Ted Ginn Jr. Curtis Lofton. AJ Klein. Josh Norman. Nate Stupar.
The New Orleans are notorious for showing interest in free agents that they are familiar with by facing in the NFC South. Whether it’s because the Saints know and respect the player due to familiarity, whether it’s because the Saints believe that player to be able to spill secrets about a rival’s playbook, or even if it’s some combination of the two, the Saints make no secret about signing pending free agents from division rivals.
And here are a couple names that could interest the New Orleans Saints from one such rival: the Atlanta Falcons.
DE Adrian Clayborn
Clayborn is set to enter his age 30 season and hasn’t been a full-time starter since 2013. But with the Saints likely to attempt to re-sign Alex Okafor (to add to Trey Hendrickson and Hau’oli Kikaha) at Defensive End, the Saints won’t exactly need a pure starter at the position. Clayborn played in all 16 games last season for the Falcons (starting only 2) and logged a whopping 9.5 sacks. His season sack total was likely a little flukey, but assuming a team isn’t blinded by the numbers, he should still be a relatively affordable option to rush the passer opposite Cam Jordan.
WR Taylor Gabriel
Gabriel had a solid year with the Falcons in 2016. He finished the season with 579 yards and 6 TDs, posting a 70% catch-rate along the way. Then in 2017, he was another victim of the post-Kyle Shanahan offense. His production dropped to 378 yards (on only 5 fewer targets and two fewer grabs) and one touchdown with a ~65% catch-rate. In 2017, the Falcons tried using Gabriel solely as a slot receiver and didn’t really take advantage of Gabriel’s speed that led to a 16.5 average yards per reception in 2016. For the Saints, Gabriel could fill in at the slot at times, could also be used deep to stretch the field, and would likely cost far less than a player like Jarvis Landry. Additionally, Gabriel helps the team out in the return game. Ted Ginn isn’t getting any younger, and you don’t necessarily want to risk Alvin Kamara getting injured, and with Gabriel’s speed, he could be a deadly weapon on special teams.
DE/DT Courtney Upshaw
Like Clayborn, Upshaw is another affordable rotational piece on the defensive line. Upshaw had a quiet year in 2017 (starting zero of the 13 games he played with only one sack along the way), but is a solid run-stopper who could play both interior and edge. Upshaw, in an emergency, can be used as a pass-rusher, but is best utilized as a generator of inside pressure, similar to the Saints’ own Sheldon Rankins (who similarly found himself playing - out of necessity - at both DT and DE in 2017).
Other Falcon free agents that could interest the Saints include: Dontari Poe, Ben Garland, Kemal Ishmael, Andre Roberts, and Sean Weatherspoon.