Saints player we wish stayed: David Onyemata, DT
The defensive line will look much different for New Orleans this season with three starters gone via free agency. Defensive end Marcus Davenport (who started nine games) signed with Minnesota, Shy Tuttle landed with the Carolina Panthers, and the Atlanta Falcons were able to bring in David Onyemata.
Of the three, Onyemata will be the most missed. A product of Manitoba (Canada), Onyemata developed into a solid interior pass rusher. He had 23 sacks in his seven seasons with New Orleans to go along with 244 tackles, and 28 tackles for a loss.
He then broke the bank this offseason, landing a three-year deal with Atlanta which will pay him up to $35 million.
With him out, New Orleans added Nathan Shepherd and Khalen Saunders as external free-agent signings. They're both massive players at 6-4 and 315 pounds (Shepherd) and 6-foot-0 and 324 pounds (Saunders), but neither can produce the interior rush that Onyemata could.
Saunders was a rotational player for four seasons in Kansas City but did have his best campaign in 2022 with 48 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Shepherd was also a backup at his first stop, playing in 73 games with just 12 starts for the Jets. He has 104 career tackles and six sacks to his name.
The Saints' run defense could be better with these two but unless they land someone in the draft, the pass rush could suffer.