As the dog days of the NFL summer approach, we at Last Word On Sports introduce our “All-Franchise” teams for each of the league’s 32 clubs. For this series, our football writers have composed all-time rosters compiled with the greatest players in each franchise’s history at each position along with their time and accomplishments with the team. From offense to defense to special teams, each unit is displayed on a first-team, “starter” basis only. Because of their young age, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans rosters weren’t as difficult to assemble. On the flip side, given their respective rich histories during the Super Bowl era, building the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys teams were more arduous (yet compelling) tasks.
The offensive lineup is comprised of one quarterback, one running back, three wide receivers, one tight end and five offensive linemen. Though “fullback” was omitted due to its scarcity in modern-day football, players who played that position may be placed as the running back because of their significant contributions to their respective franchise’s ground game. The defense will have the familiar four defensive back look (two cornerbacks, two safeties), but the front seven, whether 4-3 or 3-4, will be arranged in the alignment that the team traditionally runs and/or was historically successful in. Finally, the special teams will have a kicker, a punter and a return man responsible for bringing back kickoffs and punts.
Today, we present the All-Franchise team for the New Orleans Saints.
New Orleans Saints All-Franchise Team
Head Coach: Sean Payton (2006-present)
After being an assistant coach under Jim Fassel and the legendary Bill Parcells, Sean Payton got his first opportunity as a head coach with the New Orleans Saints. With the help of quarterback Drew Brees, Payton turned the franchise into offensive juggernauts and perennial playoff contenders. The 2006 Coach of the Year has led the Saints to four NFC South Titles (2006, 2009, 2011, 2017) and the Super Bowl XLIV Championship. Since 2006, New Orleans has finished with a top-five offense every season except 2010 (six times as the league’s best offense). He is greatly responsible for bringing a historically-unsuccessful franchise, that was displaced by Hurricane Katrina, to its golden age. Holding the franchise record in career coaching wins (112), Payton will definitely make both the team’s and NFL’s Hall of Fame.
Quarterback: Drew Brees (2006-present)
It’s easy to forget that entering the 2006 off-season, Drew Brees was at somewhat of a professional crossroads due to a potential career-ending injury and heir apparent Philip Rivers taking over the San Diego Chargers starting quarterback job. Outside of the Saints, the Miami Dolphins were the only team interested in Brees, but they decided the risk was too heavy to acquire him. As a result, Brees signed with New Orleans and enjoyed instant success by taking the franchise to its first conference championship game. Three years later, he was named the MVP of Super Bowl XLIV. Taking the Saints to unforeseen heights, Drew Brees has earned 10 Pro Bowl selections, including four All-Pro designations. Far and away the best signal-caller in team history, the 2008 and 2011 Offensive Player of the Year holds numerous league records such as single-season completion percentage (72.0), career completion percentage (66.95) and 5,000-yard passing seasons (five). The Future Hall of Famer went from a questionable future to the unquestionable title as the greatest free agent signing in the 99-year running of the National Football League. Not bad for an undersized second-round draft pick.
Running Back: Deuce McAllister (2001-2008)
The NFC South was once a run-centric division, and Deuce McAllister was at the center of that playing style. Starting only four games as a rookie in 2001, McAllister broke out in year two with 1,388 yards and 13 touchdowns on the way to his first Pro Bowl. Although his scoring mark dipped in 2003, he rushed for 1,648 yards to earn consecutive All-Star game berths, a feat that no running back in franchise history had accomplished. Running for another 1,074 yards in 2004, McAllister became the first Saints runner to surpass the 1,000-yard threshold in three straight seasons. Injuries and the emergence of the team’s aerial game led to his statistical demise, eventually leading to his release in early 2009. Despite his departure, McAllister is the franchise’s all-time leader in rushing yards (6,096) and rushing touchdowns (49). His contributions played a crucial role in him being inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 2012. Mark Ingram isn’t far behind numbers-wise, but McAllister still wears the bell cow crown in New Orleans.
