Spagnuolo has been slowly shaping his defensive unit since the start of the offseason and had to learn what players could do certain assignments and which ones weren’t able to do what they were previously tasked to do in Gregg Williams old scheme.
The defense has been ranked as the worst in the league all season and is only 281 yards shy of being ranked the worst in NFL history since the 1981 Baltimore Colts who gave up 6,793 yards. Third worst is the 2008, 0-16 Detroit Lions who gave up 6,470 yards. Now that’s depressing.
Still, the main core of players in the unit will be tasked with perfecting the scheme and if Spagnuolo is given the nod to draft players that he sees fits his mold, the Saints defensive woes should subside.
Although the Saints offense ranked in the top 5 this season, the struggles continued in the running game and we’ll see if players like running back Chris Ivory return or if the team will still keep five running backs in the backfield.
Speaking of the top ranked offense, the chemistry and fluidity that was missing on a consistent basis this season should return as Payton does. Even though the media has suggested that he could head elsewhere in the offseason due to a negated contract extension, I just don’t see it.
But the contract of Payton won’t be the only focus for the Saints front office. Since the high dollar contract of quarterback Drew Brees was signed, it will put the team in a tight salary cap crunch for the 2013-2014 season and beyond.
Players like defensive end Will Smith(due up to $14.5 million in 2013) and linebacker Jonathan Vilma(due up $6.5 million in 2013) could be released due to their performance not matching their value as well as an attempt to free up cap room.
Likewise others like safety Roman Harper(due up to $7.1 million) could be gone as well since the Saints have to sign their own free agents such as center Brian De La Puente, tackle Jermon Bushrod, and defensive end Junior Galette. Oh and let’s not forget a contract extension for tight end Jimmy Graham who’s a free agent in 2014.
Yes, the Saints will be looking like a different team in the very near future. The question will be if they can begin work on making this change for the better or worse going into the offseason or will this work in progress require a more drastic overhaul?