line is good, but their linebacker corps is not. Demario Davis is the headline player here, but the likes of Manti T’eo and AJ Klein are going to see significant time on the field and you can do a lot better than them. Impending free agents like Anthony Barr and CJ Mosley would be very good additions for the Saints, especially if your draft scouting shows there isn’t a star you can pick early on at linebacker.
The other thing you need to look at is an heir for Drew Brees. The Saints star quarterback has two years left on his contract but at 39 both retirement and regression are waiting for him. Even if he stays on for season 2 his stats are likely to get worse, leaving you with a drop in production at the most important position on the field. The Saints have Teddy Bridgewater on the roster, but he is in the last year of his contract. So either you have to invest training time and more money in Bridgewater or search through the draft class for a hidden star of the future that you can get late in the draft as the Saints do not have their first round pick in 2019.
Elsewhere the cornerback position needs a fresh infusion of talent if you opt to let Ken Crawley and PJ Williams go. The position is anchored by the excellent Marshon Lattimore but with Patrick Robinson now 30 another quality corner would help matters a lot. One spot that is worth looking at on the offensive line is left guard, where Andrus Peat is the weak link of the unit.
The Saints have a very strong roster for season 1 of Franchise Mode, but without that 2019 first-round pick and with an aging quarterback their future is very uncertain. If you don't have a succession plan in place for Drew Brees it will be very easy for this team to fall back into the mediocrity it existed in before Brees & Payton arrived.