New Orleans Saints depth chart: Defense sees big investments

Middle linebacker Demario Davis was the Saints' biggest signing in free agency. Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

With free agency and the draft completed, and OTAs and minicamps scheduled for the next month and a half, here's a closer look at the depth chart for the New Orleans Saints:


Note: Starters in bold

Quarterback (3): Drew Brees, Taysom Hill, Tom Savage

The backup battle should be one of the more fascinating summer storylines after the Saints let veteran Chase Daniel go in free agency. Sean Payton is apparently so enamored with Hill's dual-threat potential that he told Fox (Sports) last year that Hill could be Brees' successor -- even though he didn't join the Saints until after he was cut by the Packers as an undrafted rookie last September.

Running back (6): Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara, Trey Edmunds, Boston Scott, Jonathan Williams, Daniel Lasco

Fullback (1): Zach Line

The Saints made history at this position last season, with Ingram and Kamara becoming the first duo to each surpass 1,500 yards from scrimmage in the same season. Ingram is heading into the final year of his contract, though. The Saints drafted Scott in the sixth round to add depth and audition for a bigger role in the future.

Wide receiver (11): Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr., Cameron Meredith, Tre'Quan Smith, Brandon Coleman, Tommylee Lewis, Austin Carr, Travin Dural, Josh Huff, Dan Arnold, Paul Turner

No position got a bigger overhaul this offseason, with the Saints adding Meredith in free agency and Smith in Round 3 of the draft, and letting Willie Snead go. Meredith has tremendous upside as the potential No. 2 receiver, but his health is a big question mark after a major 2017 knee injury.

Tight end (6): Benjamin Watson, Coby Fleener, Josh Hill, Michael Hoomanawanui, Garrett Griffin, Alex Ellis

This was arguably the biggest need the Saints didn't address in the draft (and where they missed out on top free-agent target Jimmy Graham). But they still have plenty of veteran depth to lean on after signing Watson late in free agency as a stopgap.

Tackle (5): Terron Armstead, Ryan Ramczyk, Jermon Bushrod, Rick Leonard, John Theus

Longtime starting right tackle Zach Strief retired after Ramczyk, a first-round pick last year, did a great job as his replacement. If left tackle Armstead can finally have a healthy season, the Saints' starters could match up with almost any team in the league.

Guard (6): Andrus Peat, Larry Warford, John Fullington, Landon Turner, Nate Theaker, Andrew Tiller

The Saints have one of the NFL's best duos here, too. Right guard Warford made his first Pro Bowl last season as an alternate, and left guard Peat could have easily joined him. The Saints lost valuable super-backup Senio Kelemete in free agency, but replaced him with the versatile Bushrod.

Center (3): Max Unger, Cameron Tom, Will Clapp

I'm going to sound like a broken record, but Unger is also one of the NFL's best centers (the Saints finished first in the NFL in yards per rush and yards per pass attempt last season). Tom and Clapp both have the potential to make the roster and develop into future replacements.


Defensive end (8): Cameron Jordan, Alex Okafor, Marcus Davenport, Trey Hendrickson, George Johnson, Hau'oli Kikaha, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Alex Jenkins

Jordan cemented himself as one of the NFL's elite defenders last season, being named first-team All-Pro for the first time. Okafor was very good, too, before tearing his Achilles. And the Saints went all-in on Davenport in the draft, trading next year's No. 1 pick to move up from No. 27 to 14. He's a bit raw, but the Saints are obviously sky-high on his potential.

Defensive tackle (6): Sheldon Rankins, Tyeler Davison, David Onyemata, Mitchell Loewen, Woodrow Hamilton, Devaroe Lawrence

The Saints toyed with adding an impact player here, visiting with Ndamukong Suh and Muhammad Wilkerson in free agency. They're a bit thin after not adding anyone, but ends Okafor and Hendrickson could slide inside on passing downs.

Linebacker (11): A.J. Klein, Demario Davis, Alex Anzalone, Manti Te'o, Craig Robertson, Nathan Stupar, Michael Mauti, Jayrone Elliott, Adam Bighill, Shayne Skov, Sae Tautu

Davis was the Saints' biggest free-agent signing, so he figures to be an every-down player. But it will be interesting to see if that turns Klein into a part-time player since they both project as middle linebackers in nickel formations. Anzalone showed nice potential as a rookie weakside linebacker last season, but injuries have plagued him.

Cornerback (11): Marshon Lattimore, Ken Crawley, Patrick Robinson, P.J. Williams, Natrell Jamerson, Kamrin Moore, Justin Hardee, Arthur Maulet, De'Vante Harris, Bradley Sylve, Mykkele Thompson

Lattimore (the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year) and Crawley both had breakout seasons in 2017. And the Saints added veteran nickelback Robinson in free agency, making this a solid group. They drafted Jamerson and Moore in Rounds 5 and 6, but both will likely make their biggest impact on special teams early.

Safety (5): Marcus Williams, Vonn Bell, Kurt Coleman, Chris Banjo, Rickey Jefferson

The Saints let former first-round draft pick Kenny Vaccaro go as a free agent, replacing him with Coleman, another veteran leader. Williams was another rookie breakout in 2017, and Bell is a solid third-year starter with potential for more growth.


Kicker (1): Wil Lutz

The Saints finally have stability at kicker after going through 11 in 11 years. Lutz capped his sophomore NFL season with two huge playoff kicks.

Punter (1): Thomas Morstead

The nine-year veteran and one-time Pro Bowler had one of the best seasons of his career in 2017, then signed a five-year contract extension.

Long-snapper (1): Zach Wood

Wood signed just days before the season started after the Saints had issues at the position all offseason. And he locked down the job nicely in his debut NFL season.

Kick returner: Lewis, Kamara, Scott

The Saints started using Kamara late in the season to give them a spark (including a 106-yard TD return in Week 17). But he might be too valuable to the offense to stay permanently in the role.

Punt returner: Ginn, Lewis

New Orleans could use a spark here after finishing 25th in the NFL in punt return average last season. Ginn has home-run potential, though, with four career punt returns for TDs and three career kickoff returns for TDs.