At some point during my annual ranking of the New Orleans Saints’ offseason needs, I’ll start facing some tough choices. But not yet.
The specialists easily rank last at No. 12 -- and not because I’m dissing the importance of special teams. Punter Thomas Morstead just had one of the best seasons of his nine-year career -- and that’s saying a lot, considering how good he has been over that stretch.
In other words, the Saints are on solid footing.
Current depth chart:
P Thomas Morstead. Age 31, signed through 2018. 2018 salary and bonuses: $4.15 million. 2018 salary-cap number: $4.85 million.
K Wil Lutz. Age 23, scheduled to become restricted free agent in 2019. 2018 salary and bonuses: $630,000. 2018 salary-cap number: $630,000.
LS Zach Wood. Age 25, exclusive rights free agent.
Morstead is due to be the highest-paid punter in the NFL this year, with the highest salary-cap figure. So he’s not exactly a bargain. But there is no reason to think the Saints will balk at paying him since his salary and cap figure were similar last year and he proved to be worth it as usual.
Morstead barely ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in average distance (47.0) and net average (42.2). But situationally he was very good throughout the year, the highlight coming when he helped set up two defensive touchdowns against the Lions by pinning Detroit inside the 2-yard line. Morstead himself said he felt like it was one of his best seasons. And Pro Football Focus saw the same thing, honoring him as its first-team All-Pro punter.
Morstead is heading into the final year of his contract, so it’s possible the Saints will look into extending him and trying to lower his cap hit in the process.
Lutz is heading into the final year of his rookie deal, which will make him a restricted free agent in 2019 and force the Saints to decide whether to tender him or work out a long-term extension. But that’s a matter for another day.
The Saints almost certainly will bring in some competition for Wood, who signed just days before the regular season started last year. But the third-year pro, who began his career as a defensive lineman with the Dallas Cowboys, held up well and has a chance to lock down the job long term.
The Saints tried in vain all offseason last year to upgrade the long snapper position, including their trade for veteran Jon Dorenbos late in the preseason, which led to the remarkable discovery of Dorenbos' life-threatening heart issue.