Offseason Forecast: New Orleans Saints

*With the offseason officially underway, Around The NFL will examine what's next for all 32 teams. The series concludes with the New Orleans Saints. *

What's changing?

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

» RB Mark Ingram: Ingram's value has never been higher after a breakout 2014. That's a problem for the Saints, who might not be able to afford the late-blooming tailback.

» CB Patrick Robinson: The former first-round pick found success defending in the slot after a demotion from the No. 2 corner job. There is reportedly mutual interest in a Saints return.

Other key free agents: C Jonathan Goodwin, WR Robert Meachem, LB Ramon Humber.

On the way out?

» G Jahri Evans and G Ben Grubbs: The Saints need to get better along their interior line and both Evans and Grubbs have shown signs of slippage. One or both 30-something veterans might have to take a paycut to stay in town.

» 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.

One intriguing option on offense: If Ingram walks, perhaps the Saints will bring back Reggie Bush, who was released by the Lions this week.

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.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast previews free agency and tells you which big-name players could be released. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content