In the next few months, the New Orleans Saints are going to have to make some really tough decisions with regard to how their final 53-man roster is going to look, as they approach the start of the 2019 season.
Without any doubts, you can bet that there will be some rather intense competition out at the team’s practice facility on Airline Drive in Metairie, as a handful of Saints players seek to make their mark and enhance the success of their NFL careers. However, also in the mix will be a handful of players who, for one reason or another, will find themselves in the proverbial “battle of their lives” as they seek to keep their jobs and remain with the franchise for at least for the rest of this year.
What that means is that among the team’s final roster cuts could be names of a few veteran players that we’ve become very familiar with in recent years; perhaps even a few of them who are also considered “fan favorites.”
This morning, we’re taking a quick look at a few of those names, examining three Saints veteran players who we believe could end up in the unemployment line after Training Camp at the end of August — and as a result, will not be around Monday, September 9th at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome when the Saints open the 2019 regular season against the Houston Texans.
DAN ARNOLD, TIGHT END
As most Saints fans might recall: last year, the team chose to convert the 6-foot-5, 222-pound wide receiver into a tight end but unfortunately, he didn’t make the adjustment all that smoothly. That limited his stats, overall production, and eventually, his playing time decreased.
Now, fast-forward to this year and the team’s Training Camp slated to begin in July. The former University of Wisconsin-Platteville star will now suddenly have to face twice as much competition for a permanent spot on the roster, with brand-new starter Jared Cook, reliable back-up Josh Hill, and this year’s 7th Round draft pick, talented rookie Alizé Mack all ahead of him on the current depth chart.
Arnold was the team’s #3 tight end last year behind Benjamin Watson and Josh Hill, but only tallied a grand total of 12 catches for 150 yards and a touchdown. The bottom line for Arnold is that he will specifically need to beat out the dynamic young rookie Mack; which at this point in time, would seem rather unlikely.
KEN CRAWLEY, CORNERBACK
2018 NFL London Games
Seahawks vs. Raiders, Tottenham Stadium, Oct. 14 @ 1 pm (FOX)
Titans vs. Chargers, Wembley Stadium, Oct. 21 @ 9:30 am (CBS)
Eagles vs. Jaguars, Wembley Stadium, Oct. 28 @ 9:30 am (NFL Network
— Brandon Varnam (@BravoVictor03) April 19, 2018
There might not be a more polarizing player on the Saints roster than Crawley. Saints fans seem to love or hate him with an equal amount of passion. After making the team as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Colorado in 2016, Crawley had a solid season and was a promising starting-caliber cornerback in 2017.
But Crawley appeared to regress in 2018, and his less-than-stellar performance prompted Saints’ team brass to trade with the New York Giants for Eli Apple, a move which solidified the secondary and allowed New Orleans to gain home-field advantage throughout last year’s playoffs. As the team prepares to enter Training Camp, Crawley will have to beat out an entire handful of fellow DBs that are poised to push him out of the proverbial door.
That list includes names such as Patrick Robinson (who was injured reserve for most of last season), Marcus Sherels (who likely will be the team’s designated punt returner), P.J. Williams, veterans Justin Hardee and recently-signed Kayvon Webster, and the one player who threatens Crawley’s spot on the team going forward: 4th Round rookie draft pick Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who the Saints drafted out of the University of Florida and who is fully capable of playing either nickel or on the outside boundary. Long story short: Crawley will have to step up BIG TIME in Training Camp and the preseason, or else he could find himself in the unemployment line come late August.
CAM MEREDITH, WIDE RECEIVER
— Saints News Network™ (@SaintsNews) November 8, 2018
As it’s been mentioned previously, Meredith — who the team signed as a restricted free agent from the Chicago Bears during 2018 NFL Free Agency last off-season — was active for the first few weeks of the 2018 Regular Season, until the team’s coaching staff decided to place him on Injured Reserve after it was determined that his knee hadn’t fully healed as anticipated.
The team had been tight-lipped regarding Meredith’s current status, and initially, the belief was that the Saints organization along with the team’s medical staff were either being overly cautious with his seemingly never-ending recovery from surgery, or perhaps that he had experienced some sort of set-back.
Saints WR Cameron Meredith said it’s same knee injury that has kept him sidelined in OTAs and minicamp. But it’s mostly a matter of being smart and cautious so he can have a healthy training camp. Said he doesn’t want another situation like last year, when he played only 6 games.
— Mike Triplett (@MikeTriplett) June 13, 2019
In any event, on the final day of the team’s recently-completed Mini-Camp. Meredith told ESPN beat writer Mike Triplett that the team chose to rest him so that he will be ready to participate in Training Camp beginning at the tail-end of next month.
Nevertheless, Meredith will now find himself with a ton of competition, including players such as 2nd-year star Keith Kirkwood, undrafted veterans Austin Carr and Simmie Cobbs, and undrafted rookies Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Micah Wright, Deonte Harris, and Emmanuel Butler. Additionally, recently-signed former LSU track star and super-fast (but inexperienced) Cyril Grayson, Jr. and 8th-year veteran Rishard Matthews have been thrown into the mix as well, meaning that Meredith will need to step up physically and mentally (knowing the offensive playbook in and out) to prove himself worthy of keeping his roster spot.
Otherwise, Meredith would appear to be in serious danger of being released – sadly becoming yet another Free Agent “bust” for the Black and Gold in recent years – unfortunately leaving him with no other option except standing in the unemployment line by the end of August.
Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius