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New Orleans Saints at No. 22 in NFL.com’s latest power rankings

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Dec 21, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton looks on against the Atlanta Falcons during the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

NFL.com released it’s latest offseason power rankings following the first week of the free agent frenzy that kicked off March 10.  The New Orleans Saints sit at No. 22 for the moment.

While re-signing Mark Ingram was key this offseason, the offense certainly lost a couple of essential pieces to the puzzle after trading away All-Pro TE Jimmy Graham and WR Kenny Stills.  We certainly can’t forget about the release of LB Curtis Lofton and RB Pierre Thomas.

Although the Black and Gold parted ways with some big names, they were able to add a big physical cornerback in Brandon Browner to solidify a secondary that consists of Keenan Lewis, Jairus Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro — a dangerous combination of speed, ball skills and aggressiveness.

Running back C.J. Spiller‘s talents were also called upon to fill the void in the backfield left by Darren Sproles last offseason.  And LB Dannell Ellerbe (acquired from Miami Dolphins in Stills trade), a potential star, will look to take over Lofton’s spot alongside David Hawthorne, for now.

Through all the wheeling and dealing over the past week, the New Orleans Saints were also able to stack up on draft picks.  They have five picks in the top 80 with two coming in the first round.  It seems as if some believe Sean Payton and company have given up with a plan to rebuild for the future.  However, that is not the case — this organization is still very much in it for 2015, especially with Drew Brees still in the mix.

Here are the latest power rankings from NFL.com’s Elliot Harrison:

32. Oakland Raiders (3-13 in 2014)

"Kudos to the Raiders for not overpaying to get DeMarco Murray, especially considering the fact that Latavius Murray is younger, has tons of upside and should get the opportunity to be the lead horse. Of course, no matter what, Oakland is going to have to spend money on somebody. Per the collective bargaining agreement, teams must spend at least 89 percent of the salary cap from 2013 to ’16 in cash. My buddy Jason La Canfora laid out Oakland’s predicament beautifully last week. Trading for guys with bad contracts is the way to go, because coming up with guaranteed money for big-name free agents next year will be tough. Put another way, why couldn’t a guy like Brandon Marshall have been a Raider?"

31. Tennessee Titans (2-14 in 2014)

"While all of you were out there playing “Axis & Allies,” those little Tennessee Titans made some sneaky acquisitions in the free-agent marketplace, adding Perrish Cox and Brian Orakpo and re-signing Derrick Morgan. Here’s hoping they can trade down from the second overall spot and acquire several more players for Ken Whisenhunt’s roster."

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-14 in 2014)

"As everyone fumbles over what the Buccaneers are going to do with the first overall pick in the draft, or whether Chip Kelly is going to make them an unbelievable offer for some college quarterback he says he doesn’t have interest in trading up to get, call me whimsical … I’m daydreaming about a Tampa team that is strong on the offensive and defensive lines. Becoming that — as much as acquiring a quarterback — is the highway to relevance in the NFC South."

29. Cleveland Browns (7-9 in 2014)

"Josh McCown lines up at center, looking at Brian Hartline and Taylor Gabriel outside. Andrew Hawkins is ready in the slot. Tight end? Gary Barnidge, babe. And none of them could start for several teams in the league. No one needs to get the first round right more than the Browns — not if mostly laying out is their free agency M.O."

28. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13 in 2014)

"Evidently, GM David Caldwell isn’t playing around. The Jaguars signed tight end Julius Thomas and defensive tackle Jared Odrick, and they made a run at DeMarco Murray. Now, if they can get a pass rusher — nearly all of our NFL.com draft experts have the Jags taking Dante Fowler, Jr., who had 8.5 sacks at Florida last season — then this team is in bidness. One other thing not on the radar of most fans: The young wideouts in Jacksonville. If they take a step forward, look out."

27. Washington Redskins (4-12 in 2014)

"Piece by piece, the Redskins are attempting to fix some ills, particularly in the front seven. They acquired Stephen Paea and Terrance Knighton — younger free agents than Jason Hatcher, who didn’t pan out last year. The oft-disappointing Brian Orakpo is gone. Meanwhile, Chris Culliver should make the secondary look better — or make the much-maligned starting quarterback look worse in practice. That wouldn’t be good."

26. New York Jets (4-12 in 2014)

"The Jets have accomplished something this offseason that didn’t look possible three months ago: getting people excited about the product. Sure, it’s all potential at this point. But won’t it be nice to go into the season with a feeling of, “Hey, these guys don’t suck!”? Owner Woody Johnson deserves credit for hiring GM Mike Maccagnan, and for signing off on the monsterDarrelle Revis-related accounting hit. Maccagnan deserves credit for the Brandon Marshall trade, among other moves. And new head coach Todd Bowles deserves a heap of credit for making guys want to play for Gang Green — as well as for getting the Curmudgeony McCurmudgeonson fan base fired up for 2015."

25. Chicago Bears (5-11 in 2014)

"Bears fans are all over the map about their team right now. Some wanted Jay Cutler to be released. Others aren’t happy about Brandon Marshall being traded away. Some are fine with the latter being gone, while some are resigned to (or incredulous about) the fact that Chicago has no choice but to ride out the Cutler train. Through all of this, the free agency moves made by young GM Ryan Pace have been pretty solid. Pernell McPhee will help the transition to a 3-4.Eddie Royal provides the club with a clutch slot receiver. And, perhaps most importantly, Antrel Rolle gives the organization something that is tough to test for at the NFL Scouting Combine: leadership in the locker room. Think the Bears could’ve used a touch of that last year."

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