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Saints placed outside of top 12 in post free-agency rankings

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - JANUARY 03: Quarterback Jameis Winston #2 of the New Orleans Saints prepares to take the snap during the second half of their game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on January 03, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - JANUARY 03: Quarterback Jameis Winston #2 of the New Orleans Saints prepares to take the snap during the second half of their game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on January 03, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /
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The New Orleans Saints watched future first-ballot Hall of Famer Drew Brees retire and released several impactful veterans this offseason. They’ll consequently watch their rankings drop before the season’s commencement.

Now, the team will still be retaining talented players like Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. They also will keep their offensive line in check and maintain most of their big-name superstars on the defensive side of the ball.

However, there are reasons to easily understand why they’ll fall drastically down the power ranking board.

The New Orleans Saints have slipped out of the top-12 teams in the NFL according to Sports Illustrated, and that’s far from shocking.

Sports Illustrated ranked the Saints as the 14th-best team in the NFL after free agency.

"“Drew Brees is gone but there are some days when I think Sean Payton’s division rivals are a little more concerned about what he might cook up with a full-time Jameis Winston–Taysom Hill offense. The Saints lost more than they gained via free agency, due in large part to the complicated salary cap situation they find themselves in. That said, the defense is still going to be top-shelf, and Hill can help them control the clock on offense,” Connor Orr wrote."

Orr is on to something when he mentioned the defense. The Saints conquered the offseason in their minds. They either added or retained everything they absolutely needed to be a Super Bowl-contending team.

Marcus Williams was slapped with the franchise tag, and Jameis Winston was re-signed. Bringing those two back gives the Saints an elite safety and a potential boom-or-bust at the most important position in the game.

Now, New Orleans is going to have some growing pains.

Winston may not be perfect, and every fan is well aware that he led the league in turnovers in 2019. With Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara along with one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, the Saints should give Winston every chance to succeed.

The holes that they won’t be able to fill will loom large though. The release of Emmanuel Sanders and Janoris Jenkins will create huge holes. Not being able to bring back Jared Cook or Trey Hendrickson will hurt as well.

Ranking 14th isn’t ideal for New Orleans, but they should prove to be better than this when the season gets going. The Saints will be aiming for their fifth straight divisional title, already having set history when they won the NFC South for a fourth consecutive season last year.

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With the Bucs being ranked No. 1 in the NFL, it may be easier said than done with Drew Brees leading the way.

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