GM says New Orleans Saints aren't going into rebuilding mode during offseason

MOBILE, Ala. -- General manager Mickey Loomis acknowledged this will be a "daunting" offseason for the New Orleans Saints, who will likely need to replace Drew Brees at quarterback and could be close to $100 million over the salary cap.

But Loomis made it clear that the Saints aren't going into rebuilding mode after winning the past four NFC South titles.

"Listen, we've got a great roster. And I can't foresee a circumstance where we're not going to say, 'Man, we're gonna do everything we can to win -- win now and compete for a championship,'" Loomis said during a videoconference with the media while attending the Senior Bowl.

He didn't get into many specifics, saying there are still "more unknowns than there are knowns" at this point in the calendar, including:

  • No official word yet on whether Brees will indeed retire as he takes time to decompress with his family after his 20th season.

  • No official word on just how low the salary cap will drop after lost revenues from the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The cap could drop as low as $175 million per team after it was $198.2 million in 2020, though it could be higher.

  • The Saints have not yet finished their in-house player evaluations.

So it's too soon to say whether the Saints will try to re-sign pending free agents such as quarterback Jameis Winston, safety Marcus Williams, defensive end Trey Hendrickson, defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins and tight end Jared Cook -- or whether they could get into the market for a high-priced QB like Matthew Stafford or any others that become available via trade.

"All that evaluation and what happens with that still remains to be seen," Loomis said. "We like [quarterback Taysom Hill]. We like Jameis. We liked what they did for us. But just like any position, we're going to have a lot of discussion over the next week or two."

The Saints are currently projected to have $277.8 million in salary-cap charges for 2021 with just 43 salaries on the roster, according to ESPN's Roster Management System. However, they could save at least $13.5 million in cap space -- and possibly more -- if Brees retires. And they have been one of the most aggressive teams in the NFL for years when it comes to pushing cap costs into future seasons. So they could continue to do that if they want to keep as much of the current roster intact as possible.

For years, it seemed like the Saints would "catch up" with the salary cap and maybe go into rebuilding mode whenever Brees retired. But then they reloaded a championship-caliber roster around him with terrific draft classes in 2016 and 2017 that included stars such as receiver Michael Thomas, running back Alvin Kamara, cornerback Marshon Lattimore, offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk, Williams, Hendrickson and Rankins.

One major decision facing the Saints is whether they want to extend pending 2022 free agents such as Lattimore, Hill and offensive tackles Ramczyk and Terron Armstead. Another would be whether they would consider any blockbuster trades to free up cap space and add draft picks like they did with stars Jimmy Graham and Brandin Cooks in the past.

"Look, for sure it's going to be challenging," Loomis said of the salary cap. "And yet I don't want to speculate as to how challenging it's going to be until we have a better understanding of what's going to be available -- not just for this year, but even for the year after. So I can't really answer that question other than to say, yeah, it's going to be daunting. I think it's going to be daunting for a majority of teams in our league."