Gluttons for punishment that you are, you submitted more questions for this week's New Orleans Saints mailbag. Glutton for punishment that I am, I answered 'em.
As usual, we tried to address every question submitted, although we may have skipped one or two if they were representative of another question. And, as usual, if your question wasn't selected, it wasn't due to a personal bias so, please, don't be discouraged and continue to submit.
Here we go…
@BlackandGoldFJ: Any chance Drew Brees restructures his cap hit into a bonus?
JD:Brees said before the season ended that he'd be willing to extend his contract, and Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis said the team will consider working with Brees in an effort to provide salary cap relief if it believes that is necessary. A Brees restructure isn't a magic bullet; it won't solve all of the Saints' salary cap pressures. But it would help give the team some breathing room (so, too, will the fact that the cap will be higher than the team projected) and, hopefully, ensure that Brees ends his career in a Saints uniform.
@TaylonFischer: Do you believe our lack of takeaways prevents us from winning more? If so, how can we generate more turnovers?
JD:Absolutely. One of the most telling statistics in football is takeaways; the team that generates the most in a game usually is the one that wins each week. The last two seasons, the Saints have generated 22 turnovers (this season) and 17 in 2014; Carolina led the league with 39 turnovers this season, and Houston posted a league-leading 34 in '14. Forcing turnovers means several things, all of them good – extra possessions for the offense, the defense gets off the field and stays fresher, the opponent perhaps becomes dispirited. Generating more isn't nearly as easy as it sounds, but there's a bit of coachspeak that applies: Population to the football helps. The more defenders around the ball, the better chance there is of one being able to pry it loose or deflect it. Sure, spectacular individual plays also account for forced turnovers but likely just as often, the second or third defender on the play is the one that forces the turnover. The Saints have to get to the ball better defensively in order to be able to take it away.
@BatesEC23:Can the Saints roll into 2016 with a killer instinct and motivation to win all games? Play Lights Out!
JD:Of course (what'd you think I was gonna say?). But, seriously, it's not like they lacked killer instinct and motivation in '15. It's not like the Saints – and every other team – aren't all that interested in winning each game. Anyone who puts his body through what a professional athlete puts his body through in order to compete at the highest level isn't ambivalent to results; he wants to win. That's the reason New Orleans won three of its last four games, even though it was out of the playoff race. Obviously, the Saints will have to be better defensively in 2016 and they need better results in close games (four losses by eight or fewer points), but it's not as if those are unfathomable goals.
@Oddmarina: Will our defense get the work it needs for next season?
JD:It'll have an entire offseason to implement the system installed by defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. There was improvement in the final six games, and some not-so-subtle reminders of why the Saints were last in the league in points and yards allowed when Rob Ryan was relieved of his duties during the season. But having all offseason to smooth out some of the rough spots definitely should help. Allen will have time to see how the parts he has fits into his system.
@AyeronAlvarez: Do you believe the Saints are going to draft more defensive prospects again this year?
JD:That seems to be a safe assumption, and not just because several of the defensive members of the 2015 draft class worked out so well for the franchise (including linebackers Stephone Anthony and Hau'oli Kikaha, defensive tackle Tyeler Davison and cornerback Damian Swann). The defense still needs quality additions, and the draft is a good way to add talent (and don't forget, the team also has done well with undrafted rookies). Free agency additions could affect how much or little the Saints pursue defensive help in the draft, but it certainly won't be a surprise if they pick up some more defenders.
@hiiighbear: What position do you think we should draft?
JD:Possibly, that'll be contingent on who the Saints can pick up in free agency. If they're looking for a linebacker and are able to sign one as a free agent, there will be less of a need for them to draft a linebacker. After free agency ends, we all will have a better guess (emphasis on "guess") as to how the Saints might approach the draft.
@kysaintsfan:Will the Saints tackle better next year?
JD:The short answer is, "yes." Players likely would agree that it'll be better because at times last season, it couldn't have gotten much worse. It's not as if they don't practice and aren't willing. When coaches talk about taking the proper angle and about leverage, it's not just mumbo-jumbo. Those are things that players can execute better to help ensure better success. But it was a glaring deficiency last year, and improvement will be emphasized again this offseason.
@jakemargetanski:Do you think the Saints will be Super Bowl contenders in a few years?
JD:The Saints lost four games last season by eight points or less. That was the difference between an 11-win team and a seven-win team, and that's how fine the line is between a winning season and a losing season. The Saints believe they might have turned a corner at the end of the '15 season, when they won three of their final four. And if the defense can make strides and Drew Brees can stay at the top of his game – both are plausible beliefs – they can contend for the next few years. Having a top quarterback almost guarantees that the offense will be formidable, even though it hiccupped a few times last season, but a bit more complimentary football will go a long way toward the Saints improving on back-to-back 7-9 records.
@NHill: Do you see Saints keeping Luke McCown or giving the backup quarterback reigns to Garrett Grayson in his second year, like they did with Chase Daniel in 2010?
JD:After what McCown did on the road against Carolina in his first NFL start in years – 31 of 38 for 310 yards and an interception in a 27-22 loss – no one can doubt that he still has juice. And if Brees is injured and can't play, McCown has given his teammates reason to believe he's capable of leading them to a win, even against the league's best teams. So keeping him, and allowing Grayson another year to learn the offense, isn't such a bad idea.
@gilfagote:Is there any possibility to trade Brandon Browner with any other player in NFL?
JD:Sure, a trade always is possible. But every trade requires a partner, so if the Saints want to trade Browner or anyone else, they have to be able to find a team with whom they can consummate a trade. In other words, does another team want your asset, and is that team willing to provide you a reasonable offer in exchange for that asset?
@Authentic_Penn: Will the Saints finally bring out GOLD jerseys in the 2016 season?
JD:Can't help you on that one, my friend. Gold jerseys are really, really nice, but I don't think folks much mind what color the jerseys are as long as the team wearing them wins games and reaches the playoffs.