Has The New Orleans Saints Super Bowl Window Closed?

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NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 05: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints looks on after losing in the NFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings at Mercedes Benz Superdome on January 05, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

My heart goes out to all New Orleans Saints fans. Despite records of 11-5, 13-3, and 13-3 over the last three seasons, the Saints have experienced heartbreak every year. Two years ago, it was the Minneapolis miracle that started it. Last year, the infamous missed pass interference penalty cost them a shot at the Super Bowl. And now this year, the Saints lost in OT to the Minnesota Vikings in the wild card round. As if that wasn’t enough, the game-winning TD from Kirk Cousins to Kyle Rudolph featured a divisive no call for offensive pass interference. Subsequently, Drew Brees will be 41 next season. After all of that, it’s fair to wonder if the Saints Super Bowl window is closed.

Has The New Orleans Saints Super Bowl Window Closed?

Argument For Window Having Closed

As I mentioned in the intro, Brees will be 41 years old should he decide to play in 2020. This doesn’t guarantee he will fall off a cliff, but his production could very well decline. One could argue that Brees has declined in some areas of his game already. Most notably his arm strength. Although Brees has the highest completion percentage in history, a large part of that is due to getting rid of the ball fast. According to next-gen stats, Brees had the second quickest time to throw in the league this year at 2.84 seconds. History is not kind to QB’s over 39, look no further than Peyton Manning‘s age 39, and Brett Favre‘s age 41 seasons as proof. That said, if anyone can break the trend, my money would be on Drew Brees.

One of the biggest issues the Saints faced was a lack of explosive pass-catchers. Outside of AP first-team all-pro Michael Thomas, the weapons Brees had at his disposal left a lot to be desired. Tight End Jared Cook had a very strong December but didn’t play up to his 2018 campaign as a whole. Although under contract next year, Cook will be 33 and a decline could be possible. Ted Ginn was their second most productive wideout, and at age 34 will be an unrestricted free agent. Second-year receiver Tre’ Quan Smith saw a sharp decline in his targets, and superstar running back Alvin Kamara wasn’t quite himself in 2019 due to injury. That said, it’s likely that Thomas continues to dominate in 2020, and Kamara returns to his old self. But the offense will need more weapons if they want their Super Bowl window to remain open.

Argument For Window Remaining Open

Like I just mentioned, as long as Thomas and Kamara are healthy in 2020, the Saints will be competitive. They are two of the best players at their position and are still young (Thomas will be 27, Kamara will be 25). Their offensive line possesses two of the best tackles in the NFL in Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk. Thanks to their play along with Brees’s quick-release style of play, the Saints allowed the lowest pressure rate in the NFL at 24.9%. Rookie Center Erik McCoy was also a solid addition and should only get better. This stout offensive line, along with potential 2020 all pros Kamara and Thomas, should keep New Orleans competitive no matter who their signal-caller is.

So far in this piece, we have talked about the offense but not the defense. But the Saints defense is a reason their Super Bowl window will remain open. According to DVOA efficiency metrics, the Saints finished with the 5th ranked run defense, and 12th ranked pass defense. Led by improvements by Cameron Jordan (15.5 sacks) and Marcus Davenport (6 sacks), the Saints finished with the third-most sacks in 2019 with 51. Demario Davis had his best season as a pro and will be back next year. They still have one of the best young cornerbacks in Marshon Lattimore, as well as free-agent pickup Janoris Jenkins under contract next year too. Pending on whether they decide to re-sign free agents Eli Apple and Vonn Bell, the Saints defense should be among the top units next year.

Finally, we need to give the Saints special teams unit some love. In a season where kicking was inconsistent across the league, Will Lutz brought consistency. Going 32/36 on FG attempts, and 48/49 on extra points, Lutz is a weapon and will presumably be one for years to come.

Has Their Super Bowl Window Closed Or Not?

In the end, despite another season of heartbreak, Saints fans should feel good about their Super Bowl window staying open. Nobody knows what is going to happen this offseason, and that creates some mystery about this question. The Saints have an astounding 27 players whose contracts are expired. And obviously the big question mark still unanswered is the status of Brees. But should Brees decide to come back, this Saints team should have one more shot left in them to win it all.

 

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