How Saints can give Drew Brees the defense he needs for Super Bowl run

Dec 16, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) reacts after a touchdown throw in the third quarter against the Indianapolis Coltsat the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The touchdown pass broke the career touchdown record. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints are still hoping their championship window is open, but with Drew Brees approaching his 40s that window won’t stay open forever.

The skinny: The Saints have a potent offense that can beat you in multiple ways. However, their defense has failed to take that proverbial “next step” since improving a couple years back. If New Orleans is going to get back to the Super Bowl, then that’s the missing piece.

Limited options: The front office is going to have to make some savvy moves to make improvements. The reason? There’s not a ton of resources available for Mickey Loomis and Co.

  • New Orleans has just five draft selections heading into the 2020 NFL Draft and does not have a second-round pick.
  • According to Over The Cap, the Saints have roughly $9.4 million in cap space heading into the 2020 season, which is sixth-lowest in the league.

The draft: According to Tankathon, the Saints enter the 2020 NFL Draft with one of the weakest hands to play in the league. They only have two selections in the top 100 (No. 24 and No. 88 overall). That doesn’t mean the Saints can’t land an impact player in the first round, or that they can’t land some hidden gems later in the draft.

Looking at the No. 24 overall pick, here’s a few players the Saints can target to give Brees the defense he needs to succeed.

  • Kenneth Murray: This linebacker out of Oklahoma is going to be a force in the NFL. Likely, he will be long gone by the time the Saints pick, but if he slides into the bottom half they have to scoop him up.
  • Kristian Fulton: The former LSU cornerback has exceptional pro potential and would immediately upgrade a Saints secondary that is still clearly in need of help.
  • Terrell Lewis: A pass rusher with jaw-dropping traits, Lewis may be seen as a bit of a luxury pick with Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport already entrenched as starters. But as the San Francisco 49ers showed this past year, you can never have too many pass rushers.

This draft is deep with defensive talent. The Saints can absolutely land a star here with this pick. And if there is an early run at quarterback, as many mock drafts suggest could happen, they may end up with a steal.

Free agency: With so little cash to spend, the Saints will have some big decisions to make with their current roster and won’t necessarily be able to make a huge splash. With that in mind, here’s a look at some players that may fit into their situation and provide big-time help.

  • Chris Harris: A 31-year-old veteran cornerback with a ton of big-game experience, Harris may be looking for a contract that’s out of New Orleans’ range. But if he is willing to take less to play for a title, he’d be a huge get.
  • Kyle Van Noy: A versatile defender who can attack the quarterback and drop back into coverage, Van Noy would be a big upgrade to New Orleans’ front seven.
  • Devin McCourty: Adding a safety of McCourty’s ilk would immediately give the Saints a huge boost on the back end.
  • D.J. Reader: A dominant interior lineman, Reader would provide the Saints with a new dimension to their defensive attack.
  • Ndamukong Suh: The ultimate mercenary, Suh still has plenty to offer at the age of 33. He’d likely be a rotational player in 2020, but the impact would be tremendous.

There are a ton of free agents, an sometimes it’s the guys you never even saw coming that makes the biggest difference. The Saints do have less to work with than many other franchises, but it may not be as dire as it seems.

The bottom line: Assuming Brees does come back to New Orleans in 2020, the Saints have a team that’s clearly still among the league’s best. But until the defense can take a big step forward, this team is likely going to be stuck below the top tier. Thankfully, even without a ton of resources to exhaust, the Saints can make moves to improve.