In a 12-part series, we take a look at each DFL team, where they’ve been and where they’re going. We analyze the strength of their current roster build, what areas need improvement, and speculate what they might do in the coming months.
A look back
The 2022 season was an interesting one for the Savages, to say the least. They started off with a victory, one of only four on the year (two of which came against tanking teams), and yet they were still a Top 8 scoring team and snuck into the playoffs. They also nearly knocked off the eventual league champions, Colombia, in the first round of the playoffs, losing by just 1.32 points. Despite the four wins, the Savages made the playoffs, in part, because they went on a 6-game tear in the middle of the season averaging 118 points per game, making them one of the hottest teams in the league — and yet, winning only one of those games. The Savages had a lot of misfortune along the way, but are hoping for better luck in 2023.
A look ahead
The Savages have some nice pieces to kick start the 2023 season. Cooper Kupp and Brandon Aiyuk will return to form a pretty formidable 1-2 punch at receiver. Dameon Pierce could have a strong second season and Khalil Herbert is a decent depth piece. Cole Kmet broke out in the second half of last season and Jahan Dotson flashed some talent in his rookie year. The team will likely bring back Patrick Mahomes, so there is a foundation upon which they can build, and the fan base has plenty to feel optimistic about heading into Year 2 of the organization.
The Stock Report
Stock Up: Brandon Aiyuk, WR/SF, Cole Kmet, TE/CHI, Dameon Pierce, RB/HOU.
Stock Down: Trey Lance, QB/SF
The Savages were all in on Patrick Mahomes last offseason, extending him a lucrative deal before bringing it back down to a $14 million offer. Mahomes was QB1 overall on the season, and the team is likely to place a franchise tag on him this offseason, probably the NFT where they can match the highest offer or get a second-round pick as compensation. The team also inked Trey Lance to a 4-year deal last year, but Lance got hurt and missed most of the year, and now he’ll be fighting for his job. If given the opportunity to play again, he could boost his value considerably given his rushing ability. At which point, he would be a strong backup or decent trade fodder. Either way, adding another quarterback should be a priority for the Savages, but not at any kind of significant cost.
Running Back Analysis
Sint Maarten has four backs under contract for the 2023 season, but none are guaranteed starters. All four players — Dameon Pierce, Khalil Herbert, Elijah Mitchell, and Michael Carter — have been complementary players. So, while one or more might work their way into Sint Maarten’s rotation at some point during the 2023 season, the team really needs to find at least one, but probably two strong starters at the position.
Wide Receiver Analysis
As previously noted, the combination of Cooper Kupp and Brandon Aiyuk is a pretty solid 1-2 punch at the receiver position. A year after lighting the league on fire, Kupp was off to another hot start last year before succumbing to a season-ending injury. But Kupp averaged 22.4 points per game in 9 games last year, good enough for first among receivers. Aiyuk had a terrific bounce-back season, a year after finding his way into the coach’s doghouse. He finished at WR15, averaging 13.4 points per game. The Savages also have Jahan Dotson and John Metchie under contract. Metchie missed his rookie season with cancer, but hopefully can come back and play football. Dotson had a pretty good rookie year scoring 7 touchdowns while missing five games to injury. He could take a nice sophomore step. The Savages can add another receiver to the depth chart but are in pretty good shape.
Tight End Analysis
Sint Maarten wound up trading George Kittle to Peru but received a nice haul when all was said and done. One of the players they acquired was tight end Cole Kmet, whose season took off as soon as the Savages brought him in. Kmet finished as TE8 on the season, but averaged 12.3 points per game in the final 11 games of the season. Extrapolated over the course of a full year, he would have been TE5. Can he keep that momentum going? It’s hard to say with other weapons being added around him. But he’s a good piece to have at an affordable cost. Adding another body to compete would be a wise move.
The primary objective this offseason is bringing back Patrick Mahomes with a franchise tag, probably the NFT. That should enable the Savages to lock him up for multiple years, maybe at a cheaper price than they signed him for in 2022. Once that is locked down, signing two starting running backs and adding depth to the receiver position ought to make this team more competitive in 2023 and enable them to make a deeper playoff run.
“What could be…”
All eyes will be on Cooper Kupp in 2023. Many felt his record 2021 season was a fluke, something that couldn’t be sustained. He showed last year that he still had explosive ability, but he couldn’t stay healthy, and health counts toward a player’s success or failure. With such a large contract — his $24.3 million salary makes him the second-highest paid player in the league at the moment — he could severely hamper the fortunes of the Savages if he has another season like last year. But on the flip side, a full healthy season could put a lot more W’s in the standings for the Savages and help them improve from a season ago. That’s why it’s imperative that they add some strong depth to the roster and mitigate what another Kupp injury could do to their fortunes in 2023.
Next Up: Peru Gurus