The end of the NFL lockout Monday means all pro football fans’ long, national nightmare is over. But some fans, especially those of the New Orleans Saints, should be especially happy that the NFL is about to kick off.
All 32 organizations face an enormous task to fill out their rosters in a few days, using a multilayered process that usually begins in March.
For the Saints that means doubling the size of their roster in time for their first training-camp practice, presumably in less than a week.
But Saints fans should be encouraged by these circumstances as New Orleans prepares for a season that Who Dat Nation already was giddy about when the team grabbed Cameron Jordan and Mark Ingram in the draft, which happened so many moons ago.
The Saints’ track record since Sean Payton was hired 5-1/2 years ago is among the very best in the NFL. They have won 53 games since 2006, the most of any team in the NFC.
When organizations are faced with unique challenges, such as the ones presented by the compressed schedule, the stronger organizations tend to handle them better than the weaker ones.
Think back to the 1987 season when a players strike forced the cancellation of one week’s worth of games and the utilization of replacement players for three others. The Saints, then in the capable hands of general manager Jim Finks and coach Jim Mora, finished 12-3 and made the playoffs for the first time. They did so largely because they had an organization capable of adapting to the unique circumstances.
Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis have a track record that suggests they, too, are more capable than most of deftly handling these unique circumstances.
That doesn’t mean it will be easy, but the Saints are less than 18 months removed from a Super Bowl championship and have won 24 games the past two regular seasons and qualified for the past two postseasons.
Yes, they have a lot of free agents - 26 unrestricted and three restricted - but only a fraction are potential starters, and the Saints won’t take any mortal hits in free agency.
This organization has uncovered undrafted players that proved to be NFL worthy such as running backs Pierre Thomas and Lynell Hamilton, linebackers Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Jonathan Casillas, and defensive end Junior Gallette, and it likely already has identified undrafted players deserving of a training camp roster spot.
The adoption of a new rookie compensation scale has simplified the signing of draft picks in the new collective bargaining agreement. That should expedite deals for New Orleans’ six draft picks.
Though Payton and his staff weren’t able to conduct an offseason program, quarterback Drew Brees put the Saints ahead of the curve by implementing one in May and June.
Now that the lockout is over, Saints fans should be glad it happened.