New Orleans Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis said Friday that the team will go through its player and staff evaluations next week, allowing time for the emotion that could affect them in the immediacy of a season's conclusion to be extracted.
But after a 7-10 season for the Saints, which encompassed five one-possession losses, don't expect the Saints to strip it to the studs and rebuild from the ground up.
"I don't think we're there by any stretch of the imagination," said Loomis, who confirmed that Dennis Allen will return as head coach next season. "We have a really good defense, with a lot of young core players on defense. We have some really good offensive players. Yeah, we've got holes. We do. But I don't think we're anywhere close to that, in my mind.
"Now is not the time for us to … we don't have any plans on blowing things up."
Loomis said mitigating factors – specifically, injuries – hampered the Saints' chances in 2022, but that several positives were gleaned from the experience.
"Obviously, we're disappointed in the end result, 7-10 wasn't what our expectations were coming into the season," he said. "We didn't make the playoffs, obviously we're not happy about that. And yet, I also thought there's a lot of really positive things that happened during the course of this season that gives me optimism going forward.
"We had a number of injuries that – you're expecting to have some injuries, but I think the volume that we had and the quality of the player, we lost a lot of starting players to injury during the course of the season. It's hard when you've got a new head coach, the quarterback is different, the play-caller is different. All those things that happen that normally, you have this continuity and all of a sudden, you can't establish any continuity because of the injuries. The guy is in and out of the lineup.
"And at the same time, there was a lot of young guys that stepped forward and got valuable experience and had an opportunity to develop, so there's some positives that come out of that as well. There's so many variables that happen that change a season from being maybe 11-6 to 7-10.
"We have to take a hard look at our roster, be honest with ourselves and be honest about what we can do and go forward with that. And we will. I think we do a good job of doing that on a year-to -year basis."
Loomis said that the stability that has become of staple of the franchise is something that he leans on.
"One of the things that we've had going for us for the past 15 years – whatever it's been – is stability," he said. "I think that's a commodity that's hard to come by in the NFL. I'm looking for stable, stability. Obviously, that starts with ownership and GM and head coach, having a core group of players that you nurture and develop. That's the attitude that we have and that's the process and that's the things that we believe in. I'm expecting to continue that."
THE PRICE FOR PAYTON: Loomis said that teams possibly vying for former Saints coach Sean Payton to become their next coach understand that there will be a price to pay. Payton stepped down after last season with three years remaining on his contract.
"We haven't settled on exactly what the compensation is going to be, but they're well aware that there's going to be compensation," Loomis said. "The reason I'm being a little bit coy about this is that it's going to be different for every team, because they have different things available to them. have such great respect for him (Payton), he's a close friend of mine, he's a great coach. I want the best for him. I do. We do, collectively as an organization. He gave everything that he could possibly give to the New Orleans Saints and took us to heights that the organization and the team never achieved before. So, I absolutely want the best for him.
"But I also recognize that his contract is a valuable asset to our club, and it's our duty to maximize that. I think between the quarterback of a team and the head coach, no one else impacts winning more than those two guys in any building. I know what he brings to the table and I know that's really valuable. It's our obligation to maximize that value, if he chooses to coach again within that time frame where we have those rights."
FIRST-ROUND PICKS: Despite the fact that the Saints currently do not have a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, having traded it to the Eagles, New Orleans doesn't believe it's in a bad position.
The Saints had two first-round picks in '22, receiver Chris Olave and offensive tackle Trevor Penning, and feels good about the haul. Olave led the team in receptions (72) and receiving yards (1,042) en route to becoming the third rookie in franchise history to top 1,000 receiving yards, and Penning will be a strong candidate to start at left tackle for the upcoming season.
"It's a little misleading to say we don't have a No. 1," Loomis said. "Well, we traded that, we got two No. 1s this year. I'm really happy with those two guys. Not happy that Trevor was injured and that slowed his progress, but I think we're really excited about Trevor and Chris as being part of our team."
CAP IT: Yes, the salary cap remains a challenge this offseason. That's nothing new for the Saints. "It's always been a challenge for us for the last five or six years, when you have a good team that's what happens," Loomis said. "We'll deal with it. It's always concerning, and yet, I think we do a good job of handling that.
"We've got to catch up. We've got to manage this back to the middle. That's been our plan all along, and the Covid year and the reduced cap and the reduced revenue and the smoothing out of all that has impacted that. But we have to make up for some of that."