Saints mailbag: What should New Orleans do at wide receiver?
We only have to sit through one more real game of NFL action before we officially turn our attention to 2020. This is a big week for the New Orleans Saints and the rest of the league, as the Senior Bowl rolls along in Mobile, Alabama this week. Before we know it, the salary cap will be set and free agency will be here. I recently took to Twitter to collect some of your Saints questions to answer them in a weekly mailbag. Thanks for the submissions, and keep them coming.
Should the Saints draft a wide receiver or grab a free agent?
The answer is yes. They should honestly look at doing both, as I alluded to in my top offseason needs piece. There's a few schools of thought here. Assuming Drew Brees returns to the team, the Saints need to get better receiving options that aren't named Michael Thomas or Jared Cook for him. More than a couple times, the communication between Brees and his receivers has not been there. So, you're going to need to get a smart free agent that can pick up the playbook, and then get one of the many talented players in this deep wide receiver class. A lot is made of Brees' arm strength, so if for whatever reason he's not able to get the ball down the field like he used to, then they need quick receivers who can take a short pass and run up the field for extra yards.
Put it this way, it's not going to hurt getting other players in that are going to challenge the likes of Tre'Quan Smith, Maurice Harris, Tim White, Emmanuel Butler, and Taquan Mizzell.
What free agents should the Saints bring back?
There's a lot of free agents set to hit the market for the Saints in just a short time frame. All exclusive rights free agents (J.T. Gray, Keith Kirkwood, Lil'Jordan Humphrey) should be easy decisions for the team to bring back, while the restricted free agents pose a more interesting route. Taysom Hill is arguably the top priority there, and he's situation may be a little more complex compared to the others. When the league does set the salary cap, then we'll know more of the tender costs for each player, but based on last season, the tender costs ranged from $2-5 million. He'll be a situation to monitor. Other than that, it's not hard to see the Saints keeping all of their RFAs (Zach Wood, Justin Hardee, Cameron Tom, Krishawn Hogan, Austin Carr). However, we'll see.
As for the unrestricted free agents, that's where things get tricky. Clearly, Drew Brees is your top priority, and it would be hard to see him hitting the open market in the first place, which would put the Saints on the hook for a lot of dead money. Teddy Bridgewater is likely getting paid elsewhere to compete for a starting role in 2020, Zach Line retired, and moving on from players like Andrus Peat and Ted Ginn Jr. seem all but likely. If I had to rank the list of importance right now, this is how I'd see it.
- Vonn Bell
- David Onyemata
- Eli Apple
- P.J. Williams
- A.J. Klein
I'm intrigued by Noah Spence, and feel like a low-risk move there to see him in training camp would pay off. I'd also look at bringing back role players like Dwayne Washington and Patrick Omameh. Eli Apple is going to garner some interest from other teams, and it wouldn't surprise me to see a team like the Dallas Cowboys try to pay him. I loved seeing P.J. Williams' versatility down the stretch, and maybe another one-year, $3 million deal for him sounds adequate for the new season. However, Vonn Bell would be the priority, with David Onyemata being the next one.
Do you see the team aggressively pursuing Brandon Scherff as the left guard of the future?
The former first-rounder is a great interior lineman, but he has the same issues going for him as Andrus Peat in not being able to play a whole season. He hasn't fielded a full 16 games since 2016, which is obviously a red flag. He's definitely one of the creams of the crop when it comes to the guard market, and should be in line for a rebound season. Personally, the top guy here is Joe Thuney of the Patriots. He hasn't missed a game in his career, and his track record speaks for itself. I also wouldn't rule out Nick Easton and Will Clapp battling it out for the starting spot if the Saints don't make a move, and I'd also throw in Cameron Tom to the mix if they bring him back.
As much as the Saints need a wide receiver, what other positions do you think need upgrading?
Right off the bat, linebacker is what stands out for me. The team will get back Alex Anzalone and Kaden Elliss from injured reserve and a returning Craig Robertson in 2020, and it's just hard to put all my eggs in the basket of Anzalone surviving a full season with the Saints. Couple that with A.J. Klein, Stephone Anthony, and Manti Te'o being free agents and the team having to fill the loss of Mike Nolan, and that's an area that absolutely terrifies me if you're not named Demario Davis.
Upon first glimpse, the linebacker free agent market is fairly saturated with older veterans. However, that doesn't mean there isn't talent. Cory Littleton, Joe Schobert, and Blake Martinez would likely be the top targets on the radar, but everyone will be interested in signing them. Nick Vigil and De'Vondre Campbell are also names to remember, but Campbell probably returns to the Falcons. David Mayo and Jamie Collins might be two of the other names to keep an eye on.