Since free agency opened March 10, front offices around the league have been busy retooling rosters and preparing for the upcoming season. Here at CSNWashington.com, we’ve kept a watchful eye on the moves made by teams that appear on the Redskins’ 2015 schedule. Who’s gotten better? Who’s slipped a bit? Let’s take a closer look.
New Orleans Saints (Week 10)
2014 record: 7-9.
Key additions: RB C.J. Spiller (Bills), C Max Unger (Seahawks), LB Dannell Elerby (Dolphins), CB Brandon Browner (Patriots), WR Josh Morgan (Bears), LB Anthony Spencer (Cowboys), OT Andrus Peat (1st round pick/Stanford), LB Stephone Anthony (1st round pick/Clemson), LB Hau’oli Kikaha (2nd round pick/Washington) and CB Kyle Wilson (Jets).
Key departures: TE Jimmy Graham (Seahawks), LB Junior Galette (released Friday), K Shayne Graham (unsigned), WR Kenny Stills (Dolphins), G Ben Grubbs (Chiefs), LB Curtis Lofton (Raiders), CB Patrick Robinson (Chargers), C Jonathan Goodwin (unsigned) and RB Pierre Thomas (unsigned).
Key move: Following a hugely disappointing 7-9 season in a division that was totally winnable, the Saints decided to shake up the roster. Management’s biggest move was also their first: shipping tight end Jimmy Graham, a three-time Pro Bowler, and a fourth round pick to the Seahawks in exchange for center Max Unger and a first round pick. As surprising as the move was, it gave the Saints a two-time Pro Bowler (Unger) at a position of need, another first round selection and some much needed salary cap flexibility.
What it all means for the Redskins: Well, the Saints will certainly have a different look and feel in 2015. But are they better?
That’s hard to say right now.
We can, however, glean one thing from New Orleans' flurry of offseason moves: Coach Sean Payton wants a more ground-oriented attack, perhaps to take some pressure off 36-year-old quarterback Drew Brees, who remains elite but is starting to show slight signs of decline.
Which brings us to what figures to be the key matchup when the Saints come to town Nov. 15: Brees and Co. vs. the Redskins’ retooled defense.
With Max Unger anchoring an improved line, the Saints’ offense will revolve around Brees, wide receivers Marques Colston and Brandin Cooks and, more important, the one-two punch of running backs Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller, who spent the previous five seasons in Buffalo. Ingram had a breakout year in 2014, notching career highs in rushing yards (964) and attempts (226) and inked a four-year extension in March. Spiller, meantime, is the type of dual-threat back (a la Reggie Bush, Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas) that Payton has in the past used to exploit mismatches.
Sure, Graham is off to Seattle, eliminating a potential nightmare of a matchup. And Kenny Stills, the Saints' third most targeted receiver last season, is now in Miami. But just take one look at Brees’ new arsenal of weapons and you quickly realize that, on paper at least, the Saints' recalibrated attack could be just as dangerous as the one that ranked ninth in points last season.