The New Orleans Saints have a very comprehensive roster heading into the 2022 NFL season. Although their quarterback, Jameis Winston, has question marks around him, the hope is that the strong supporting cast around him will help the team thrive after an injury-riddled 2021 campaign.
The Saints wrapped up their preseason campaign with a solid win over the Los Angeles Chargers the other night. The starting offense took the field for the first time in the preseason and looked pretty good overall. The depth of the team had struggled to open pre-season, but many of the players at the bottom of the list picked a good time to put in their best performance of the pre-season.
As a result, the cuts in the Saints roster are going to be filled with tough decisions over the next few days. New Orleans has a lot of talent on its roster, and there will be players along the way that the team leaves unexpectedly. Let’s take a look at three of those players who could be among the most surprising roster cuts for the Saints this season.
3. Nick Vannett
Nick Vannett didn’t quite live up to his billing as the third-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. He’s been used primarily as a blocking specialist throughout his career, which doesn’t isn’t a bad thing, but Vannett’s inability to get involved as a catcher has hampered his career so far.
As the 2022 season approaches, the Saints are well supplied. Adam Trautman leads the way, with gadget player Taysom Hill sitting behind him. Vannett is battling with Juwan Johnson for the last spot on the depth chart, and he could ultimately lose this battle. Johnson showed a lot of promise as a red-zone target last season, when he turned his 13 receptions into four touchdowns. That’s something Vannett just can’t offer.
Vannett likely won’t get much playing time with the Saints even if he stays, making him a likely cut candidate despite his blocking contributions to the team. New Orleans could save $1.1 million if it released Vannett, and those cap savings could come in handy down the line. Vannett is valuable, but not worth dedicating a roster spot to him at this point in the season.
2. Tanoh Kpassagnon
Tanoh Kpassagnon showed flashes of potential throughout the early stages of his career as a solid passing thrower. He had a few good seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs before finally finding his way to the New Orleans Saints last season. While he only played eight games, he racked up four sacks along the way, again showing his potential, but not providing enough to cement a spot on the roster.
As a result, Kpassagnon fought for a roster spot throughout training camp. He has shown flashes again, but his consistency is still a work in progress. He won’t have much playing time behind Cameron Jordan, Marcus Davenport and Payton Turner, meaning the Saints could choose to tackle other areas on their roster by releasing Kpassagnon to create a spot.
Kpassagnon has talent, but he simply won’t be able to find playing time with the Saints, which makes his release a real possibility. Similar to Vannett, the Saints could save $1.035 million in cap space by removing Kpassagnon, which would result in more savings than most roster cuts. Ultimately, Kpassagnon may not have shown enough to earn himself a spot on the roster and could find himself without a team in Week 1.
1. Tre’Quan Smith
Tre’Quan Smith has been pushed into action in unexpected ways over the past two seasons, and for the most part he’s held his own. But now that the Saints have a revamped wide reception hall, Smith could end up being the odd man out, making him a very surprising cut candidate as the cuts to the Saints roster unfold.
Smith now sits behind Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry and Chris Olave as the Saints’ top receivers. He is also competing with Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harty for reserve spots after they all started last season. Given Callaway’s productivity last season and Harty’s special teams contributions, Smith is battling long odds to keep a spot on the roster.
Smith’s release would again save the Saints $1.1 million in cap space, which could therefore be a beneficial move for the Saints in a number of ways. They create an extra spot on the list, while freeing up a little more money in the process. Smith has upsides, but the Saints just don’t need him, rendering him useless as the Saints roster draws near.