METAIRIE, La. – The New Orleans Saints’ prime precedence over the subsequent two weeks might be figuring out their beginning quarterback.
However whether or not they convey again a free agent like Jameis Winston or Teddy Bridgewater or pursue a blockbuster commerce, their subsequent precedence must be giving that quarterback a greater assortment of targets.
The Saints completed final in passing yards in 2021 (187.4 per recreation). Clearly that had lots to do with main accidents to Winston (torn ACL in Week 8) and receiver Michael Thomas (missed whole season with ankle damage).
The excellent news is Thomas is predicted again wholesome in 2022. Nevertheless, veteran receiver Tre’Quan Smith is an unrestricted free agent. And whether or not or not the Saints convey Smith again, they should add a minimum of yet another dependable pass-catcher to a mixture that at present contains receiver Marquez Callaway, restricted free-agent receiver Deonte Harris and tight ends Adam Trautman, Nick Vannett and Juwan Johnson.
So the broad receivers must be particularly intriguing at this week’s NFL scouting mix. Drafting a receiver makes quite a lot of sense, contemplating the Saints’ salary-cap limitations and the quantity of expertise that must be obtainable with the 18th decide in Spherical 1.
Plus, the Saints are method overdue to draft a high-end receiver. New Orleans has chosen just one over the previous three drafts — seventh-rounder Kawaan Baker in 2021. That’s a disgrace contemplating how a lot expertise has come into the league at that place over that span.
The Saints and Atlanta Falcons are the one two groups that didn’t draft any receivers in Rounds 1-4 from 2019 to ’21, however the Falcons landed dynamic pass-catching tight finish Kyle Pitts with the fourth general decide final yr.
Here’s a look at New Orleans’ finest choices to revive the passing recreation:
That is by far crucial repair, contemplating Thomas was the NFL’s Offensive Participant of the Yr and set a league file with 149 catches the final time he was totally wholesome in 2019.
The 6-foot-3, 212-pounder missed 9 video games in 2020 after initially struggling the damage in Week 1. Then he had offseason surgical procedure in 2021 and suffered a setback in his restoration halfway via the season.
All indicators point out Thomas and the Saints are on the identical web page, regardless of final yr’s friction over the timing of his ankle surgical procedure. There was no indication both facet is in search of a commerce – particularly after the Saints transformed $14.6 million of Thomas’ scheduled wage and roster bonus right into a signing bonus.
And Thomas’ motivation to be nice is rarely a priority. Thomas, who turns 29 on Thursday, just lately deleted his previous Instagram posts, changing them with a video of Kobe Bryant describing “demon mode.”
It’s a bit troublesome to peg a selected receiver sort since we don’t know the quarterback but. However ESPN analyst Matt Bowen stated he thinks complement for Thomas and working again Alvin Kamara would “have some vertical stretch potential and will be deployed each inside and out of doors the numbers.”
Bowen, who has been learning this yr’s receiver draft class, began by itemizing USC’s Drake London, Alabama’s Jameson Williams, Arkansas’ Treylon Burks and Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson as potential first-round matches in New Orleans for various causes.
Amongst different detailed notes and movies Bowen has been sharing on Twitter, he in contrast the 6-foot-5, 210-pound London to former Saints nice Marques Colston due to how he may match as a boundary receiver and vertical stretch goal down the center of the sphere.
“Extraordinarily lengthy body, linear straight-line participant, however has developed in fairly good element by way of his route tree and the way he can assault defenders and create separation for himself,” Bowen stated of London.
As for Williams, Bowen stated “I completely love” his tape “as a result of I feel he’s a game-changer.”
“He’s electrical by way of his potential to stretch the sphere and his potential to run after the catch,” Bowen stated of the 6-2, 189-pounder. “He’s a fluid, simple mover, he’s received an especially versatile decrease physique, unfastened hips, and he can flat-out go. He performs at a special pace than everybody else on the tape – and he’s taking part in towards SEC gamers.”
Williams’ draft inventory may very well be affected by the torn ACL he suffered through the nationwide championship recreation. However Bowen stated “you’re not drafting a participant for the primary 4 video games of his rookie yr in September.”
Different attainable Saints matches Bowen talked about had been Penn State’s Jahan Dotson, Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce, North Dakota State’s Christian Watson and Alabama’s John Metchie III.
ESPN draft analyst Jordan Reid wrote that the receiver class is deep sufficient for groups to discover a attainable starter in Rounds 2 or 3 as effectively.
The Saints plan to stay in win-now mode underneath new coach Dennis Allen, so they might make one or two aggressive strikes in free company regardless of starting the offseason $75 million over the projected wage cap.
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Nevertheless, it might nonetheless be shocking to see them land a high-end free-agent receiver like Davante Adams, Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson or Mike Williams.
They confirmed nice curiosity in Louisiana native Odell Beckham Jr. earlier than he signed with the Los Angeles Rams, however he tore his ACL within the Tremendous Bowl. Different free brokers like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Michael Gallup, Will Fuller and DJ Chark additionally include damage considerations – although Bowen thinks the upside is attractive with Smith-Schuster as somebody who can line up within the slot and make large performs.
Bowen is particularly intrigued by Christian Kirk, who additionally has inside/outdoors potential and was caught in a crowded WR corps with the Arizona Cardinals.
Different free brokers who’ve proven glimpses of untapped potential embody Cedrick Wilson, Russell Gage and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Veteran choices embody former Saint Emmanuel Sanders, together with A.J. Inexperienced or Jamison Crowder.
The Saints may additionally think about a pass-catching tight finish in a free-agent class loaded with intriguing choices, together with Rob Gronkowski, Zach Ertz, Mike Gesicki, Dalton Schultz, Evan Engram, O.J. Howard and David Njoku.