METAIRIE, La. — The New Orleans Saints‘ defense could be even more depleted to start the 2021 season after standout defensive tackle David Onyemata announced that he is facing a suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.
Onyemata, 28, was also suspended for one game to start the 2019 season after being issued a misdemeanor summons for marijuana possession. It’s unclear if that could potentially affect the length of a new suspension, which appears to fall under the category of performance-enhancing substances based on his Instagram post.
The specific violation and the length of his potential suspension were not immediately known.
“I was informed by the NFLPA yesterday that I have tested positive for a banned substance resulting in a suspension for part of the 2021 NFL season,” Onyemata wrote. “While I was certainly surprised and disappointed with this news, I am responsible for what I put in my body. As I have never knowingly taken anything that could cause a positive test, we are currently in the process of testing the supplements I was taking at the time of the test. Regardless, I am committed to being more aware of any medication and dietary supplements that may contain substances banned by the NFL.”
Onyemata has developed into one of the Saints’ best defensive players after being drafted in the fourth round out of the University of Manitoba in Canada in 2016. And he is the anchor of a defensive tackle position that was thinned out this offseason when they traded veteran Malcom Brown and let veteran Sheldon Rankins leave as a free agent.
The Saints have more than $10 million in salary-cap space to work with after some recent contract restructures and extensions. So it’s possible they could still look to add depth to the position before the start of training camp.
Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore, a three-time Pro Bowler, could also face potential discipline from the NFL after being arrested on a stolen gun charge earlier this offseason. That’s another position the Saints could still look to address in free agency after they released fellow starter Janoris Jenkins during a salary-cap purge this offseason.
Onyemata is a Nigerian native who never played North American football until he went to college. But he has developed rapidly ever since. He became a full-time starter in 2019 and signed a three-year, $27 million extension as a free agent in 2020.
The 6-foot-4, 300-pounder has been a huge part of the Saints’ stellar run defense, which ranks No. 1 in the NFL over the past four years combined. But he also has improved as a pass-rusher, with a career-high 6.5 sacks in 2020 and a total of 14 sacks over the past three seasons.