By the time this week is done, Sir Saint might not be around to see how all this turns out.
No one is safe.
That point was hammered home on Friday when the re-invention of the New Orleans Saints’ roster continued with Kenny Stills being shipped to the Miami Dolphins and the signing of free-agent running back C.J. Spiller.
In exchange for Stills, the Saints received linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and a third-round pick. Defensive back Corey White was also released by the team. Spiller’s deal is worth $18 million over four years with $9 million guaranteed, according to a source.
It’s been a staggering couple weeks in New Orleans, with roster moves coming at a frantic pace Linebacker Curtis Lofton, running back Pierre Thomas, guard Ben Grubbs, and tight end Jimmy Graham have also either been released or traded away. And Spiller now joins new faces in center Max Unger and cornerback Brandon Browner.
Things are going to be different and awkward and unfamiliar. It appears the days of playing soft, high-flying football are over on both sides of the ball. This isn’t a bloodletting.
This is a reinvention with undetermined results.
After Graham was traded to Seattle, the general assumption was that Stills and fellow receivers Brandin Cooks and Marques Colston would carry a bigger burden on offense. That no longer appears to be the case -- for now.
By bringing in Unger, one of the better centers in the NFL, and re-signing Mark Ingram and signing Spiller, it appears the offense is going to be become more committed to the running game after rushing on 38.12 percent of its plays last season, placing 29th in the NFL.
That number almost certainly goes up with so much being invested in the backfield. Spiller, 29, will likely serve behind Ingram and provide a change of pace and take on a role in the passing game, filling the voids created by releasing Thomas and last year’s trade of Sproles to Philadelphia.
Spiller was limited to nine games last season and rushed for 300 yards on 78 carries. He also caught 19 passes for 125 yards. His best season came in 2012 when he rushed 207 times for 1,244 yards and caught 43 passes for 459 yards.
Coach Sean Payton has had success with his other “satellite backs,” and it could be argued the offense suffered last season without a running back drawing additional attention in passing situations, thus making it more difficult for others to get favorable matchups.
The question now is how does the wide receiver corps look next season. Stills made significant strides in his ability as a route runner during his second season after serving mostly as a burner during his rookie season.
He showed growth in running intermediate routes and it appeared he would be leaned heavily upon next season to fill some of the void created by taking Graham out of the offense. That burden will lie primarily upon Cooks, who is entering his second season, and the veteran Colston. At the end of the season, Payton also voiced his confidence in Brandon Coleman, Seantavius Jones and Nick Toon.
All three of those players stand 6-foot-3 or taller, with Coleman checking in at 6-foot-6. The next big target could already be on the roster.
If the team is not happy with those options, it now has an extreme amount of flexibility to move around the draft for preferred targets with two picks in the first round, one in the second, and two in the third.
But it seems likely many of those resources will be spent on improving the defense since general manager Mickey Loomis voiced that as the motive behind dealing Graham.
Steps have already been taken toward achieving that goal. In Browner, New Orleans now has a player worthy of lining up across from Keenan Lewis. Known as one of the more physical cornerbacks in the NFL, Browner is certain to bring an edge to the secondary.
In Ellerbe, the Saints acquire a player widely regarded for his leadership. What he’ll bring to the field remains to be seen. But if healthy, he could be a candidate to step in for Lofton at middle linebacker.
The 29-year old was limited to one game last season due to a hip injury. He is due to count $8.425 million against the cap, but is expected to restructure his contract to join the Saints.
He was brought to Miami by former Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland, who is now a member of New Orleans’ front office. Ellerbe recorded 101 tackles in 2013 with one sack.
So Ellerbe is a familiar face to one. He’s unfamiliar to everyone else.
One thing is certain, however the pieces come together, the Saints are going to look different next season.
The fans won’t recognize them. Their opponents won’t recognize them. Sir Saint might not even recognize them.