Eagles trade: How bad will Saints be in 2023?


The Eagles and Saints pulled off a major trade on Monday, swapping several picks less than a month before the 2022 draft.

For the Eagles, the centerpiece of the return is a 2023 first-round pick that will give them some flexibility this time next year with two selections in the first round.

Here’s a full look at the terms of the trade:

Eagles get: No. 18, No. 101, No. 237, 2023 1st round pick, 2024 2nd round pick

Saints get: No. 16, No. 19, No. 194

Aside from the pick swap this year, this really means that Eagles fans will get to root against the Saints in 2022. The worse they perform, the better that 2023 first-round pick will be. It’s kind of like following the Colts last year without having to monitor snap counts for one player. This one is simpler: Just root for the Saints to stink.

And there’s a decent chance the Saints aren’t very good in 2023, despite what one of their best players thinks.

Last year, in Sean Payton’s final season as their head coach, the Saints went 9-8 to finish second in the NFC South but still missed the playoffs. They were 5-7 last year before winning four of their last five games. The Eagles beat the Saints 40-29 last November.

The over/under

Despite winning nine games in 2021, the Saints’ over/under win total for 2022 is sitting at 7.5, according to PointsBet. (For reference, the Eagles are at 8.5.)

Over 7.5: -130

Under 7.5: +110

Here’s a look at the over/under numbers for the other teams in the NFC South: Buccaneers (11.5), Panthers (6.5), Falcons (5.5). While there are a couple weaker teams in their division, the Bucs are still clearly the favorite to repeat.

 

The four teams that finished with 7 wins in 2021 are drafting from Nos. 8-11 in the 2022 draft. The three teams with 8 wins in 2021 are drafting from Nos. 12-14.

Pick 8. Atlanta: 7-8
Pick 9. Denver (SEA): 7-10
Pick 10. Seattle (NYJ): 7-10
Pick 11. Washington: 7-10
Pick 12. Minnesota: 8-9
Pick 13. Cleveland (HOU): 8-9
Pick 14. Baltimore: 8-9

So if the Saints finish around where the over/under total has them, the Eagles would likely be looking at a pick in that 8-14 range.

Strength of schedule

Here’s a look at the Saints’ opponents in 2022:

Home: Falcons, Panthers, Bucs, Rams, Seahawks, Ravens, Bengals, Raiders, Vikings

Road: Falcons, Panthers, Bucs, Cardinals, Browns, Steelers, 49ers, Eagles

Of their 14 opponents, seven (Bucs, Rams, Bengals, Raiders, Cardinals, 49ers, Eagles) made the playoffs in 2021.

Based on final records in 2021, the Saints have the seventh-toughest schedule in the NFL. Their opponents went 152-136-1 (.528) last season. Based on 2021 win percentage, here are the 10 toughest schedules in 2022:

1. Rams: .567
2. Cardinals: .543
3. Bengals: .536
4. Buccaneers: .535
t-5. 49ers: .533
t-5. Chiefs: .533
t-7. Raiders: .528
t-7. Saints: .528
9. Falcons: .524
10. Chargers: .519

Of course, using win totals from the 2021 season might not be the most accurate way to gauge how tough a schedule is the following season.

Based on projected win totals of their opponents, Sharp Football says the Saints have the 15th-toughest schedule in 2022. So middle of the pack.

New coach

After the 2021 season, Payton decided to step down as the Saints’ head coach and New Orleans promoted defensive coordinator Dennis Allen to replace him.

Under Payton, the Saints had impressive sustained success. Payton’s record in his 15 seasons as the head coach in New Orleans is 152-89 and he made the playoffs in nine of those seasons, going 9-8 in the postseason. The Saints won the Super Bowl in 2009.

Since 2006, when the Saints hired Payton (even including his suspension year), the Saints have the fourth-best record in football behind just the Patriots, Packers and Steelers.

Allen might end up being a good head coach but he’s unproven and it’s hard to imagine he’ll have the type of longstanding success Payton did. It feels like the Saints are in a weird purgatory between the Payton/Drew Brees run and a rebuild.

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The roster

A big reason for the success during the Payton years was the future Hall of Fame quarterback, who retired after the 2020 season. This offseason, the Saints went hard after Deshaun Watson but it looks like they’ll go with their fallback plan after signing Jameis Winston to a two-year deal.

Perhaps the Saints use the extra pick they got from the Eagles to move up and draft a quarterback, but then we’re talking about an inexperienced rookie or an underperforming former No. 1 overall pick under center. Either way, it might not lead to a lot of wins for the Saints in 2022.

Winston, 28, is coming off a torn ACL that ended his 2021 season early. He was actually playing well last year before the injury and had led the Saints to a 5-2 record with 14 touchdowns and 3 interceptions before the injury. But in his career, Winston has 135 touchdowns and 91 interceptions. Since entering the NFL in 2015, Winston’s 91 interceptions are the most in the league.

Aside from Winston, the Saints have had a quiet free agency period, most likely because they began about $75 million over the cap. They lost young safety Marcus Williams and veteran left tackle Terron Armstead because of it. They did replace Williams with a lower-cost option, Marcus Maye, and reportedly had Tyrann Mathieu in for a visit this week. Getting WR Michael Thomas back from his ankle injuries in 2022 should help too, but will he return to his 2019 form? His last game was against the Eagles at the Linc in December of 2020.

In any case, after missing out on Watson, the Saints haven’t made any moves that make you think they’ll be any better in 2022.

The Saints do have two first-rounders now — Nos. 16 and 19 — and if they don’t use them to trade up for a quarterback, they will use them on good players who should help them immediately.

The Eagles have to hope that isn’t the case. They have to hope the Saints have vastly overrated their roster and this ends badly for New Orleans.

It’ll be fun for Eagles fans to root against the Saints throughout 2022.