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How should the Saints tackle their restricted free agents?

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New Orleans has some interesting decisions to make on their four restricted free agents, but perhaps the most difficult choice comes down to what to do with Brandon Coleman and Willie Snead.

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints rumors are heating up as we get closer to free agency. The futures of Kenny Vaccaro and Senio Kelemete along with the Jarvis Landry trade rumors are just some of the many things floating out there. Most hype around this time of the offseason is all about the NFL Draft, but before we get there, free agency is really and should really be the king of discussions.

As a team, the Saints have well over 20 free agents entering the new season. While the vast majority will not be retained, some big interest centers around the four players that qualify as restricted free agents in 2018: Delvin Breaux, Brandon Coleman, Willie Snead, and David Parry. With the exception of Breaux (Age 28), the other three players are 25 years old.

Is it really so simple to say that New Orleans should bring these players back? The current restricted free agent tender levels are estimated by Over the Cap as follows:

  • First round: $4,152,000
  • Second round: $2,916,000
  • Original round: $1,908,000

In short, this is the way these tenders work:

  1. First-round tender: Free agent can negotiate with other teams, but original team has option to match any deal and will receive a first-round selection if it opts not to match the deal.
  2. Second-round tender: Free agent can negotiate with other teams, but original team has option to match any deal and will receive a second-round selection if it opts not to match the deal.
  3. Original-round tender: Free agent can negotiate with other teams, but original team has option to match any deal and will receive a selection equal to the round the player was originally selected in if it opts not to match the deal.

As for David Parry, a former fifth-round pick by the Colts in 2015, he was suspended at the end of the season for four games for an incident in February 2017 while not being with New Orleans. Because he served that suspension at the end of last season, he is eligible for 2018 without any hiccups. Parry only appeared in one game for the Saints (Week 3 vs. Panthers), logging only three snaps. Parry is more of a nose tackle, and it’s hard to envision him making big noise when the team has a player like Mitchell Loewen (who was flashy in camp and preseason, especially on special teams) coming back from injured reserve.

Delvin Breaux might seem like a no-brainer at a price tag of $1.9 million, but the truth of it all is that he’s not been the same since his first season in 2015. 2016 was all sorts of wrong for Breaux, and further insult to injury occurred in 2017 mainly due to team doctors. Perhaps the relationship hasn’t been totally soured with Breaux, as he could be big depth for New Orleans at cornerback. The thought of Breaux being a solid No. 2 opposite of Marshon Lattimore and beating out Ken Crawley seems like a pipe dream, but if the Saints were to pursue someone like Malcolm Butler and have Crawley and Breaux as reserve cornerbacks, that’s a big win for New Orleans.

Now we get to the difficult decisions. It’s hard to imagine the Saints placing anything other than original-round tender on both Snead and Coleman, two undrafted free agents. What’s interesting to me is when you peel back the stats, you get some varying stories.

For instance, Coleman finished with an AV (or Approximate Value) of 4, while Snead turned in a whopping AV of 1. The season before, Snead had an AV of 8. But conversely, Snead had a better Pro Football Focus grade than Coleman (56.0 vs 46.6), with Coleman tallying 682 total snaps to Snead’s 325. From those grades, Snead wound up being the No. 76 receiver and Coleman came in at No. 98 out of 116 receivers. Comparatively speaking, Ted Ginn Jr. finished with a grade of 76.2 to rank 41st, seeing 702 total snaps. His AV was 9, which tied for the highest in his career (2015 - Panthers).

Factoring in Coleman’s snap counts, he severely underperformed compared to his peers that were in a +15/-15 snap count range.

  • Roger Lewis, Giants (AV 3): 693 snaps, 46.0 overall grade, 100th overall
  • Tyler Lockett, Seahawks (AV 6): 691 snaps, 75.1 overall grade, 48th overall
  • Terrance Williams, Cowboys (AV 6): 687 snaps, 76.6 overall grade, 39th overall
  • Brandon Coleman, Saints (AV 4): 682 snaps, 46.6 overall grade, 98th overall
  • Adam Humphries, Buccaneers (AV 5): 681 snaps, 67.8 overall grade, 67th overall
  • DeVante Parker, Dolphins (AV 5): 675 snaps, 73.2 overall grade, 53rd overall
  • Jamison Crowder, Redskins (AV 6): 670 snaps, 78.3 overall grade, 31st overall

Brandon Coleman’s run blocking is what many praise, as he graded out 44th with a grade of 61.7 on 396 run plays. He was hands down the best Saints blocker when it comes to the wide receiver group, but is that enough to say tender him? Last year, New Orleans was able to keep Coleman under the exclusive rights free agent tag (ERFA), which gave him a $615,000 salary. Coleman ended up being the team’s No. 3 wide receiver last season when in reality he shouldn’t have been.

Here’s a look at how Willie Snead fared compared to his peers using a +20/-20 snap count range to more accurately represent the talent level.

  • Geronimo Allison, Packers (AV 2): 343 snaps, 44.0 overall grade, 107th overall
  • Andre Holmes, Bills (AV 1): 340 snaps, 58.2 overall grade, 74th overall
  • Chad Hansen, Jets (AV 1): 340 snaps, 49.0 overall grade, 89th overall
  • Jarius Wright, Vikings (AV 2): 329 snaps, 75.1 overall grade, 48th overall
  • Mack Hollins, Eagles (AV 2): 329 snaps, 55.8 overall grade, 78th overall
  • Willie Snead, Saints (AV 1): 325 snaps, 56.0 overall grade, 76th overall
  • Tyler Boyd, Bengals (AV 2): 307 snaps, 62.4 overall grade, 72nd overall

Snead’s disappearing act in 2017 came at the worst time possible, as his season was practically over before it began with an off-the-field DUI and then being hurt during training camp. Needless to say, it was a huge reason Snead missed out on a big pay day in New Orleans. Like Coleman, Snead was an exclusive rights free agent, so the Saints kept him at $615,000.

Perhaps New Orleans could choose to tender one of their wide receivers, but both don’t seem entirely realistic. The best way to deal with Brandon Coleman would be to offer him some type of longer deal, say in the vicinity of a 4-year, $10 million contract. Using Spotrac’s free agent tracker with their AAV (average annual value), $1.9 million could get you a receiver like Jaron Brown, Andre Roberts, Matthew Slater, and Albert Wilson, to name a few.

Free agency is sure to yield some interesting players when it comes to wide receiver, and I’m all for upgrading what the Saints have. There are some unknowns on the roster like Paul Turner, Josh Huff, Travin Dural, and even Austin Carr. However you play it out, the Saints receiving corps could look pretty different in 2018.

Poll

If you’re the Saints, who would be your priority player for RFA tender?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    David Parry
    (14 votes)
  • 59%
    Delvin Breaux
    (419 votes)
  • 18%
    Brandon Coleman
    (130 votes)
  • 20%
    Willie Snead
    (141 votes)
704 votes total Vote Now