The New Orleans Saints finished the 2021 season at 9-8 and out of the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Having won four out of their last five games during the regular season, it would prove too little, too late for a franchise struggling for an identity after the retirement of long-time quarterback Drew Brees.

One could say that the entire 2021 campaign for the Saints could be defined by one word: injuries. Superstar running back Alvin Kamara missed four games (all of which were losses for the Saints), starting quarterback jameis winston missed the second half of the season after tearing his ACL in Week 8  against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and stud wide receiver Michael Thomas would miss the entire season after having a pre-season set back on his surgically repaired ankle.

Injuries will certainly heal before the 2022 season, but other areas of the organization need serious attention if New Orleans is to return to playoff prominence. Below are three moves the Saints must make to get back to the top of the NFC South.

New Orleans Saints 2022 NFL Offseason

3. Saints must re-sign left tackle Terron Armstead

No matter if it’s Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill or the field at quarterback, the single most important thing to any signal-caller is the tackle who blocks his blindside. There are few better in the NFL than the Saints’ current left tackle Terron Armstead.

In addition to Armstead’s clear talent, his contract presents a unique situation. If Armstead isn’t extended prior to the new league year on March 16, he will become an unrestricted free agent, handcuffing $12.9 million in dead money to the Saints’ 2022 payroll. This dead money, in addition to the $12.4 million owed to the aforementioned Drew Brees and released running back Latavius Murray, accounts for 12% of the 2022 salary cap for the Saints.

Health aside, Armstead has been an anchor in New Orleans, making three straight Pro Bowls from 2018 to 2020 and putting on pass blocking clinics game in and game out. On the flip side, Armstead is 31 years old and has had a hard time staying on the field in recent years.

2. Do not use the franchise tag twice on Marcus Williams

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With Dennis Allen taking over as head coach for the departed Sean Payton, the Saints’ defense shouldn’t skip a beat heading into 2022. That is if they can bring back safety Marcus Williams.

Williams played on the franchise tag in 2021, and if the Saints were to place him under the tag again for the second season, it would cost the team nearly $13 million and likely damage any chances of signing the 25-year-old to a long-term deal. The two sides were close on a deal prior to tagging Williams last offseason, and his play in 2021 proved worthy of the $16 million-plus offer he’ll likely receive to stay with the team.

If the Saints can re-sign Williams, it would go hand-in-hand with the extension of superstar cornerback Marshon Lattimore, locking in at least 50% of the team’s secondary for the foreseeable future.

1. Trade for quarterback Russell Wilson

If you put any faith in the NFL rumor mill, New Orleans has been reported as one of the destinations that current Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson would consider waiving his no-trade clause to be traded to.

The Saints have a good defense in place and more than enough firepower to surround Wilson with on offense to remain in win-now mode. However, a trade for a star quarterback within the same conference would certainly be unorthodox by NFL standards.

The 33-year-old Wilson would bring instant pedigree to the Saints’ offense that, at times, looked lost without a veteran calling the plays. The seven-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion would be a plug-and-play fit for Pete Carmichael’s offense–one that was built around future Hall of Famer Drew Brees.

The addition of Wilson, who’s had his game compared to Brees for the entirety of his career, would propel the Saints into the conversation for not only NFC Championship contention, but Super Bowl contention.