In each of the past three seasons and four times in the past five years, the new orleans Saints finished with a 7-9 record. A franchise that reached the playoffs three consecutive seasons from 2009-11 and started off that run with a victory in Super Bowl XLIV. Now the club keeps getting off to poor starts and winds up not being able to overcome them. While the team’s offense remains prolific, the New Orleans defense has been a yearly issue. The club addressed a lot of those problems this offseason, especially in April’s NFL draft. But recently, the organization got some bad news about one of their better players.

Rough offseason

It has been a bad few months for Sean Payton’s team. Earlier this year, quality center Max Unger had to undergo foot surgery and is currently still on the mend. The New Orleans Saints have some options in terms of depth in Senio Kelemete, Jack Allen, Cameron Tom and recently-signed Chris Watt. The latter is a one-time member of the now-Los Angeles Chargers and is looking to make an NFL comeback. Then came the news that left tackle Terron Armstead needed shoulder surgery and would be likely be sidelined until October. That puts veteran Khalif Barnes at his spot, with 2017 first-rounder Ryan Ramczyk in contention for the job as well.

Now comes the news regarding Defensive Tackle Nick Fairley.

The organization has placed him on the non-football injury list, meaning he won’t play in 2017. The six-year pro has a heart condition and has been advised not to play. Fairley had a terrific first season with New Orleans after spending the next four seasons with the Detroit Lions and one year with the Rams. The 2011 first-round pick finished second on the Saints with 6.5 sacks and had recently signed a new four-year contract with the franchise.

Plans for 2017

Even before Fairley was ruled out for the upcoming season, the New Orleans Saints went out and secured the services of veteran defensive tackle Tony McDaniel from the Seattle Seahawks. He slides inside next to 2016 first-rounder Sheldon Rankins. That duo is flanked by defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Alex Okafor, who joined the team from the Arizona Cardinals during free agency.

Along with playing the run, this front four hopes to improve on the club’s disappointing total of 30 sacks. In any case, the loss of Nick Fairley is a big blow for a defensive unit that has been severely challenged in recent seasons.