Saints Enter The Nfl Draft With Questions Along The Offensive Line

New Orleans Saints head football coach Dennis Allen, center, talks with reporters during an NFC coaches availability at the NFL football owners meetings, Tuesday, March 26, 2024, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
New Orleans Saints head football coach Dennis Allen, center, talks with reporters during an NFC coaches availability at the NFL football owners meetings, Tuesday, March 26, 2024, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Saints could have a hard time passing up a promising prospect at offensive tackle should one be available to them in the 2024 NFL draft.

New Orleans' offensive line was among the club's strengths for much of the past decade and a half. More recently, however, the unit has struggled with both health and performance.

Right tackle Ryan Ramczyk, a 2019 All-Pro who missed last season's final four games with a nagging knee injury, has had surgery in an effort to prolong his NFL career. But his status for next season, which would be his eighth, remains unclear.

“I don’t know that I’m seeing as much progress as I was hoping,” Saints coach Dennis Allen said during NFL owners meetings last month. “He just isn’t quite where I was probably hoping he’d be, and really, quite frankly, where he was hoping he’d be. But again, it's a long time before we kick the ball off, so I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions right now.”

Even if Ramczyk's prognosis improves, there are questions on the other side of the line.

Trevor Penning, a 2022 first-round draft choice, missed most of his rookie season with a foot injury before opening the 2023 season as the starting left tackle. But he was benched after six games.

Perhaps Penning will figure it out this season, when the Saints will be installing a new offensive under new coordinator Klint Kubiak, and when he'll have a new offensive line coach (John Benton). But that's no sure thing, and Andrus Peat, the veteran who moved over to left tackle in Penning's place, has opted for free agency.

A couple of top offensive tackle prospects could be available when the Saints are slated to make their first pick at 14th overall, including Washington's Troy Fautanu and Alabama's JC Latham.

Meanwhile, the Saints also struggled to run the ball last season, ranking in the bottom third of the NFL in yards rushing per game.

That's why bolstering the blocking up front has become a priority in New Orleans — but not the only one.

“All things are on the table in terms of how we want to fill out our roster,” Allen said.


In addition to offensive linemen, the Saints could consider some of their defensive counterparts.

The Saints ranked 22nd against the run in 2023 and have lost defensive tackle Malcolm Roach, who left in free agency to join the Denver Broncos and his former Saints head coach, Sean Payton.

A highly skilled edge rusher could help, too.

Veteran Cameron Jordan had just two sacks last season, the fewest since his rookie season and second fewest in his career. One of the Saints' higher-profile free-agent acquisitions has been defensive end Chase Young, but the 2020 second overall draft choice has yet to fulfill expectations because of injuries early in his career.

“I don’t think you can ever have enough pass rushers in your building,” Allen said.


The Saints are in relatively good shape in the secondary.

Barring an attractive trade offer, the Saints appear content to retain high-paid veteran cornerback Marshon Lattimore. They also have Paulson Adebo and Alontae Taylor at that position, and both of them have earned high praise from Allen, who oversees the defense.

The Saints also appear solid at linebacker with Demario Davis returning to anchor a unit that includes 2021 second-round draft choice Pete Werner and recent free agent signing Willie Gay.


There's hype surrounding Georgia tight end Brock Bowers, who has the potential to improve an offense the way Rob Gronkowski once did for the New England Patriots, or as Travis Kelce has more recently for the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs.

Saints quarterback Derek Carr had success throwing to tight ends with his former team — the Raiders — and that position group underperformed in the receiving game last season for New Orleans.

If Bowers drops outside the top 10, he could present the Saints with an intriguing option.


The pressure is on the Saints to hit on their first- and second-round picks because the rest of their nine total picks come in rounds five through seven. But New Orleans could use some of its four fifth-rounders to trade up a few spots during the first or second rounds to get a player they covet. And general manager Mickey Loomis has been decisive about executing such trades in the past.

“We have an opportunity in this draft to add some players" who can contribute right away, Loomis said. "We’ll leave no stone unturned.”