The New Orleans Saints traded four Day 3 draft picks last spring to move up into the 3rd round to select TE Adam Trautman with the 105th overall pick. When they did that, most felt that they made the pick to groom Trautman for the starting tight end job in 2021.
Trautman showed the promise that coaches wanted to see in 2020, despite limited opportunities. He caught 15 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown, with 12 receptions coming in the last nine contests. His blocking skills also drew praise from the coaching staff and earned him more playing time down the stretch of the year.
New Orleans released tight ends Josh Hill and Jared Cook this past week, leaving the starting job Trautman's to lose. Even with the promise of their second-year tight end, the team only has Garrett Griffin and second-year Ethan Wolfe at the position for depth.
The Saints could bring back Hill, a reliable eight-year veteran, on a reduced salary. They could also address the position later in the draft, but probably not with an early pick because of other more pressing needs.
With the start of the NFL's free agent signing period on March 17th, New Orleans could look to bring in a young veteran to complement Trautman.
Some reports have linked 34-Yr old veteran TE Jimmy Graham in a reunion with the Saints. However, Graham would have to accept a lesser role, play on a team-friendly deal, and is currently still under contract with the Chicago Bears.
Here are a few pending free agent tight ends that could be nice fits for the Saints.
Trey Burton (29 - Colts)
Gerald Everett (27 - Rams)
David Njoku (24 - Browns)
Jordan Reed (30 - 49ers)
Jonnu Smith (26 - Titans)
Geoff Swaim (30 - Titans)
(Age and previous team in parentheses)
Jonnu Smith is a talented up-and-coming player that might be too expensive to sign, if the Titans even let him hit the market. Njoku is another receiving mismatch for defenses that will reportedly be released by Cleveland. His receiving ability would be a great fit in New Orleans.
Burton has been an underrated but reliable receiver in all three of his NFL stops, but has never had consistent quarterback play. Swaim has nice athleticism down the field, but had just one productive year early in his career with Dallas and is not a physical blocker.
The oft-injured Reed has terrific receiving ability and has the athleticism to beat defenses down the field, but has played as many as 14 games just once in an eight-year career. Everett would be a terrific addition to the New Orleans offense. He’s a physical run blocker and had the athletic ability to thrive in the Rams motion offense. Everett is also an underrated receiver who improved his production in each of his four NFL seasons.
The tight end position should belong to Adam Trautman in 2021, but the Saints run several alignments with multiple tight ends. Josh Hill could be re-signed at a reduced salary, but players like Gerald Everett, David Njoku, or Trey Burton would be perfect fits for the offense and add another legitimate receiving threat.