The New Orleans Saints are still in the midst of the team-building period, with perhaps the biggest piece of the puzzle less than a week away, with the draft running Thursday through Saturday.
New Orleans now knows whom it will be playing, and when, but who will be on the field is still to be determined. The goal for the team will be to add a couple of starters during the draft and to continue to add to the roster through trades or free agency.
A few options are already known and can now be explored since Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler recently signed his tender, making him available for trade, and running back Adrian Peterson remains a free agent.
One way or another, we should finally know how the roster is shaping up by this time next week.
Here are some thoughts before the mock drafts get put away for good:
Manti Te'o's contract is heavy on incentives, and most of them are dependent on him getting ready to play. Te’o, who missed most of last season because of an Achilles injury, has an $850,000 base salary this year and much of the rest of his money can be made in bonuses. He has a $350,000 roster bonus he can earn by passing a club physical and being cleared to play between May 15 and any game this season. He’ll then receive another $150,000 roster bonus for appearing in his first game. He can also earn up to $500,000 in per game roster bonuses and up to another $1 million in playing-time incentives. The linebacker's two-year deal only includes $600,000 in guarantees.
It’s the silly season. You can only believe so much of what you hear. Everyone has an agenda, and sometimes that agenda is pushed forward by distributing incomplete information. That might have happened here last week. This space was used to relay that former Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster had a good visit with the Saints. That might not be the whole story. He might have answered some questions, but others still exist. Chances are, we won't know the whole truth about all these things, and how they're viewed, until after the draft.
The Saints have some ties to the Alabama coaching staff, which could be advantageous considering there are a few players who have questions to answer, including Foster and pass rusher Tim Williams, a former University High standout. Assistant general manager Jeff Ireland worked with offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and associate athletic director for football Ed Marynowitz in Miami. Having those connections could help New Orleans get good information on those players that might otherwise not be available.
Find a way to get past the brutal opening, and the New Orleans Saints' 2017 schedule looks l…
It was interesting that former LSU running back Leonard Fournette dropped in on the Saints during their local pro day. The Saints pick 11th, and while it seems unlikely Fournette will be on the board, it was a good way to get to meet with the prospect and not use up an official visit. Whether it’s through the draft or free agency, it wouldn’t be surprising to see New Orleans add a running back for depth behind Mark Ingram. Ideally, the back coming in would have the ability to split out and run some routes. It’s also worth noting that the possibility of signing Adrian Peterson remains alive.
Alex Okafor is betting on himself. The defensive end signed a one-year deal with a $935,000 base salary and $1 million signing bonus. But he can rack up some extra money by performing well. He’ll earn $200,000 if he collects six sacks, another $300,000 if he hits 7½ sacks, and another $500,000 if he hits nine, for a total of $1 million. He can also make $200,000 for playing 55 percent of the defensive snaps and another $300,000 if he plays 65 percent of the snaps. Okafor finished with 3½ sacks last season but recorded eight in 2014.
New England Patriots
A lot was made this week about injured players reporting for the opening phase of the offseason program. It’s a good sign that guys like defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha (ACL), safety Erik Harris (ACL) and tight end Josh Hill (fibula) are in the facility, but the real barometer will come during organized team activities when we can see who is on the field. That will tell a better story about where these guys are in their recovery than anything else. But for what it’s worth, cornerbacks P.J. Williams and Delvin Breaux are said to be good to go moving forward.
The Saints have a legitimate gripe about the schedule. It seems impossible that a randomly generated schedule almost always puts the team on the road for Thursday games. Dating to 2012, New Orleans has played only one of these games in the Superdome, and this year is no different with a Week 14 date in Atlanta. This needs to even out at some point with a string of Thursday games at home.
One last thought on the schedule. We can go through and mark wins and losses for each game. None of that matters. We have no idea who will be on this team come September. The Week 2 game against the Patriots might look a little bit different if the Saints land a couple of starters on defense in the draft or end up trading for someone. Once we know who is on the roster, and how those players are developing (on both the Saints' roster and the rosters of their opponents), we’ll have a better idea of how things are going to shape up. We don’t have enough evidence to do any of that right now.
Predicting New Orleans Saints in 2017: Columnists Scott Rabalais, Rod Walker make their picks
The NFL schedule was released on Thursday. Here's a breakdown from The Advocate columnists Scott Rabalais and Rod Walker and how the Saints will fare each week. Rabalais has the Saints finishing 9-7, reversing their 7-9 mark of the past three seasons. Walker has them one game better at 10-6.