Wide Receiver: Marques Colston (2006-2015)
Silent and lowkey with his personality, Marques Colston’s on-field performance was the complete opposite. Taken in the seventh round out of Hofstra, Colston went from being a nearly-undrafted prospect to having an immediate impact for the team’s top-ranked offense in 2006. After gathering 70 catches for 1,038 yards and eight scores as a rookie, he then achieved career highs in receptions (98), yards (1,202) and touchdowns (11) in 2007. From 2008-2013, Colston amassed at least 70 catches, 1,000 yards and five touchdowns each season except 2008 when he only started six games. At 6-4 and 225 pounds, he used his large frame to win jump ball situations and maintain possession of the football; both attributes of which were used to help New Orleans get its first Super Bowl title. With zero Pro Bowl nods, he never got his full credit league-wide, but fans in Louisiana and surrounding areas acknowledge his value to the team’s resurgence. Being the franchise’s all-time leader in receptions (711), receiving yards (9,759) and receiving touchdowns (72), Colston will eventually get into the Saints Hall of Fame.
Wide Receiver: Joe Horn (2000-2006)
Unlike the reserved presence of Colston, Joe Horn had much more personality. From elaborate dances to his famous cell phone celebration in the endzone, the colorful wideout fully earned his nickname “Hollywood.” Starting his professional career in the Canadian Football League, Horn signed with the Saints in 2000 and produced exceedingly above expectations, placing top 10 in the NFL in each of the three major receiving categories. Once a worker at a North Carolina restaurant, Horn was selected to four Pro Bowls in seven seasons with New Orleans. Retiring as the team’s all-time leader in 100-yard receiving games, he currently sits third in franchise history for receptions (523), receiving yards (7,622) and receiving touchdowns (50). In 2010, Horn was inducted in the Saints Hall of Fame.
Wide Receiver: Michael Thomas (2016-present)
The premature anointing of athletes with relatively-unproven resumes should be frowned upon, but Michael Thomas is a unique exception here. Grabbed in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Thomas surpassed Brandin Cooks as the Saints go-to target with his 92-catch, 1,137-yard and nine-touchdown output. Having a statline that stacked up with Randy Moss and Odell Beckham Jr. as one of the best ever for a rookie receiver, the Ohio State product placed second on our site’s 2016 Pro Bowl snub list. Last year, Thomas responded by setting a franchise high 104 receptions in a single season to go along with his 1,245 yards and five scores. Rightfully making his first Pro Bowl, he now holds the distinction as a top-ten wideout. Hauling in 196 passes since 2016, Thomas is now the NFL record holder for having the most receptions in a player’s first two seasons, exceeding Jarvis Landry’s previous mark of 194 set in 2015. He is the fourth Saints starting receiver to earn a Pro Bowl selection, but the first in the 12-year run of the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era. Just turning 25 years old, Thomas is seemingly on his way to a prolific career.
