Think back to 2013. The Saints, relatively young and talented, beat the Eagles in Philadelphia in the wild card round before losing to the Seahawks a week later. But the glass was quickly seen as half-full going into the off-season. They signed safety Jairus Byrd to a big contract, and on paper with a lot of the same players coming back, they were written into the NFC Championship Game or Super Bowl for the next season.
We all know how that turned out: the first of three straight 7-9 seasons.
I say all that to reinforce what the Saints have been saying since their playoff loss in Minnesota. Nothing is promised. It's not just the Saints who could get better next season. Several teams in the NFC, including some that didn't make the playoffs, like the Cowboys and Seahawks, can be just as dangerous. The black and gold must continue to trend upward over the next few months through free agency and the draft.
"Our team next year will be different than our team this year," says general manager Mickey Loomis. "We'll have different guys. There will be some players that go and some that come in. Our opponents will be different. The circumstances will be different. Hopefully, the injury rates will be different."
While Loomis says the Senior Bowl is an "introduction" for him to some of the college talent, their area scouts started putting in work months ago to find their future stars. It's safe to say that the bar's been raised for rookie classes in New Orleans after what they accomplished in 2017.
"We're always looking to improve our process," says Loomis. "We've gotten a lot of credit for this last draft class, but we've made plenty of mistakes, and we need to learn from those and try not to repeat them."
Whether that means going after their quarterback of the future by trading up or building depth elsewhere, the Saints will never let that slip. But they're aware of how close they were this year, and even though nothing's guaranteed for next season, they have a better chance than many to be back in the playoff hunt.
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