The final whistle has sounded at the Caesars Superdome, signaling the end of the New Orleans Saints’ third preseason game and the start of a hurried rush to trim down their roster. The NFL’s roster cuts deadline is Tuesday at 3 p.m. CT, and the Saints must thin out their depth chart from 89 names to just 53.
It’s a difficult process. A few players will get second chances around the league and some may return to New Orleans’ practice squad, but for many guys this is the end of their pro football dreams. It’s not something to be taken lightly.
Nothing new here. Haener isn’t ready to supplant Winston as the QB2.
Running backs (3)
Injuries have kept Merritt and Williams from showing what they can do, so they’ll both have to hope to catch on with the practice squad for a longer audition. The top three running backs should be able to get through three games without Kamara.
Prentice has done everything asked of him at a high level. He’s safe.
Tight ends (4)
This is a talented group; Graham proved he still belongs in the league with a couple of big catches against the Texans’ first-team secondary on Sunday night.
Wide receivers (5)
The Saints aren’t ready to move on from Smith, apparently, so the smart play is to keep him on the roster for a day and then move him to injured reserve (which is what the NFL requires) so he can return later this season. That reopens the door for Kirkwood or Davis to come back after a temporary absence.
Offensive tackles (3)
The Saints could pull the same temporary-release move with Young; if Young’s knee injury is going to keep him out of a few games, it’s a better plan to start him out on injured reserve until he’s ready to play, though it means Norton or Kidd would test waivers first.
Offensive guards/centers (6)
Roster cuts: No. 73 Max Garcia (center), No. 65 Alex Pihlstrom (rookie, center), No. 62 Tommy Kraemer (left guard), No. 68 Mark Evans II (rookie, right guard)
Hurst has played really well after moving back to guard, where he lined up with the Baltimore Ravens earlier in his career; Peat has struggled after missing most of training camp with an injury. Demoting Peat to a backup role could be good for his durability concerns. Garcia is a tempting veteran to retain but there should be room for him on the practice squad.
Special teams (3)
Grupe and Hedley gave it a great try but neither of them could replace the experienced specialists ahead of them.
Defensive ends (5)
Adding a veteran like free agent Carlos Dunlap or Chicago Bears trade target Trevis Gipson is tempting, but the Saints appear to be happy with this group and to their credit young guys like Turner and Foskey are trending in the right direction.
Defensive tackles (4)
No surprises here. Roach’s roster spot looked to be in jeopardy early this summer but he’s thrived in the rotation.
Connelly is another injured veteran who could initially make the cut, go to injured reserve, and return later this year, but we’ll see. His season may be over altogether. Baun hasn’t shown enough to ward off younger athletes like Orji and Jackson but the Saints will probably roster him anyway.
This is the strength of the team. The Saints have so many different skill sets at safety that they should be able to cover up deficiencies at other position groups. Abram should stick around on the practice squad and be a regular game day activation.
It doesn’t appear Taylor beat Adebo to start outside, and he’s been exposed too often in the slot to replace Roby there. But he’s still an ascending talent and the Saints are very fortunate to have him coming off the bench in a pinch. They’ll get creative and find ways for him to play each week.