Tight End: Jimmy Graham (2010-2014)
Due to his relatively underwhelming tenure with the Seattle Seahawks, fans fail to remember Jimmy Graham’s prime in New Orleans. Playing basketball at the University of Miami, Graham made the sports switch and became a red zone threat for the Saints. Alike Colston and Thomas, Graham also enjoyed a sophomore peak. An unknown in 2010, the former Hurricane exploded with 99 catches for 1,310 yards (still career marks) and 11 touchdowns for the Saints’ historic 2011 offense in his first All-Pro campaign. Making the Pro Bowl in two of the subsequent three seasons (including being First-team All-Pro in 2013), Graham rivaled New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski as the premier tight end in the league. Traded to Seattle after an ugly contract dispute with the Saints, he was never able to recapture that dominant form. Despite his departure, though, Graham was integral in the franchise’s offensive apex from 2011-2014. Currently top five in franchise history for receptions (4th, 386), receiving yards (5th, 4,752) and receiving touchdowns (2nd, 51), the 6’7” pass-catcher may be a darkhorse candidate for the team’s Hall of Fame, and probably the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Left Tackle: Willie Roaf (1993-2001)
With 14 different players selected to the Pro Bowl, the offensive line is the Saints’ most decorated positional area of the football. That all-star lineage begins with Willie Roaf. Nicknamed “Nasty” for his devastating blocking ability, Roaf helped pave running lanes for Ricky Williams and momentarily for Deuce McAllister, who ultimately became the franchise’s all-time leading rusher. Out of his 11 career Pro Bowl selections, seven of those came with the Saints (1994-2000). Deemed All-Pro five times in New Orleans, Roaf was named to the NFL’s 1990s and 2000s All-Decade teams. Starting 131 games for the black and gold, his consistency allowed him to obtain inductions into the Saints Hall of Fame (2008), the Pro Football Hall of Fame (2012) and the Saints Ring of Honor.
Left Guard: Carl Nicks (2008-2011)
Coming from the University of Nebraska in 2008, Carl Nicks was yet another offensive lineman the Saints struck gold within the draft. After helping the franchise win its first championship in 2009, Nicks made the Pro Bowl the following two years. Being named Second-team All-Pro in 2010 and First-team in 2011, Nicks and Jahri Evans became arguably the league’s best guard tandem. In the 2012 off-season, Nicks wanted to become the NFL’s highest-paid guard, which was an issue because the franchise had already given Evans a record-breaking deal for the position two springs prior. The other Saints player that was in line for more money was Drew Brees. Opting for free agency, Nicks signed a lucrative deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Injuries and illness ultimately truncated the budding superstar interior lineman’s tenure in Tampa. Nonetheless, Nicks’ productivity in his 61 starts warranted him a 2017 Saints Hall of Fame induction.
Center: Jonathan Goodwin (2006-2010)
After spending his first four seasons with the New York Jets, Jonathan Goodwin used free agency to sign with the New Orleans Saints in 2006. Starting all 16 games in 2009, Goodwin earned his first, and only, career Pro Bowl selection along with a Super Bowl title. Creating lanes for the sixth-best rushing offense during the franchise’s greatest campaign, Goodwin is one of only two Saints centers to gain NFL all-star acclaim.
Right Guard: Jahri Evans (2006-2015, 2016)
Taken 108th overall in 2006, Jahri Evans is the most decorated player from the Saints’ legendary draft haul. Starting 169 games for New Orleans, Evans made it to six Pro Bowls (2009-2014) with five All-Pro honors (2009-2013). Following the team’s Super Bowl triumph over the Indianapolis Colts, Evans signed a seven-year, $56.7 million contract that surpassed New York Jets’ Alan Faneca as the highest guard deal in league history. Based on his dominance along the trenches in the early 2010s, the Bloomsburg product was worth every penny. Second only to Willie Roaf, Evans is one of the greatest offensive linemen in the history of the franchise. His inductions into both the Saints and Pro Football Hall of Fame are nothing short of inevitable.
Right Tackle: Jammal Brown (2005-2009)
Jammal Brown actually played left tackle for the franchise, but the Willie Roaf placement caused Brown to move to the opposite side of the line. Drafted from the Oklahoma Sooners in 2005, the 13th overall selection lived up to his first-round billing. Assisting in the team’s run to the 2006 NFC Championship game, the second-year lineman was named both a Pro Bowler and First-team All-Pro. Two seasons later, Brown garnered his second Pro Bowl nod after leading the league in rushing average behind a left tackle while only allowing three sacks. Though an ACL injury kept him out the entire 2009 campaign, the Saints still managed to claim its first-ever NFL championship. The emergence of future two-time Pro Bowler Jermon Bushrod led to Brown losing his starting gig, but his contributions during the franchise’s rebirth will not be forgotten.
