A sure-handed pass catcher, Jarvis Landry comes to the Big Easy as a free agent after spending the past four seasons with the Cleveland Browns. Landry, who grew up just an hour away from downtown New Orleans in a small town called Convent, will sign a one-year $6 million deal to play for his hometown team and join his former LSU teammate Tyrann Mathieu.
"It's a blessing to be back. As a kid you always grew up wishing to play for the New Orleans Saints, play for the LSU Tigers, and I can say I accomplished both, being a hometown kid," said Landry. He recalls not being able to afford a ticket for Saints games when he was growing up. “To be on this stage and have my family be able to come to these games, it's going to be awesome.”
While the double homecoming of Landry and Mathieu is a feel-good story for fans, the signings indicate something far more revealing about the Saints. They’re trying to win, and they’re trying to win now.
Landry, a five-time Pro Bowler, has racked up over 7,500 yards and boasts an 11 yard per catch average. He joins All-Pro receiver and 2019 Offensive Player of the Year, Michael Thomas, who returns for the Saints after missing the 2021 season with an ankle injury. Each has accounted for over 30 receiving touchdowns in their careers (Landry-37, Thomas-32) but there are some questions heading into 2022. Both are coming off injury plagued seasons and are hungry to get back to their elite forms, but we can’t be sure how ready they’ll be until training camp gets going this summer.
Landry and Thomas will be tasked with bringing along rookie wideout Chris Olave, who New Orleans selected with the eleventh overall pick in the draft after making a pair of trades to put themselves in position. The former Buckeye, Olave, already has a strong relationship with fellow Ohio State alum Thomas and displayed track star speed when he turned in a 4.39s 40-yard dash at this March’s combine. As if this trio of explosive pass catchers weren’t enough for defenses to worry about, they’ve also got to account for do-it-all running back Alvin Kamara.
Kamara isn’t just the Saints’ most versatile weapon, he’s also its most important. The two-time All-Pro back saw his lowest career per-carry average last season at 3.7 yards, a significant drop from his 5.0 yard average the season before. As a matter of fact, Kamara had career lows in almost every category. But the fault isn’t entirely, or even mostly, Kamara’s.
When starting quarterback Jameis Winston went down with a knee injury in Week 8 last year, the Saints were left up the creek without a paddle. Without a legitimate play caller under center and missing their All-Pro wideout Thomas, New Orleans had only one choice. Give Kamara the ball. Of course, they weren’t the only ones to come to this conclusion as defenses packed the box and keyed on Kamara for the rest of the season.
Despite missing four games, Kamara carried the ball 240 times in 2021, almost 60 more than his second highest usage rushing season. Although his handoffs increased, his receptions dropped to nearly half of his usual season average (81.5 rec to 37 rec). With this increase in runs and decrease in route running, opponents were able to easily scheme for the one-dimensional Saints. It was the worst-case scheme and scenario for Kamara. Although his stats were disappointing, one should be looked at as a silver-lining. In a season where he ran the ball more than ever, he didn’t fumble once, a first for the young ball carrier.
With the addition of Landry and Olave to complement the returns of Jameis Winston and Michael Thomas, there will undoubtedly be a lot more variety in the Saints’ offense, which should free up Kamara to be his old self, putting would be tacklers on ice skates. In addition to a commitment to winning now rather than later, the Saints have also gone all-in on their Jameis Winston experiment.
New Orleans has gone out and cashed in their chips on short-term contracts for proven vets and played the draft aggressively in hopes that Olave will be the league’s next stellar rookie playmaker. With all these weapons and one of the league’s top five defenses that totes All-Pros Mathieu and Cameron Jordan (defensive end), the stage is set for Winston to either make it or break it.
Notorious for his 30 touchdown and 30 interception season with Tampa Bay in 2019, Winston showed improved decision making before his injury last season and should feel a sense of continuity with the promotion of Dennis Allen from defensive coordinator to head coach after the departure of Sean Payton. The addition of Landry also provides an extra security blanket for Winston’s riskier throws as the wideout had a contested catch rate of 57.1 last season, eighth best in the league.
If Michael Thomas is totally healthy, the fearsome foursome of Thomas, Landry, Olave, and Kamara should give Winston the ammo to light up some scoreboards this fall. New Orleans will give fans their first taste of the Saints’ revamped offense when they go on the road to take on the Atlanta Falcons on Sep. 11 at 1 p.m. EST.