New Orleans Saints

Our top projected defense makes this team better than you think.

When the book finally closes on the history of the New Orleans Saints, 2021 is going to be remembered as a very strange transitional year. Sean Payton and Drew Brees are inextricably linked together in franchise lore and imagining one without the other is almost unthinkable. They came in together in 2006 and shared the bad times together—Bountygate, years of terrible defense, heartbreaking playoff performance after heartbreaking playoff performance. They shared the good times together—revitalizing the city after Katrina, shattering offensive records, and winning the Super Bowl. It’s the One Ring that binds them together. So, Payton’s tenure lasting one year without Brees feels strange and vestigial. The Saints’ history book will treat Payton’s last year like Tom Bombadil’s chapters in Lord of the Rings—a bit odd and out of place, and we’re just not going to mention it when we adapt this for unfamiliar audiences.

And, much like Tom Bombadil, the 2021 Saints deserve to be better remembered, even if they don’t fit well into the narrative. Despite leaving the safety and familiarity of the Shire Brees’ tenure, the Saints remained a competitive team. They were minutes away from making the playoffs despite fighting through 76.5 offensive adjusted games lost, second most in the league. They found a season of respite and continuity, despite the looming terror on the horizon—the dreaded Nazgûl salary cap apocalypse. They delayed making momentous decisions on how to proceed with their quest of destroying the One Ring winning the Super Bowl. They even had a strange man, whose role was never really made clear, inexplicably beloved by the guy in charge, running around without any clear reason why he was there. Ring a dong dillo Taysom Hill, indeed.

But short of Sean Payton the White returning next season, the Saints find themselves at a crossroads. Replacing the best quarterback and coach in franchise history is a logical time to take a step back and rebuild. The Saints had stretched their budget thinly over too much bread, using every cap trick in the book to dump money into the future to keep the core...