Sean Payton recently stepped down after 16 years as the head coach of the New Orleans Saints, paving the way for his longtime defensive coordinator to be promoted as the successor. Dennis Allen earned his second opportunity to call the shots coming eight years after he lasted served as the head coach of the then-Oakland Raiders.
Allen, 49, entered the NFL coaching ranks in 2002 under Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Reeves. He has since coached exclusively on the defensive side of the ball, although it is unclear if Allen will continue to call plays as the head man. Saints defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen and secondary coach Kris Richard have been promoted to operate as co-defensive coordinators for the Saints, also keeping their respective roles.
His offensive coordinator will be Pete Carmichael, a retaining a position he has held for 13 straight seasons with the Saints.
No Payton, no worries? Not quite, but it isn’t all gloom and doom. Having three seasons as a head coach under Allen’s belt will help ease the transition, and the “Carmichael continuity” factor should not be underestimated.
There’s not really too much that will change in terms of the system itself, but the newest aspect will be Carmichael as the full-time play-caller. He handled those chores at times in 2011, 2012 and 2016 to varying degrees.
A great deal of how Carmichael opts to call plays in 2022 comes down to the players at his disposal. Look at how Payton shifted to lean more on Alvin Kamara in 2021 without Drew Brees under center as an example of adaptation. It’s a prime example of how this could work under Carmichael, too, because figuring out the identity of his eventual starting quarterback is the No. 1 task at hand.
Should the Saints settle on the gadgety-gimmick named Taysom Hill, we can expect to see a system that is tailored to his strengths (more running, less passing, forced decisions). However, if Jameis Winston returns in free agency, Carmichael has much more latitude with what he can do to open up the playbook in what would be the quarterback’s second year in the system.
The Saints have the least cap space in the NFL at this time, and only three rosters are older, on average. There are several ways to restructure and gain serious financial freedom, so it may seem damning to be $48 million over the cap. It’s not the best spot to be in for a team that claims to be retooling and not tearing it down to rebuild from the ground up.
Achieving cap space can be done by restructuring or terminating burdensome deals belonging to CB Marshon Lattimore, DE Cameron Jordan, RB Alvin Kamara, QB Taysom Hill, CB Bradley Roby, DT David Onyemata, DE Marcus Davenport, RB Mark Ingram, LB Demario Davis, PK Wil Lutz and FS Malcolm Jenkins.
Aside from quarterback desperately needing to be resolved, a second running back is a must as Ingram just isn’t getting the job done at his age, and Kamara could be suspended multiple games for his alleged role in a felony battery.
Depth at wide receiver is paramount, and tight end could be addressed as the two promising youngsters on roster struggled to get it going in 2021. Wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith is an impending free agent, and it’s doubtful he returns.
Starting left tackle Terron Armstead figures to walk, too. On defense, free safety Marcus Williams avoided the franchise tag for what would have been the second straight season, and he will hit the open market. Linebacker Kwon Alexander and cornerback P.J. Williams also are set to hit free agency.
Fantasy football takeaway
This area will remain unsettled until we have an answer at quarterback and know more about Kamara’s legal situation. His utility directly relies on the QB under center, and the same can be said for Thomas at wideout.
At this point, there’s no single player who has a 100 percent defined role also presents a clear-cut fantasy valuation. There are more than enough “ifs” and “buts” to be thrown around, so we’ll spare you for now … check back after the upcoming draft for an in-depth update.