Each year, the draft is an opportunity for all 32 teams to get better. While most in the organisations and their fans exit the weekend full of optimism over the future, not everyone is happy – those being the veterans already on the roster whose place on the team is now in danger. Here’s a few Saints players who have been put on notice following their team’s choices:
Damian Swann, Cornerback
The 2015 fifth round pick played promisingly his rookie season last year, on top of providing the versatility to contribute across the secondary. The issue here is with his health. In his very brief professional career he has already suffered from three concussions. That is very worrying after just one season and his long term future has to be prioritised, even if Swann himself wants to take his chances. The former Georgia Bulldog was only able to feature in seven games due to the issues. Despite the defensive woes for the Saints in 2015, in particular with their pass defense, they are actually fairly well set. Delvin Breaux was solid, and their third round pick from the same draft P.J. Williams will have a chance to earn a starting role opposite in place of the departed Brandon Browner, after missing all of his rookie season on injured reserve. The addition of new second round selection Vonn Bell, while a safety by name, is without question at his best in coverage, and can play as a big nickel and over the slot. Of course, if Swann can continue without any serious adverse effects on his health then that would be ideal, otherwise the trio of Breaux, Williams and Bell along with the likes of Keenan Lewis, Kyle Wilson and rookie Ken Crawley should give enough options.
C.J. Spiller, Running Back
New Orleans arguably got a nice bargain with their final pick of the draft this year in athletic freak running back Daniel Lasco out of California. The former Cal Bear was one of the stars of this year’s combine in Indianapolis, and has a lot of potential. He frequently made his mark in space, in the passing game, and on third downs during his time in college, which he’ll be looking to continue to do as he takes the step up to professional football. He’s got work to do in pass protection and ball security but if he can prove trust-worthy in those areas, could push to earn a significant role early on. If he does that, he might make it possible for the Saints to let last off-season’s free agency acquisition Spiller go from what is a pricey contract. The former Bill is due to make $10.25m in 2016 and another $7 in 2017. While $3.25 of that ten plus million for this upcoming season is guaranteed, that is still a big saving to be made for a team who entered this off-season with barely any cap space that resulted in a very quiet free agency. Add in how relatively little use the Saints made of Spiller in his first year with the team, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he was not part of the final 53.
Don’t count out the Saints cutting ties with Jairus Byrd
It’s probably unlikely to happen, but if there was a big name to be cut from the Saints’ squad, there’s a chance that it could be Byrd. Another former Buffalo Bill, Byrd was the very expensive prize of free agency in 2014, handed a six-year, $56 million contract which included $28 million in guaranteed money. The Saints have not seen a good return on that investment over his two years with the team so far. His first season in New Orleans ended after four games due to a torn knee ligament, and on his return last year wasn’t the same kind of high-impact playmaker that he was during his time with the Bills. Another off-season removed from his injury could mean a return to his best form in 2017 though, and he is due $6 million in guaranteed money this year. That said, it’s $6m out of a total of $33.6 that he is due to receive over 2016; a massive amount. As mentioned, the Saints are a team devoid of cap space, and have added Vonn Bell who could play alongside Kenny Vaccaro at safety were they to make that decision. There’s no more guaranteed money due to Byrd after this upcoming season though, so this might be a split that comes one year from now if the under-whelming play (when taken alongside the financial compensation) continues. One to keep in mind though during the fall.