The rundown: Saints’ time to shop is here

Beyond Jameis Winston, beyond Taysom Hill, beyond the top-end talent, the New Orleans Saints’ success is largely going to be defined by the middle class of the roster.

One of the things that we often talked about the last few years was how the team could overcome any injury, regardless of who went down. There were no secrets behind why that was possible. New Orleans had one of the deepest rosters in the league.

That probably isn’t going to be the case next season. New Orleans has lost a lot of depth the last few weeks and will probably see more leave in the future as players who are not currently under contract find new situations.

But it doesn’t have to be all bad. The player acquisition period for the Saints is just now beginning. With the first few waves of free agency over and some of the big-money teams spending their way out, opportunities should exist for New Orleans to get some players on cheaper deals.

Nick Vannett represented one of those opportunities, and cornerback T.J. Carrie, who recently visited the Saints, could represent another. These moves might not appear significant, but they can and will make a difference.

The Saints didn’t lose a lot of high-end talent during the path to cap compliance. Janoris Jenkins and Emmanuel Sanders both stung – Jenkins more so — but the cumulative effect is when it starts to hurt. Refilling the roster is important.

But what might be even more critical is plugging gaps and at least setting a floor at some of the areas of need. If New Orleans goes into the draft feeling it has to get a cornerback, linebacker, defensive tackle or whatever else, that is how mistakes get made. Carrie might not be Jenkins, and you probably want to do better, but he’d at least create enough depth to where the bottom wouldn’t fall out.

After a few weeks of silence, the talent acquisition has begun for the Saints. They have a lot to do but remaining competitive for a playoff spot is possible if they can build enough depth.

SCOUTING CARRIE

Carrie has bounced around the league the last few years and has played both cornerback and safety.

He’s been at cornerback the last few years and had a solid season last year playing on the outside for the Colts. Carrie finished the year with two interceptions and six passes defended. According to PFF, he allowed 24 receptions on 42 targets for 347 yards.

Carrie is probably a better zone cornerback than a man-to-man player, which would make him an interesting fit in this defense. The Saints like to use both coverages and mix things up. He can, however, play all over the field.

While Carrie played mostly outside last year, in 2019, he was more of a slot cornerback for Cleveland. The versatility could allow New Orleans to move him around the defense and play him in various roles.

His presence, if signed, would not guarantee anything. The Saints would likely enter the draft still looking for a high-end cornerback. If not, there would likely be some competition for the role between Carrie, Keith Washington, P.J. Williams and Patrick Robinson.

SCOUTING VANNETT

Vannett isn’t the type of player who is going to change your team. But he is the type of player that you’ll be glad is on your team.

Vannett looks like the type of tight end who is willing to do the dirty work. He blocks well in the running game and will make plays as a receiver when he’s open. There are a lot of things about him that make sense as a Josh Hill replacement.

I went through and watched a bunch of his games and there aren’t a whole lot of spectacular blocking plays where he’s way down the field leading the charge. He’s more of a steady, consistent player, which is all the Saints need out of that position.

I’m going to share a couple of clips here. He’s No. 88. Nothing that stands out too much. Just a guy getting things done.

I like this signing because I think it will free up Adam Trautman to be a little more detached from a specific spot and allow him to move around the formation in two-tight end sets. The second-year player had some real highlights as a receiver last year. Now, he needs to add to his volume.

Vannett will likely be a guy who finishes with a handful of catches, but others’ success will quantify his value.

LATTIMORE ARREST

Marshon Lattimore was arrested in Cleveland on Thursday for allegedly being in possession of a stolen handgun. Police took him into custody for receiving stolen property and failure to notify. Three other people in the car also got arrested.

He was later charged with receiving stolen property, which is a fourth-degree felony. Lattimore made bail on Friday.

We’ll let the legal process play out before commenting on anything relating to that front. As far as football goes, this situation throws a significant wrench into Lattimore’s contract negotiations. If this accusation doesn’t get immediately cleared up and dropped, you have to think that it will create difficulties.

How do you decide how to commit to someone with this lingering? How does it impact Lattimore’s value? Does it affect his value even if the case gets dropped?

These are questions that need to get answered. Perhaps there is minimal impact on the proceedings. But these aren’t the kind of things you want to come up when deciding whether to sign someone to a $100 million contract.

Hopefully this is a misunderstanding that will get cleared up quickly, which is how Lattimore’s attorney classified the situation in a statement provided to Cleveland.com.

“Mr. Lattimore, a proud Cleveland native with no prior criminal record or history, is fully cooperating with law enforcement’s investigation of this matter,” the statement said. “He was a passenger in a vehicle that was stopped by police and was arrested without incident and was not formally charged. We believe that this was a misunderstanding, and that this will become even clearer as new information becomes available and is shared with the authorities.”

CAP TRICKS

Shared this on Twitter this week. Posting again if you missed it.

Here’s a little cap move the Saints did with Emmanuel Sanders’ help. Sanders had a $2 million roster bonus that was subject to offsets. If the Saints cut him before March 17, the money would have gone on their 2020 cap until he signed elsewhere. They couldn’t afford that amount of money, even if it was just temporary.

The Saints still would have gotten the full balance back once Sanders signed in Buffalo, but they needed the space to be cap compliant before then. Sanders was told he was being released, which allowed him to line up a deal with Buffalo.

Once that was set, he renegotiated his deal with the Saints to remove the roster bonus in exchange for a $100,000 signing bonus. He was then officially cut the same day. This allowed the Saints to be cap compliant and let Sanders come out $100,000 ahead.

If you’re curious about how offsets work, basically the contract stipulates that the Saints are not responsible for the $2 million if Sanders gets it from another team. But, say, he receives $1.5 million, then the Saints would be responsible for only $500,000.

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