Defense (based in a 3-4 alignment)
Defensive End: Cameron Jordan (2011-present)
The Saints had two first-round picks in the 2011 NFL Draft. They took Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram 28th overall, but four slots before they selected Cameron Jordan. Having somewhat of a slow beginning to his career, the former University of California edge rusher broke out in year three with 12.5 sacks to earn his debut Pro Bowl trip. His pass-rushing prowess on the 2013 team’s fourth-ranked defense was crucial in its return to the postseason. After a down 2014, Jordan’s 10-sack display in 2015 placed him back into the league’s all-star showcase. After setting career bests in takedowns (13), pass deflections (11) and touchdowns (one) during the 2017 season, Jordan was named to his third Pro Bowl and First-team All-Pro. His 96.2 Pro Football Focus grade has slightly earned him more notoriety. Despite his increased popularity, he is still underrated league-wide. Currently top six in Saints history for sacks (5th, 59.5) and passes defended (41), Jordan will continue to build on both his franchise and NFL resume.
Defensive Tackle: La’Roi Glover (1997-2001)
The Saints had the league’s eighth-best defensive unit in 2000, and La’Roi Glover was literally in the middle of that high-end production. Already a stat stuffer in his first three seasons with the team (25 sacks from 1997-1999), Glover played at a historic level by getting 17 takedowns in 2000, a mark that is second-most in NFL history from a defensive tackle in a single season. His accomplishments earned him both a Pro Bowl and a First-team All-Pro designation. Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year, but Glover still managed to earn the DPOY honor for the NFC. His in-season performance was a monumental reason on why the Saints won their first-ever playoff game. In 2001, he made his second, and last, Pro Bowl with the Saints before moving to the Dallas Cowboys. Eighth on the franchise’s all-time sack list with 50, Glover was voted to the Saints Hall of Fame in 2013.
Defensive End: Wayne Martin (1989-1999)
Due to his stellar collegiate career at the University of Arkansas, New Orleans drafted Wayne Martin with the 19th overall pick in the 1989 NFL draft. After only tallying a combined 10 sacks in his first three seasons, Martin set career highs in sacks (15.5) and forced fumbles (three) in 1992. From his lone Pro Bowl campaign in 1994 to 1997, Martin had double-digit takedowns each year, including 13 in 1995. His career efforts have him in the top eight for sacks (2nd, 82.5), tackles (5th, 531) and forced fumbles (8th, 12). In 2003, Martin was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame.
Outside Linebacker: Rickey Jackson (1981-1993)
When Saints head coach Bum Phillips selected Rickey Jackson in the second round of the 1981 NFL draft, he found the team’s defensive anchor for the future. Jackson was the leader of the team’s famed “Dome Patrol” linebacking corps, which has been considered arguably the greatest in NFL history. His dominating pass rushing ability helped elevate the Saints defense and their relevance as a franchise as they achieved their first winning season in 1987. During his 13-season run with New Orleans, Jackson went to six Pro Bowls (1983-1986, 1992-1993) while earning six All-Pro selections (1984-1987, 1992-1993). Upon his retirement in 1995, Jackson ranked third in league history for sacks with 128, not including the eight takedowns he had in his rookie campaign of 1981 that were not counted since the statistic wasn’t officially recorded until 1982. To date, he is the franchise’s all-time leader in games (195), sacks (115), tackles (1,104), forced fumbles (38) and fumble recoveries (27). Both his Saints Hall of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions in 1997 and 2010, respectively, were rightfully earned. Had it not been for Drew Brees, this Ring of Honor member would’ve rivaled Willie Roaf as the greatest player in Saints history.
