Ranking the Saints’ biggest needs after first wave of free agency

Marquez Callaway #1 of the New Orleans Saints. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Marquez Callaway #1 of the New Orleans Saints. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /
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New Orleans Saints
Ryan Ramczyk #71 of the New Orleans Saints. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

New Orleans Saints fans have waited for two long weeks for the team to do something in free agency, but for the most part, the team refused to bite. The Saints went after Deshaun Watson — and for a scary moment many believed they would actually sign him — and also pursued Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who was lured away by the Chiefs.

Despite those two aggressive efforts, NOLA was ultimately left with….scraps. They re-signed Jameis Winston, Tre’Quan Smith, Deonte Harty, and Bradley Roby, among others, and signed two free agents, Marcus Maye and Kentavius Street.

The Saints’ losses far outweigh their gains, though, and the team was forced to say goodbye to their premier offensive tackle Terron Armstead and arguably their best defensive back, Marcus Williams.

After an exhilarating first wave of free agency (for other NFL teams, not the Saints), NOLA can still win the offseason by addressing four major positions of need. They may find some quality reinforcements in the upcoming draft, but by and large they must do something, anything, to patch up the most tattered and thinning parts of their roster. With plenty of cap space freed from their Watson pursuit, New Orleans has no excuse.

These are the Saints’ four biggest remaining needs in free agency — we don’t think they’ll surprise you.

4. Offensive Line

Losing Armstead hurt, but the Saints had a feeling they were going to lose him, anyway. In his absence, NOLA will likely plug in left tackle James Hurst, who often filled in for Armstead last season when Armstead was injured.

Hurst surprisingly grew into one of the team’s most consistent offensive linemen, ranking second on the team in overall snaps (940). He showed versatility by playing three different positions throughout the season and finished with a respectable 69.8 Pro Football Focus grade, good for 12th in the league among offensive tackles.

NOLA could also move Ramczyk to the left and have Hurst cover the right. Either way, not too many problems there.

The issue starts with Cesar Ruiz, a 2020 first-round pick who struggled all last year at center and right guard. While Ruiz could still experience a jump in production this season, his unreliability and lowered ceiling have many clamoring for an upgrade at his position.

Other guard Andrus Peat has proven himself to be a solid run-blocker who has battled through injuries and gradually increased his PFF grade year after year, but as competent as he is, the Saints could do better.

Aside from Ryan Ramczyk, the Saints’ offensive line feels shaky at best and needs the extra depth this season, especially if they want to give Jameis Winston a chance to perform well in his comeback year.