It feels like a whole season has passed since the New Orleans Saints tried getting Richard Sherman. That’s how much drama has been stirring in the Saints cornerback unit, and going into 2021 we just can’t imagine things getting worse than they are now.
This week, Patrick Robinson informed the Saints that he was retiring after an 11-year career. He had struggled with injuries throughout his three seasons in New Orleans but finished his career with respectable numbers: 16 career interceptions, 83 passes defended, 338 combined tackles, and allowing a catch rate of 59 percent when targeted.
P-Rob’s retirement means the Saints lose their starter opposite Marshon Lattimore, whose potential suspension is a whole different story.
Lattimore was arrested last March in Cleveland and charged with a fourth-degree felony for possessing a stolen handgun. His court proceedings are still pending, but it seems inevitable that Lattimore will be face some length of suspension. It’s just unclear how many games he’ll miss at the start of the season.
Lattimore recently spoke to The Seattle Times about the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the Saints’ cornerbacks and had this to say:
"We’re going to see. Nothing’s going to fall out of the sky. So, it is what it is. We’re going to work with what we got. I got faith in everybody here. So, I ain’t too worried about it."
And really, what could Lattimore be worried about? Sure is easy to be confident when you’re the de facto No. 1 starter and there’s absolutely no competition for your position.
With two elephant-sized holes in their secondary, the Saints have all the reason to panic. Recent signings Prince Amukamara and KeiVarae Russell were brought on as additional depth pieces and can’t reasonably be expected to start in the first team.
New Orleans may need to look only as far as Jacksonville, since the Jaguars are reportedly open to trading top prospect C.J. Henderson.
New Orleans Saints cornerback unit is quickly unraveling before start of season
Whether the Saints want to give up draft picks and/or other valuable trade assets is for the front office to decide. Regular season is only a stone’s throw away, though, and New Orleans don’t have the time to sit on their hands and ponder questions like, “Do we really need another corner?” or “What purpose do cornerbacks serve, anyway?”
The Saints find themselves in this pickle by no fault but their own. The Athletic’s Katherine Terrell called it back in early July, when she named not rebuilding a dependable cornerback unit as the Saints’ worst offseason decision.
Big names like Richard Sherman, Stephon Gilmore, and Xavien Howard have since come and gone, and yes, they probably would have been too expensive to bring on anyway.
But what was New Orleans’ plan for the corners, exactly? Even if P-Rob didn’t retire, their secondary was still stringy and in dire need of structural changes. And they knew about Lattimore’s arrest for months.
At this point, the Saints may have to look internally to solve their issues. Their options include, in no particular order: Ken Crawley, a five-year veteran, Paulson Adebo, a rookie, and two defensive backs in P.J. Williams and Brian Poole who could play corner in a pinch but definitely aren’t long-term solutions.
P-Rob’s retirement was only a pulled loose thread in the Saints’ unraveling cornerback mess, and it’s not his fault New Orleans won’t be prepared in 2021.
Heading into the first preseason game, the secondary should scare Saints fans in a very bad way. The damage has been done, the chaos is here to stay, and New Orleans just have to make the best of what they have.