The New Orleans Saints open 2020 NFL training camp on July 28 at their home practice facility in Metairie, Louisiana. Here’s a closer look at a few storylines:
Can Drew Brees make peace with teammates, then ride off into the sunset with a Super Bowl win?
Brees always was going to be the Saints’ biggest storyline this year as he heads into his 20th NFL season at age 41, hoping to earn one more Super Bowl ring after three straight gut-wrenching playoff losses. Although Brees has never made any official statement about retirement plans, coach Sean Payton hinted in the spring that this could potentially be Brees’ last season. And the quarterback already has a post-playing career lined up as a broadcaster for NBC.
But Brees became even more of a training camp focus in early June when his comments against “disrespecting the flag” during the national anthem created widespread backlash and criticism from several teammates. Brees has apologized, admitting he “completely missed the mark.” He vowed to be an “ally” for the Black community in the fight for racial equality and social justice. Teammates have publicly embraced Brees’ apology and efforts. But it remains to be seen if any of that divisiveness will linger into camp or into the season when more players might choose to kneel during the anthem.
The backup QB battle might be more fascinating in New Orleans than anywhere else in the league -- both because of Brees’ age and because the candidates are so compelling. The Saints truly believe in Hill’s potential as a future starter, even though he has attempted only 15 passes in his three-year career, including the playoffs. That’s why they signed him to a two-year, $21 million contract extension this offseason.
But as Payton said, they are now in the “quarterback business” as they search for Brees’ successor. So they pounced at the chance to sign Winston, the 2015 No. 1 overall pick, to a one-year, $1.1 million deal as he tries to revive his career. Winston gives the Saints a safety net at the position so they can continue to use Hill in his versatile and vital role as a QB/RB/TE/WR without worrying about the injury risk.
Alvin Kamara shows off his intense workout, combining balance and hand-eye coordination.
Will Alvin Kamara receive a big extension -- or try to earn an even bigger one?
The Saints’ dynamic running back is heading into the final year of his rookie deal after amassing 2,408 rushing yards, 2,068 receiving yards and 38 touchdowns over his first three seasons. It’s possible he could sign a new long-term deal before the season kicks off (like teammate Michael Thomas did last summer). But it’s unknown if Kamara will consider holding out from camp to make that happen (like Thomas did). Unfortunately for Kamara, he had his least productive season in 2019, thanks to knee and ankle injuries that plagued him for the final three months. So he could consider playing out this season and proving he deserves a megadeal in the range of 2017 draft classmate Christian McCaffrey.
Is the addition of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders enough to push Saints over the playoff hump?
The Saints didn’t have to make many changes to their roster after back-to-back 13-3 seasons. But receiver was their most glaring need after a lack of reliable pass-catchers beyond Thomas and Kamara really bit them in their past two playoff losses. Tight end Jared Cook was a nice addition last year. But Sanders feels like an even bigger boost as a stellar route runner who can work the middle of the field. He should be a go-to guy for Brees, who feasts on short and intermediate passes.
Do the Saints have enough pass-rushers?
It’s possible the Saints still could make a late run at an edge rusher since so many good ones remain on the market. Otherwise, they will rely greatly on the health of defensive end Marcus Davenport and defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins -- two former first-round picks whose careers have been slowed by injuries. The Saints have one of the best edge rushers in the NFL in veteran Cameron Jordan. But the only significant pass-rusher they added this offseason was third-round draft pick Zack Baun, who will be making the transition from edge rusher at Wisconsin to 4-3 linebacker in the NFL.