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NFL betting: How long until Saints are contenders again without Sean Payton?

Yahoo Sports US logo Yahoo Sports US 1/28/2022 Frank Schwab

For years, the New Orleans Saints knew their day of reckoning was coming. 

The Saints were aggressive in their pursuit of a final championship with Drew Brees, spending cap space and sometimes draft picks with little regard for the future. They've been an impulsive franchise for a long time. You can push future cap hits into the future, but the bill isn't going to go away. 

Brees retired after the 2020 season. Then Sean Payton stepped down suddenly after this past season. 

The bill is due. 

For many years over the Payton era, the Saints were a good bet. They only won one Super Bowl but were in contention most years. They often outplayed what the betting market thought of them. It might be a while until we feel comfortable betting on the Saints. But how long? 

Saints have worst salary-cap situation in NFL

Odds for Super Bowl LVII aren't up yet at BetMGM, but it's safe to assume the Saints won't be high on the list. 

The most daunting challenge is the Saints' salary cap figure. According to Spotrac, the Saints currently project to be $71.6 million over the cap. No other team is more than $45.8 million over the cap, and only three teams are more than $12.2 million over. Not only are the Saints in the NFL's worst cap situation, they're a few laps ahead of everyone else. 


Video: Drew Brees shares emotional response to Sean Payton stepping away from coaching (SMG)

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Smart teams can massage the cap and the Saints will, cutting bloated deals and reworking others. They can likely get out of cap hell with a lot of their key pieces still in place. But they'll have to take a step back to dig out of years of irresponsible contracts. New Orleans knew it was coming someday. Payton stepping away gives the Saints a reason to finally tear it all down and reset things. 

Of course, that means the available pool of new coaches will be smaller. It's hard to sell being the coach to take over for a legend like Payton, but also do it on the ground floor of a total rebuild. 

This isn't going to be easy. 

The Saints will have a new head coach after Sean Payton stepped down. (Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) © Provided by Yahoo! Sports The Saints will have a new head coach after Sean Payton stepped down. (Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Saints have a lot of questions

The Saints do have talent, especially on defense. Had Jameis Winston stayed healthy, maybe the Saints would have gone to the playoffs. Had they not gotten unlucky and lost to the Miami Dolphins when multiple quarterbacks were on the COVID-19/reserve list, they'd have been in the postseason. There are some good players to start a rebuild. It's not a Houston Texans situation. Though they still need to work through the quarterback situation, whether it's re-signing the historically unreliable Winston coming off an ACL tear or finding another option. 

The Saints need some good drafts. The 2017 class that landed cornerback Marshon Lattimore, offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk and running back Alvin Kamara among others, but that was a once-in-a-generation haul. Still, the better the Saints draft, the quicker they can return to contention. 

The Saints pick 18th overall, which is a crucial pick in the middle of the first. They also don't have a third-round pick due to a trade with the Texans for cornerback Bradley Roby. They also forfeit a sixth-round pick for violating COVID-19 protocols. That's not great for a team that needs to start its rebuild through the draft. It's not like they can sign any impact free agents this offseason. 

Whatever the Saints' season win total is for 2022, it might be wise to bet the under. They have a quarterback question, will lose a lot of depth and perhaps some key players due to salary-cap bloodletting, might struggle to land their preferred hire in a coaching search and don't even have a full collection of draft picks to restock. 

If everything hits, maybe the Saints can be in playoff contention by 2023. More realistically, it could be 2024 or beyond. The good news is the NFL is the easiest league for a quick rebuild. The bad news is that the rebuild is going to be a complete one. 

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