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John DeShazier: New Orleans Saints Mailbag

Senior writer for answers your questions

Photos of the Saints 2016 rookies touring the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. (New Orleans Saints photos)

As usual, we appreciate the submissions this week and encourage you to do the same in the future. With that said, here we go:

‏@datwhodat1965: Where's the stud fullback, the position the New Orleans Saints were known for drafting (Hokie Gajan, Craig Heyward, Lorenzo Neal)?

JD:Austin Johnson has played 17 games, with two starts, for the Saints over the last two seasons. These Saints run the football less frequently than did the Saints teams associated with the aforementioned fullbacks, but these Saints also move the ball and score more prolifically than did any of those teams.

@mdye3755_dye: Will our defense get us in the playoffs this year?

JD:If the Saints reach the playoffs this year, it'll be because the defense improved over the previous two seasons.

‏@DATWHODAT48: Earlier this week, the Saints cut a kicker (Josh Scobee) and decided to stay with Kai Forbath. Are we looking to sign an undrafted rookie or a veteran?

JD:Good question, which the team appears to have answered before I could post the mailbag. Training camp competition should be fierce.

‏@cupcake_tucker: When will single-game tickets be available for purchase?

JD:Try NFL Ticket Exchange during game week. The team generally does not make public single-game tickets.

‏@brees4l1fe: Why are the Saints paying Drew Brees $30 million?

‏@theriot5150: I guess I was right about the Saints paying Drew Brees 30 million this year!

JD:First, Drew Brees will not be paid $30 million this year. His salary cap number is $30 million and his actual salary is around $20 million; some people seem to believe there's no distinction, but there is. Second, he'll be paid his salary – and will carry his salary cap number – if his contract isn't renegotiated because the franchise believes he's worth those numbers. When he signed his extension, the Saints knew what his numbers would be and were prepared to live with them if his contract could not be renegotiated.

‏@thegutsysleeper: Do you feel this is Drew Brees' last year in Black and Gold? Gut feeling.

JD:No, I don't. I think a new deal will be struck between Brees and the Saints. This city, franchise, coaching staff and offense have been a good blend with his skills on and off the field.

@MavrikM221:Is there an opportunity for the Saints to pick up a veteran receiver like Anquan Boldin? I think he still has something left in the tank.

JD:I'm beginning to think Boldin's agent is behind the frequent queries, because there seems to be one every week. If the Saints are interested in Boldin, they might as well bring back Marques Colston, their all-time leading receiver who knows the system and probably has as much left in his tank as Boldin does.

‏@Zarelli: I know it's early, but what players are on the proverbial bubble? What positions on the team look like the deepest, talent- and depth-wise? What are your thoughts on quarterback Garrett Grayson?

JD:Bubble players in May? Everyone's in play in May (although if the Saints keep four running backs, it'll be an interesting battle between Travaris Cadet and Willie Snead for a spot). The deepest spot on the team appears to be running back, and defensive tackle now looks to stack up pretty well with Nick Fairley, John Jenkins, Sheldon Rankins and Tyeler Davison. As for Grayson, we're all still collecting information. He's a third-round pick, so don't discount the fact that the Saints liked him enough to draft him that high, but our sample size is miniscule.

‏@chad_rowley: Have the Saints announced training camp schedules?

JD: Not yet. When they're announced, they'll be on

‏@UncleWreckum: Of all the recent draft picks, how many play in Week 1?

JD:There were five picks in this year's draft. Without them having played a single down or having earned a single NFL snap, I'll play along with your question: Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, receiver Michael Thomas and safety Vonn Bell are locks to play in the opener. Defensive end David Onyemata has a bigger learning curve, so maybe he's a situational guy in the opener. Running back Daniel Lasco has some long odds to make the team; he'll have to turn heads as a special teamer. That's just my opinion.

‏@AyeronAlvarez: Which rookie do you think is going to make the greatest impact once the season starts?

JD:Rankins plays a position of need and the scouting reports describe him as a disruptive force on the interior. So my money is on the first-rounder, but don't count out Thomas. Receivers in the Saints offense tend to put up nice numbers, and he's a big target who might get a lot of looks if defenses heavily concentrate on Drew Brees, which is a distinct possibility.

‏@gretaorat2: Is there a backup quarterback to play when our much loved Drew Brees isn't performing at his best? Another QB is a must.

JD:I'm sure Luke McCown will be glad to see you have so much faith in him. He's the Saints' backup, has been the last couple of seasons and played extremely well when called upon last season against the Panthers, when Brees missed his first game due to injury as a Saint. Behind McCown last season, and likely this season, is 2015 third-round pick Garrett Grayson. If you're looking for the "quarterback of the future," it may be Grayson.

@Mosschop49: What are your projections on who makes the Saints active roster at receiver and running back?

JD:We haven't yet even had a full team minicamp so beyond the "locks," we at least need to see what these guys look like in pads in a training camp practice before we start deducing who might stick. There are spots at receiver behind Cooks, Snead, Coleman and Thomas and the running back position has three that seem solid (Ingram, Spiller and Hightower) and two who may have to scuffle it out for the final spot (Cadet, Murphy). Let's wait to see what they look like; just as Snead and Hightower worked their way on to the roster last offseason, someone this year will do the same and there's a good possibility that there will be a surprise or two. But we'll get a better sense of it at training camp, more so than minicamp and offseason workouts.

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