Snaps Lost: New Orleans Saints
The “Snaps Lost” series is a detailed look at the playing time void created by players that have left each team this offseason, whether they were traded, cut, left in free agency, or retired.
Because each unit plays a different number of snaps over the course of the year, we have created the “Full Time Equivalent” metric. FTE is the total number of missing snaps divided by the number of plays the team ran on that side of the ball. This is an equivalent measure of how many full time players (100% snap count) the team would need to add on to make up for their offseason losses, even though very few players actually play a full snap count.
For example, if a team had 1,100 snaps on offense and then lost seven players who combined to play 2,200 snaps, their FTE would be 2.0 (2,200/1,100). This ensures that a team who lost a high volume of players only has a high FTE if those players racked up some significant playing time. FTE can only fall between zero (no players left the team) and 11 (fire everyone!) for each side of the ball.
Each team will have a ranking following their FTE, with the first-ranked team in each category (offense, defense, and total) representing the team with the smallest portion of their playing time in need of replacement.
A few caveats before getting into the good stuff:
-Suspensions and injuries that may limit 2015 snap counts are not considered.
-Biggest Losses are purely in terms of snap count, not necessarily in terms of impact.
-All snap counts are Regular Season only.
New Orleans Saints
Overall FTE Lost: 6.58, 26th
FTE Lost: 3.63, 26th
Biggest Losses: Ben Grubbs (1152), Jonathan Goodwin (865), Jimmy Graham (790), Kenny Stills (626), Pierre Thomas (305)
Summary – Grubbs and Graham were traded away in an effort to alleviate cap room, both present and future, with the former finding a new home in Kansas City while the latter was swapped for Max Unger from Seattle. Goodwin will not be back after holding down the center job for most of the year, doing respectable if not stellar work at age 36. In an interesting move, Stills was relieved of his roster spot via trade with Miami despite being a productive receiver on a rookie contract. Thomas was a cap casualty, cut after a strong year (+9.3) in a part-time role, and the 30-year-old running back remains unsigned.
Replacement Plan – The previously mentioned Unger represents an upgrade on the departed Goodwin and will replace those 865 snaps so long as he stays healthy. Replacing Grubbs is a bit trickier. Between Terron Armstead, Zach Strief, and first-round pick Andrus Peat, the Saints are overstocked at tackle, so whether one of those three kicks inside or the job goes to Tim Lelito remains to be seen. Replacing the pass catchers could prove difficult, as Marques Colston is nearing the end of his career, indicating that Brandin Cooks and Nick Toon are in line for more playing time this year. Trading Graham means the 34-year-old Ben Watson is the new No. 1 tight end, though third-year player Josh Hill should see a healthy increase on his 293 snaps from last year. The thought on re-signing Mark Ingram to a sizable contract is that he becomes an every-down back and fills in some for Thomas. We’ll finally be able to see what former Bill C.J. Spiller can do behind a good offensive line, though how much he’s used outside of a third-down role and whether he can stay healthy will be question marks going into the season.
FTE Lost: 2.94, 19th
Biggest Losses: Curtis Lofton (1063), Corey White (772), Patrick Robinson (624)
Summary – The up and down Lofton ended his time with the Saints on a sour note, conjuring up a -21.5 grade in his final year with the team before heading off to Oakland. The defense likely won’t be much worse after having lost White, who’s -17.9 coverage grade was the lowest of all cornerbacks in 2014. Robinson had a solid year, allowing just one touchdown on 387 snaps in coverage, but now finds himself a member of the Chargers.
Replacement Plan – In trading away Stills, the Saints acquired Dannell Ellerbe (along with a draft pick), though it’s been a few years since we’ve seen strong play out of him in Baltimore. The first-round pick they received from Seattle in the Graham deal was used to select linebacker Stephone Anthony who could also figure into the mix among a rather lackluster group of linebackers. With two cornerbacks out, the Saints covered their losses in signing Brandon Browner on a rather modest deal and slot corner Kyle Wilson on the cheap. Even if that duo doesn’t represent much of an upgrade, they’re both solid enough players that should fill in respectably next to Keenan Lewis.