The NFC South is likely to be a mess again in 2015, but it will be a mess in largely predictable ways. The Buccaneers don't have a quarterback just yet, the Panthers are still dealing with a legitimate cap crunch that leaves several holes open on an otherwise strong team and the Falcons are looking at upgrading across the board, but perhaps not in a significant enough fashion to drive them back to the top of the division.
Then there's the Saints. New Orleans has dealt away Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills in exchange for draft picks, a quality center in Max Unger and an aging but decent linebacker in Dannell Ellerbe. They've signed Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller and Brandon Browner, cut Pierre Thomas and Curtis Lofton and are generally just making a series of moves that make no real sense in a vacuum, especially because they're still considerably over the salary cap.
The Saints aren't operating in a vacuum, however. They're a team with an all-time great quarterback in a weak division, which means they can still contend, even if they're saddled with expensive contracts and that quarterback is aging. They're trying to re-tool a roster general manager Mickey Loomis must have concluded was irreparably broken, and they're doing so in a way that gives them plenty of assets in the draft to do so. At the same time, they're setting themselves up with a strong run game and taking an emphasis off the passing game (at least thus far), which makes sense if Brees truly is declining. I'm not real clear on who he's going to throw to, but again, the Saints are now loaded with draft selections to try to fix that (not small) issue.
The endgame here isn't entirely clear, and this kind of finessing can backfire powerfully, so . Chances are this team isn't done making major moves, but right now it looks like they're trying to strike the appropriate balance between looking toward a post-Brees world and ensuring they don't utterly suck during his last seasons in the NFL. They even have the resources to trade up in the draft and try to get their next franchise quarterback, and given how utterly insane this offseason has been for them thus far, I'm not ruling that out.
Is this going to work? I have no idea, and I'm not particularly bullish on most of these moves. But there's no question that Loomis is one of the brightest minds in the NFL today, and while I'll be hoping to bury the Saints in 2015, there's a decent chance they swipe the South again. Damnable Saints.
For more on the Saints, check out Canal Street Chronicles.