Inside Linebacker: Sam Mills (1986-1994)
After guiding the United States Football League’s Philadelphia Stars to consecutive championships, Sam Mills signed with the New Orleans Saints. A tackling machine for the franchise’s vaunted Dome Patrol linebacking unit, Mills posted multiple seasons of 100-plus stops. His involvement all over the field earned him four Pro Bowl selections (1987-1988, 1991-1992) and two All-Pro honors (1991-1992). Going into the Saints Hall of Fame in 1998, he currently ranks top five in team history for tackles (2nd, 894), forced fumbles (5th, 16) and fumble recoveries (4th, 17). As Jim Mora stated, Mills was “the best player I ever coached.” Undersized for the position, his heart overcompensated for his physical frame. When Mills signed with the Carolina Panthers for the 1995 campaign, he became the leader of a young roster. Retiring in 1997, he became one of the Panthers’ assistant coaches. Mills was diagnosed with cancer in 2003, yet he continued to inspire the team through its Super Bowl run against the Patriots that season. His phrase, “Keep Pounding,” is a mantra that Carolina still thrives on to this day. Passing away early in 2005, the Panthers retired his jersey and erected a statue in his honor. An impactful figure for both franchises, Mills still remains one of the league’s most underrated players ever.
Inside Linebacker: Vaughan Johnson (1986-1993)
Next to Mills on the inside was Vaughan Johnson. At 6’3”, 235 pounds, Johnson was considered the most physical member of the Saints’ famous Dome Patrol corps. His hitting capability was a tone-setter in the team’s physical defensive approach. Being extremely active in the tackle category with Mills, the former North Carolina State and USFL product made four straight Pro Bowl (1989-1992), including being named Second-team All-Pro in 1989. Having the third-most tackles in team history (664), Johnson was enshrined into the Saints Hall of Fame in 2000.
Outside Linebacker: Pat Swilling (1986-1992)
Lastly, Pat Swilling rounds out the team’s celebrated Dome Patrol linebacker squad. Finishing his college days as Georgia Tech’s all-time sack leader, Swilling did more of the same in the professional ranks. Posting only one double-digit sack campaign in his first three years, the former Yellow Jacket reached the 10-sack plateau in each of the four subsequent seasons, including a 16.5-takedown performance in 1989. Setting career highs in sacks (17) and forced fumbles (six) in 1991, Swilling won First-team All-Pro and Defensive Player of the Year honors. He finished his time for the Saints with four Pro Bowl bids (1989-1992), having All-Pro acknowledgments each year. In 1992, all four Saints linebackers were invited to the Pro Bowl, the only time four players at the same position from one team have made a Pro Bowl together. Today, Swilling is top three in franchise history for sacks (3rd, 76.5) and forced fumbles (2nd, 24). In 2000, he was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame.
Cornerback: Marshon Lattimore (2017-present)
Marshon Lattimore and Michael Thomas hold identical distinctions on this All-franchise team. While both of their careers aren’t established enough, their respective influences are too profound to exclude them from the roster. Outside of kicker, cornerback has been the Saints’ most inconsistent position throughout the Payton-Brees era. From Jason David to Patrick Robinson to Brandon Browner, the team’s revolving door on the defensive perimeters was endless. Even when the team had talented starters like Delvin Breaux, their success was short-lived. Consistently placing toward the bottom in pass coverage, cornerbacks have plagued New Orleans. Lattimore, however, seems to be the long-awaited change. Recording five interceptions and 18 passes defended in his debut pro campaign, the Ohio State standout earned both a Pro Bowl selection and the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. After the Saints’ rough start in 2017, Lattimore’s ability to lock down one side of the field allowed the team to play more aggressive defensively. He was a clear difference-maker in the team ending its four-year playoff drought. Only the franchise’s third starting cornerback to earn a Pro Bowl selection, Lattimore is the first such corner in the Payton-Brees era. Heading into year two, he’s already one of the league’s upper-echelon defenders.
