Josh Wilson, one of our friends and the Editor-in-Chief of SB Nation's Stampede Blue on the Indianapolis Colts, was kind enough to answer a few questions about the newest addition to the New Orleans Saints: Tight End Coby Fleener.
Generally, what can Saints fans expect from Coby Fleener?
Saints fans can expect a tight end who will give solid production in the passing game with the potential for even more. He was continually one of the most reliable targets that the Colts had in the passing game, as he was one of their leading receivers over the past few seasons. Fleener has the skillset and the talent to become one of the better receiving tight ends in the game, and in Indianapolis he was definitely an above-average one, at least in 2014. He can stretch a defense and can do pretty much everything that a team likely would ask from a tight end in the receiving game - at least before the catch. After the catch, Fleener struggles to make plays and his yards after the catch numbers are pretty low. Furthermore, he's not a blocking tight end and asking him to be one wouldn't be smart and wouldn't be utilizing his skillset. I think it's fair for the Saints to have high hopes for him, as Fleener has the talent and the skillset to potentially have a nice impact on New Orleans' offense as a receiver.
As far as you know, how is Coby Fleener in the locker room? Did he have any off-the-field issues in Indianapolis?
Fleener didn't have any off-the-field troubles in Indianapolis and instead was a good influence in the locker room and in the community. It's impossible to know about any player for sure, but there should absolutely be no concerns whatsoever about Fleener's presence in the locker room or in the community.
With the Colts, Fleener was rarely the only TE used. In New Orleans, that trend is expected to continue in New Orleans with the Saints having recently resigned Michael Hoomanawanui. Would you be more surprised if Coby's numbers increase in New Orleans or decrease, compared to his time in Indy?
As long as the Saints give him the opportunities, I expect Fleener's numbers to go up in New Orleans - and a large part of it is the offense he is joining. For as good as Andrew Luck has been during his first four years with the Colts, he hasn't put up even close to the types of numbers that Drew Brees has (the only year he compared was in 2014), and Brees and the Saints have done it for a long period of time. Perhaps more importantly, however, they have always seemed to find a way to get the tight end involved in the passing game, whether it was Jimmy Graham or Ben Watson. I think it's a great fit, then, for Fleener to join Drew Brees and Sean Payton in New Orleans, as it should ideally help him to flourish as a receiver and put up better numbers. There's always the chance that he fails to improve and that the Saints are left with a guy who's an average contributor, but the upside for Fleener in that offense should be pretty high.
Do you think he's worth the five years, 36 million he's reported to get from the Saints?
The question of value is a tough one, because I'm still trying to catch up to the NFL's increased salary cap and inflated deals. We've already seen a guy become the highest-paid defensive end in NFL history and a quarterback with seven career starts get $72 million, so free agency is a time where huge contracts are given out. In an ideal world, I would have guessed that Fleener would be worth around $5-6 million per season (probably toward the high end of that), but with the increased salary cap I'm not surprised to see him average $7.2 million per year. According to Spotrac, Fleener will now rank 12th among tight ends in the NFL in average salary per year, and I think that's perfectly fair for a guy signed during a year with a record salary cap. So I guess what I mean to say is that considering the surrounding circumstances and the state of free agency in the NFL, I'm not surprised by his deal and I think it's a fine one for the Saints to pay. There's obviously huge risk involved with any deal of this magnitude and they are counting on Fleener to improve and produce, but I don't think the contract makes it an unnecessary or unwise risk. If anything, I would say that the length is more of a surprise than the value, but as we know in the NFL, contracts are year-to-year anyway so that's not as big of a deal.
Thank-you, Josh for taking the time to talk with us! Saints fans, make sure you check out Stampede Blue, and follow Josh on Twitter at @JoshWilsonSB.