The New Orleans Saints will cut their roster to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET Saturday. Here's a projection:
Bridgewater will be the primary backup in 2019. But Hill’s impressive development makes it feel like more of an open competition to be Brees’ long-term successor.
Undrafted rookie Devine Ozigbo has shown some nice flashes. But Washington has drawn praise from Sean Payton and plays a primary role on special teams.
FULLBACK (1): Zach Line.
It’s a part-time role in New Orleans’ offense, but Line has been one of the NFL’s better fullbacks since arriving two years ago.
Harris, an undrafted rookie from Division II Assumption College, is one of those great Cinderella stories who could become the Saints’ top kick returner. The electrifying 5-foot-6, 170-pounder looks like he’s going to break one every time -- and he finally did with a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown Saturday night against the Jets. Harris hasn’t been perfect this summer -- he actually fumbled (and recovered) a kickoff return earlier in Saturday’s game, and Payton corrected him for misplaying a punt a week earlier. But the ceiling is too high to resist for Harris, who set the NCAA all-division record with 14 career TD returns.
I also have undrafted rookie Butler making the roster after an impressive summer. But this position is loaded with tough decisions from returning players Kirkwood and Carr to intriguing youngsters like Butler, Harris, Cyril Grayson Jr., Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Simmie Cobbs Jr.
I hate cutting rookie seventh-round draft pick Alize’ Mack because of his enticing potential. But he missed some valuable time early in camp with an injury and could be a practice squad candidate. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see recently signed veteran A.J. Derby make the team. Arnold has had some highs and lows, but I still have him on the right side of the bubble.
I’m cheating here, since I don’t have a backup offensive tackle. But I needed the roster spot, and I don’t think the Saints are ready to give up on any of their three backup guard/center types in Easton, Tom and Clapp. Veteran Marshall Newhouse seemed to be the leading contender for the backup tackle job before he missed the past week with an unspecified injury. Maybe he is healthy enough to stick -- or perhaps the Saints will consider adding a tackle that gets cut by another team.
I could see the Saints scouring the waiver wire for some added depth here -- especially if Edwards’ unspecified injury is expected to keep him out in Week 1. Rankins returned from the physically unable to perform list on Monday, but it’s hard to imagine him being ready to play in Week 1. And his top backup, David Onyemata, will be serving a one-game suspension. Veterans Ziggy Hood and Geneo Grissom and undrafted rookie Shy Tuttle are among those who could also make the cut for at least one week until Onyemata is back.
I also considered newly signed veteran Will Compton and young hopefuls Porter Gustin and Colton Jumper here. Their odds will increase if Robertson isn’t going to be back from an unspecified injury by Week 1.
Robinson could wind up being the Saints’ biggest surprise cut this summer, since he hasn’t been able to beat out Williams for the starting nickelback job and isn’t a core special-teams player. But for now, I still have him making the team as an experienced insurance policy.
I know I’ll also probably kick myself for leaving safety J.T. Gray off this list, since he has been playing a key role on special teams all summer. I like Gray’s chances even better if rookie sixth-round draft pick Hampton isn’t going to be healthy enough to start the season.
I also left off veteran Marcus Sherels, whom the Saints signed to be their new punt returner in free agency before he got derailed by a training camp injury (and before Harris emerged). And I left off experienced cornerbacks like Ken Crawley and Kayvon Webster. Needless to say, the Saints have some tough choices to make here.
On the flip side, the Saints have no tough choices to make here.