The official start of the 2020 NFL season is on Wednesday, March 18, also the official start of the league’s free agency period. Teams can negotiate with the agents of pending free agents on Monday the 16th, however, so several players will have already agreed to new contracts in principle by mid-week. The New Orleans Saints have 17 unrestricted free agents of their own, including ten that started multiple games in 2019.
New Orleans will also look to fill some glaring team needs through both free agency and the upcoming draft. The Saints have made some vital free agent acquisitions without crippling their salary cap over the last few seasons. Linebackers Demario Davis and A.J. Klein, defensive tackle Malcom Brown, and guard Larry Warford have been key pieces to a roster that has won three consecutive NFC South titles.
Here are a few additions that I could see the Saints making on the offensive side:
Graham Glasgow, Guard
The Saints have not hesitated to spend big money for an interior offensive lineman in the past. With left guard Andrus Peat becoming an unrestricted free agent, New Orleans will again spend in free agency to give quarterback Drew Brees a clean interior pocket.
Patriots guard Joe Thuney is expected to be the top interior offensive lineman available in free agency, and the Saints could make a run at him. Right behind Thuney is Glasgow, the 27-Yr old guard from the Detroit Lions. A 3rd round pick in the 2016 draft, Glasgow has missed just one start in the last three seasons with Detroit. At 6’6 310-Lbs., Glasgow sets a solid base as a pass blocker and is an accomplished run blocker with the athleticism to be effective at the second level.
If the Saints were to miss out on Glasgow or Thuney, keep an eye on Ereck Flowers. The 9th overall pick of the 2015 draft, the same draft where the Saints selected Peat at Number 13, Flowers was considered a bust his first four years at left tackle with the New York Giants. Flowers rejuvenated his career at left guard with the Washington Redskins last season, grading out as one of the league’s better interior linemen. He also can slide over to tackle if needed, which would give New Orleans the same versatility that they enjoyed with Peat.
Derek Watt, Fullback
Fullback Zach Line announced his retirement at the conclusion of the season, creating a hole at an important offensive position. New Orleans could make a run at restricted free agent C.J. Ham of the Minnesota Vikings, but a cheaper option would be Derek Watt of the Chargers. The middle brother of a talented trio of NFL brothers, Derek is not as well-known as defensive stars J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans or T.J. Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 27-Yr old fullback has paved the way for Chargers backs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler for four seasons while never missing a game. He also has the athletic versatility to be a valuable check down option in the passing game or line up at tight end in some alignments.
Demaryius Thomas, Wide Receiver
The most glaring need for the Saints going into this offseason has to be considered at wide receiver, where the team has little threat outside of All-Pro Michael Thomas. New Orleans has shown little interest in free agent wideouts during Head Coach Sean Payton’s fourteen year tenure with the team, though they had some success with Ted Ginn Jr. in 2017. Ginn is heading to free agency after an ineffective season and Tre'Quan Smith continues to be a disappointment. I expect the Saints to address this spot high in the draft but to bring in a veteran wideout.
With the salary cap space likely being devoted to other areas given the team’s history under Payton, we shouldn’t expect a high-priced addition at this position, ruling out players like Randall Cobb of the Cowboys or the Jets’ Robbie Anderson. A young veteran like 26-Yr old Breshad Perriman of the Buccaneers would add speed to the receiving corps. Perriman, son of former New Orleans receiver Brett Perriman, had the best year of his career with Tampa Bay after a disappointing three seasons with the Ravens as the 26th overall pick in the 2015 draft.
A player like Demaryius Thomas would fit perfectly in the Saints offensive system. An eleven-year veteran, the 32-Yr old Thomas had brilliant success in nine seasons with the Denver Broncos, breaking the 900-Yd barrier six times and hauling in 60 touchdowns. Two injury-riddled years with the Texans and Jets have robbed Thomas of some of his athleticism, but he can still be effective in the right offense. He’s a physical wideout and uses his 6’3 225-Lb frame to shield defenders expertly from the ball. Thomas excels best on the shorter intermediate routes and has great run-after-catch skills on wide receiver screens, a perfect fit for the Saints offensive scheme.
Saints News Network will have more complete coverage of the New Orleans Saints in free agency this week.
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