New Orleans Saints Executive Vice President and General Manager Mickey Loomis said, absolutely, the Saints will be in a challenging salary cap situation this offseason.
But it won't be the first time for the Saints, who have navigated choppy cap situations in the past as they've managed to win four consecutive NFC South Division titles and 49 regular-season games from 2017-20.
"For sure it's going to be challenging and yet, I don't want to speculate as to how challenging it's going to be until we have a better understanding of what's going to be available, not just for this year but even for the year after," Loomis said Wednesday from Mobile, Ala. He and Saints personnel are there to evaluate players participating in the Senior Bowl.
"So I can't really answer that question other than to say yeah, it's going to be daunting. I think it's going to be daunting for a majority of teams in our league."
Possibly, the cap could remain around the $198 million mark that it was for the 2020 season. However, projections are that it could shrink to $175 million, with revenues having declined due to Covid-19 reducing attendance at stadiums across the league. Still, the Saints have remained proactive from the standpoint of projecting scenarios that would be applicable.
"I would say we have a framework of things we know we can do and whether we need to do them, and to what extent remains to be seen," Loomis said. "We've thought about the different levels that we'll have to deal with."
All of those levels suggest that the Saints won't be dialing back on the commitment to contend.
"We've got a great roster, and I can't foresee a circumstance where we're not going to say, 'We're going to do everything we can to win, win now and compete for a championship,' " Loomis said. "But again, it's difficult to really get into specifically what we need to do until we get more information."
As for Mobile, and scouting, the information process the team is undertaking is substantially different than in past years, due to Covid limitations.
"It's a limit of 10 (people) per club, so we've got our 10," Loomis said. "It's primarily our college scouting staff and myself, (assistant GM/college scouting director) Jeff Ireland, some of our area scouts and then our national scouts.
"That's a little different. Typically, if available, the coaches are all here with us, we bring a big contingent because of the proximity and we want to support Mobile and support the Senior Bowl as well. But this year because of the Covid restrictions, we're limited to 10 people.
"It's been a tough year for our college scouting staff because they've been very limited in what they can do. They can't really do any on-campus visits this past year. They can go to games, but really they're limited in the sense that they can't go into the football offices and visit with players and coaches, on-campus visits. That has to be done virtually, and a lot of film study as well. It's been considerably different."
Loomis addressed several other topics, including:
QUARTERBACK DREW BREES:
"I don't think it's a lot different than last year in that we'll wait for him. But we've got a lot of other planning to do. Look, there's more unknowns right now than there are knowns, in the sense that we don't yet know what the cap is going to be next year. Even a narrow range, we don't have yet. We've got a lot of planning to do. We haven't completed our roster evaluations from last season, so at this point in time there are more unknowns than there are knowns."
FREE AGENT DEFENSIVE END TREY HENDRICKSON:
"Trey had a great season, a breakout season for him (a career high 13.5 sacks) and obviously he's going to be an attractive free agent for anyone. But that's all part of the planning process. Part of that has to do with certainly we would want him back, but I can't really say how strong a play we can make for that until I understand where the cap is going to be this year, and as we go through the roster evaluations and start making our choices."
COMPENSATORY PICKS FOR FONTENOT:
Loomis said he doesn't yet know the total number of compensatory picks that the Saints will receive, but that he expects the two compensatory third-round picks associated with the Atlanta Falcons hiring Terry Fontenot as general manager. Fontenot was the Saints' director of pro scouting. The NFL incentivized development of minority staff members and provided a reward, in the form of compensatory picks, in the event that a minority candidate is hired by another franchise. "I think it's final," Loomis said of the Fontenot picks. "I'm not sure what the process is, but certainly he qualified and I'm expecting that."