Mickey Loomis is considered one of the best general managers in the entire NFL. During his career with the New Orleans Saints, he's been praised as a salary cap genius — and constantly amazes fans with his ability to create cap space when it seems impossible.
He did this in 2023 when he went from being in the red to landing Derek Carr on a four-year deal worth $150 million. That was impressive but was far from the only move he made that will pay off.
Here, we look at four contract decisions that the Saints will be happy with in 2023.
4. Signing Khalen Saunders and Nathan Shepherd
New Orleans lost both of their starting defensive tackles this offseason — and each signed with NFC South rivals. David Onyemata landed a three-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons for $35 million while Shy Tuttle joined the Carolina Panthers on a three-year, $19.5 million contract.
Instead of getting into a bidding war, the Saints elected to bring in lesser-known players — Nathan Shepherd and Khalen Saunders as replacements.
Shepherd spent the past five seasons with the New York Jets and has 104 tackles and six sacks in that time. He's primarily been a reserve and has shown steady progress in his career. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the 36th-rated defensive tackle and showed promise as a pass rusher.
Saunders was a reserve nose tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs and had 48 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 2022 alone. He's expected to anchor the defense against the run but can bring the heat as a pass rusher as well.
The two signed for a total of $27.3 million over three years — making them both less expensive than Onyemata alone. Decisions such as these go under the radar but could be huge in the long run.