The Saints have a lot of work to do and not a lot of money to do it. They can maneuver their way under the salary cap with some book work, but finances will remain tight for a team that needs to get better -- particularly on defense. Rob Ryan still has his job, but he has a lot of work to do on a defense that finished 31st in the league.
Biggest free agents
On the way out?
» WR Marques Colston: The veteran wide receiver looked a step slow last season. If he comes back, it's unlikely to be at his scheduled $6.9M base salary.
» ILB David Hawthorne: Noticing a trend? The 29-year-old linebacker was second on the team in tackles last season, but he could also be a pay-cut target for a team in cap duress.
What they need
At the combine, Sean Payton took the unusual step of directly outlining his team's "musts." "I think one's a corner," he told ProFootballTalk. "I think another position is an interior offensive lineman. And potentially a pass-rusher." This is supposed to be the best draft for outside pass rushers since 2011. There's a nice market for veteran corners, but the Saints probably can't afford any of them.
Offseason crystal ball
The Saints will regain NFC relevance if they can fix their defense. Expect the focus to go there, though the team's financial restraints will make things difficult. We can see them grabbing a cornerback high in the draft (any chance Michigan State's Trae Waynes falls to No. 13?). Reserve lineman Tim Lelito could grab himself a starting job at center or guard, allowing the Saints to drop an expensive veteran.
A Bush return makes sense and the price tag shouldn't be exorbitant. We say it happens.