Not long ago, the New Orleans Saints had perhaps the deepest receiving corps in the league, and certainly the most underrated. Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, and Robert Meachem stretched opposing defenses to the breaking point, leading to a record-breaking passing attack. Willie Snead and Brandin Cooks added to the productivity as those players grew older and moved on, but quarterback Drew Brees could always count on a multitude of receivers to spread the ball around. The 2017 Saints passing offense provided their usual statistics, averaging nearly 262 yards per game to rank 5th in the league. The bulk of the productivity, however, fell on the shoulders of three players. Michael Thomas established himself as one of the NFL's best receivers, finishing with 1,245 yards and 5 touchdowns on a team record 104 receptions. Rookie phenom running back Alvin Kamara added 81 catches for 826 yards and 5 scores through the air, and 2017 free agent signee Ted Ginn had a productive first year in New Orleans, with 53 receptions for 787 yards and 4 touchdowns. The rest of the Saints receiving corps struggled with consistency and production, combining for less than 11% of Brees' completions and only 13% of the team's passing yardage. Brandon Coleman is a terrific blocker and is a capable fourth receiver, but has not progressed into a top wideout like many expected. Willie Snead was arguably the biggest disappointment on the team, catching just 8 passes for 92 yards after back-to-back years of nearly 1,000 yards receiving and 141 total receptions. The official start of free agency is just days away, and here are a few wideouts that could boost the production of a thin New Orleans receiving corps.
Allen Robinson (Jacksonville Jaguars)
4-yr. pro 6'3 220-lbs., 24-yrs. old
Robinson missed all but one game in 2017 due to a torn ACL in his left knee. Lousy timing for a wideout that would have commanded a top salary. Robinson's best season was 2015, when he caught 80 passes for 1,400 yards and a league leading 14 touchdowns. Although lacking top-end speed, Robinson has great leaping ability and good body control. He is a sharp route runner, able to effectively run the full route tree with the ability to consistently beat press coverage. Coming off injury, Robinson may accept a 1 or 2-yr. deal to set himself up for a max contract.
Donte Moncrief (Indianapolis Colts)
4-yr. pro, 6'2 216-lbs., 24-yrs. old
Moncrief struggled a year ago, in some part due to the Colts' struggles at quarterback. He has big play potential, combining good size with excellent acceleration. Moncrief isn't a polished route runner, and has struggled with consistency most of his career. Despite underperforming, plus questions of his motivation and effort in Indianapolis, he has shown star potential. Perhaps a change of scenery will trigger a breakout performance, and Moncrief may be available at a reasonable price.
Eric Decker (Tennessee Titans)
8-yr pro, 6'3 214-lbs., 31-yrs. old
Decker has been a productive veteran who looks to be on the downside of his career. A 3-time 1,000-yd. wideout with 53 career touchdowns, Decker operates well out of the slot and can work the middle of the field. Injuries have robbed him of some of his deep speed, but he can still find open holes in zone coverage and is a good open field runner. He has commanded a high salary over the last several seasons, but with a decline in his statistics, could be signed at a lower salary.
Paul Richardson (Seattle Seahawks)
4-yr. pro, 6'0 175-lbs., 25-yrs. old
Richardson is a true home run threat, coming off his best season in 2017, with 44 receptions for 703 yards and 6 touchdowns. He is a fast and fluid receiver who is still developing his game. Not particularly physical, he sometimes struggles off the jam in press coverage, and only averaged 17 catches and 200 yards per year in his first three seasons. Richardson has said he expects to be paid top receiver money, and a thin receiver market combined with this wideout's potential makes him a big financial gamble.
Both Willie Snead and Brandon Coleman are restricted free agents. New Orleans has until 4pm EST on Wednesday to offer a tender to them, or they will become unrestricted free agents. If the Saints lose either, or both of them, then a thin position group becomes a much greater need. It doesn't seem likely that the Saints will pursue free agents like Terrelle Pryor, Sammy Watkins, or Jordan Matthews, none of whom have lived up to expectations during their careers. New Orleans may also pursue a smaller slot receiver if they don't retain Snead, like Tampa Bay's Adam Humphries, currently a restricted free agent, or Atlanta's Taylor Gabriel. There is always a possibility also of poaching another team's cap casualties. One example could be the Denver Broncos, who have been rumored to be possibly moving on from one of their Pro Bowlers, Demaryious Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders, if they are not willing to re-structure current deals. Michael Thomas is the unquestioned top wideout, but better complimentary targets must be established for a Saints passing attack that contributed to a lowly 37.6% 3rd down percentage in 2017.