Cornerback: Tracy Porter (2008-2011)
Putting the vastly-disappointing Jason David experience to sleep, the Saints were looking for their next top corner. For about a year and a half, Tracy Porter seemed to be that player. Only playing five games in 2008, Porter achieved career bests for interceptions (four) and passes defended (12) in 2009. The memorable aspect of Porter’s tenure with New Orleans was that he came alive on the biggest stages. Threatening to score late in regulation, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was intercepted by Porter to help send the game to overtime. Two weeks later, his pick-six against Peyton Manning in Super XLIV sealed the Saints’ 31-17 victory over the Colts. Following the championship triumph, Porter was honored by his hometown, Port Allen, Louisiana, with a parade. Though he may be the least-accomplished player on this All-Franchise team, making the two biggest plays in franchise history earned him a unanimous spot on the roster.
Free Safety: Darren Sharper (2009-2010)
Signing as a free agent in March 2009, Darren Sharper’s contributions were instantaneous. In the Saints’ first six games during their 2009 Super Bowl season, Sharper had six interceptions; three of those picks were returned for scores. He finished the campaign with nine interceptions and 71 tackles on the way to the Pro Bowl and First-team All-Pro honors. Though New Orleans wasn’t stout defensively (placing 25th in total defense), its trademark was pass rushing and a second-ranked 39 takeaways in the NFL, thanks to the ball-hawking ability of Sharper. The veteran free safety was also named Second-team All-Pro in his last season with the team.
Strong Safety: Roman Harper (2006-2013, 2016)
Known to be a liability in pass coverage periodically, Roman Harper was still a quality defensive back. Yet another member from the team’s famed 2006 draft class, the strong safety was a two-time Pro Bowler (2009-2010) and a Super Bowl champion. The former University of Alabama defender was at his best when defending the run and rushing the passer. Placing top six in franchise history for tackles (4th, 551), passes defended (3rd, 54) and forced fumbles (6th, 15), his physicality and timely plays against the pass made him both a productive and respected figure. At some point, Harper should receive consideration for the Saints Hall of Fame.
Kicker: Morten Andersen (1982-1994)
The Saints have suffered many kicking woes since 2006, but that wasn’t the case during the 1980s and early 1990s. During his 13-season tenure in New Orleans from 1982-1994, Morten Andersen made 302 of 389 field goals attempts along with converting 412 of his 418 extra point tries (all of which are team records). His clutch kicking earned him the nickname “Mr. Automatic” during his career. He made six of his seven career Pro Bowl appearances as a member of the Saints (1985-1988, 1990, 1992). He was also labeled All-Pro five times (1985-1988, 1992). Retiring from the league in 2009, Andersen finished as both the New Orleans Saints and the NFL’s all-time leading scorer (1,318 out of 2,544 points scored with Saints) while also holding the league record in most games played (382). His longevity earned him spots on both the NFL’s 1980s and 1990s All-Decade Teams. Andersen is a 2009 Saints Hall of Fame inductee, a 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee and a Saints Ring of Honor member. Having a kicker deemed as one of a team’s greatest players isn’t typical, but Morten Andersen perfectly fits the distinction.
Punter: Thomas Morstead (2009-present)
Thomas Morstead arrived in New Orleans at the perfect time. Beating out Glenn Pakulak for the starting punter job in 2009, Thomas Morstead perfectly executed the Saints’ famous onside kick recovery during Super Bowl XLIV. Three seasons later, he was a 2012 Pro Bowl selection and a 2012 Second-team All-Pro selection. Right now, Morstead places third in NFL history for career yards per punt average.
Return Man: Michael Lewis (2001-2006)
Once a beer truck driver for Budweiser, Michael Lewis made various stops throughout the Arena Football League and other semi-professional leagues before joining the Philadelphia Eagles in 2000. By 2002, he became a fixture for the New Orleans Saints special teams unit. Finishing the campaign with 2,432 combined kickoff and punt return yards, he was deemed both a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro. Lewis is still the franchise’s all-time leader in combined kickoff and punt return yards (7,385). In 2015, he was enshrined into the Saints Hall of Fame.
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