It’s been a hard summer for the New Orleans Saints, with players battling through the Louisiana heat at training camp and competing hard for the few roster spots available in their three preseason games.
But that’s all behind us now. Like every other team around the NFL, the Saints must trim their roster down to just 53 names by Tuesday’s 3 p.m. CT deadline. We’ve made our best guess at who those 53 players might be, but which projected cuts were most difficult? Let’s break it down while we wait for the Saints to make their own moves:
We finally saw some of the potential in Krull fulfilled in the final preseason game, where he showed off impressive speed in the open field and an ability to fight for contested catches. But it’s too little too late, and there isn’t room for him behind Juwan Johnson, Foster Moreau, Jimmy Graham, and Taysom Hill. Another year of seasoning on the practice squad could be good for his continued development.
All Kirkwood has done this summer is quietly show up to work, do everything his coaches ask of him, and play well when the ball flows his way. So it really hurts to cut him for a receiver who hasn’t practiced in a month due to an injury (Tre’Quan Smith), even if it’s only temporary. Kirkwood has earned his roster spot through and through.
WR Shaquan Davis
Same thing as with Kirkwood; Davis ended the summer on a high note by dominating several practice sessions and competing hard in the preseason games, but there are only so many roster spots to go around, and the coaches can’t seem to quit rostering Smith despite his limitations. Maybe Davis could have a Juwan Johnson-style rise by returning to the practice squad and working to develop his overall game, though something as drastic as a position-switch feels unlikely.
Garcia has NFL experience at guard, but he’s been a solid backup center in New Orleans, and there’s a convincing argument to be made that he deserves a roster spot. There just isn’t really room for him with guys like Andrus Peat and Calvin Throckmorton in the middle of the depth chart. He could return to the practice squad but his strong preseason game tape might open other opportunities around the NFL.
PK Blake Grupe
Grupe has become a bit of a fan-favorite by consistently sending his kicks right down the middle of the uprights — at least until he was tasked with trying one from 60 yards, which drifted too far right on him (though he put enough leg into it). He’ll get calls around the league upon reaching waivers but don’t bet on the Saints trading him. Rookie kickers rarely draw serious trade offers.
Lalos picked up where he left off in the final preseason game, helping to clean up a couple of busted plays and getting after the Texans quarterbacks. It’s just not enough at a position group flooded with high draft picks. He’d be a great player to bring back on the practice squad if he clears waivers, putting him in position as the next man up should injury sideline someone higher up the depth chart.
Really all three of the backup interior linemen have made a case for themselves — not just Cage, but Jack Heflin and Prince Emili too. But the top of the depth chart is all but set in stone. Cage has done really well in run defense late in these preseason games and he blew up a couple of plays against Houston. Maybe he’s worth stashing on the scout team for a year.
It shouldn’t be this hard for the Saints to move on from Baun. They have other linebackers who do just as much on special teams as he does while being much better fits defensively. Dennis Allen still isn’t eager to let Baun rush the quarterback, meaning Jaylon Smith is playing ahead of him because he can move well in coverage, meaning they’re continuing to get little return out of a player they traded up for and then mishandled for years. It’s frustrating and a disservice to Baun’s talents. He should be traded somewhere he’ll get to play rather than just take up a roster spot like in New Orleans.
CB Anthony Johnson
Johnson started to put some things together in the last preseason game, in particular doing a better job positioning himself to fight at the catch point. There are just so few spots to go around in the crowded Saints secondary. He’s an ideal young player to bring back on the practice squad and develop into a contributor over the next year.