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3 FA receivers the Saints could target this offseason

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The Saints need help at the receiver position, but who should they sign?

New Orleans Saints v New England Patriots

The receiver position is an area the Saints have been lacking depth in ever since they shipped Brandin Cooks away.

They’ve managed to patchwork production in the passing game through running backs and tight ends, but have yet to find that true number two threat at wide receiver next to Michael Thomas.

Despite a draft class loaded with receivers coming up, the Saints will most likely explore their options at that position in free agency this off-season, given their history of aggressiveness in that area.

There are a few receivers in this free agent class who would be very intriguing options in Sean Payton’s offense, but aren’t super likely to leave their current situations.

Emmanuel Sanders, Larry Fitzgerald (who will probably be in Arizona next year if he isn’t retired) and Randall Cobb are all names the Saints would likely consider, but might not hit the market.

There are some under-the-radar receivers, along with one big name guy, who could be real assets to this team if they’re signed.

AJ Green

We aren’t completely sure what Green’s plans are at this point. If he watched Joe Burrow light it up this year, he might consider staying in Cincinnati.

BUT, if the 31-year-old Green would rather join a team capable of winning now, the Saints would fit that mold.

While Green’s age and injury history is noteworthy, I’m sure the Saints would consider him if he does in fact hit the open market.

When healthy, he’s consistently been one of the best receivers in the league.

Green didn’t play in 2019, but in his most recent full season (2017), he ran every route on the route tree at a high level. He accumulated 1078 yards on 14.4 yards per reception, with eight touchdowns for the Bengals.

According to Pro Football Focus, his average depth of target was 14.3 yards, which ranked 27th among qualifying receivers, and a lot of those targets came on routes like the crosser above. Crossing routes accounted for the second-highest percentage of his routes run since 2017, and he caught 20 of 29 targets on such routes for 281 yards and two touchdowns.

On the route above, he gets matched up with a linebacker, who’s trying to carry his crosser in zone, and he’s just too big/fast/athletic for him.

Drew Brees’ ADOT was 3rd to last in the league when targeting wide receivers at 9.9 yards this season, so Green’s targeted depth would probably come down a bit in New Orleans. But I’d have to imagine Brees would air it out a bit more often with a threat like Green.

And in the small likelihood that Brees isn’t in NOLA next season, Teddy Bridegewater’s ADOT was even lower than Brees’.

Either way, Green is just as effective with the underneath stuff.

Besides go routes, the route Green was targeted on the most since 2017 was the slant pattern, accounting for 14.5 percent of his target share. He accumulated 105 yards after the catch on slant patterns, by boxing out defenders with his size and having the speed to out-run safeties at the next level.

Green will play in the slot some, but he is primarily an outside receiver. Just imagine Michael Thomas on one side and Green on the other, with Jared Cook in the slot. Brees might never want to retire with that trio.

Green wouldn’t come cheap, however, as his 2019 annual average was $15 million. Despite his age and injury-proneness, Spotrac has his estimated market value at just above $9 million a year.

Breshad Perriman

With Ted Ginn Jr. likely gone, the Saints need a deep threat. Even if Brees isn’t going to throw the deep ball a ton, you have to have someone to stretch the field.

I know everyone is high on Deonte Harris right now, as they should be. But with his inexperience, I’m not sure the Saints can commit to him as their full-time deep threat quite yet.

I was going to put Roddy Anderson here, but Spotrac has his projected market value at over $12 million annually, with a 4-year $48 million contract.

There’s just no way the Saints are going to dish out that kind of money for a number two receiver right now.

Perriman is the definition of a deep threat, leading qualifying NFL receivers in average depth targeted, at 18.78 yards.

He wouldn’t cost as much as Anderson, and had a sneaky breakout season in the second half of this year.

From weeks 9-17 of 2019, Perriman piled up six receiving touchdowns (T-1st among qualifying receivers in that span) and 629 receiving yards (10th), on 19.1 yards per reception (4th). Most importantly, he did so while dropping a grand total of ZERO passes in that time period.

Not bad for the former first-rounder who’s been cut twice in his career.

Perriman is pretty similar to Ginn as far as route-running, with his most-run routes coming from go routes and out routes.

If you press him, he can beat you deep with his 4.35 speed, like in the gif above. He also shows his ball skills by going up and getting the ball over the defender in this instance.

This causes defenders to back off and respect his speed, allowing for pitch-and-catch out routes like this:

Perriman might not be the most exciting signing you can think of, but he fills a need at an important position. Unless Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis are confident Tre’Quan Smith or Deonte Harris can fill in as their de facto deep threat, Perriman could be the answer.

The 26-year-old is coming off of a one-year $4 million contract with the Bucs, and considering his age, he might be looking for a contract with a bit more years of commitment on it. This will be something to keep an eye on moving forward.

Danny Amendola

If the Saints do believe they have a deep threat in-house or that they can find one in the upcoming draft, they could look to sign a slot/possession receiver like Amendola for cheap. The 34-year-old is coming off of a solid season with the Detroit Lions, producing despite playing half of the season with backup quarterbacks. He racked up 678 yards and one receiving TD on 10.9 yards per catch in 2019.

Not necessarily a big-play artist, Amendola is most effective working on quick-developing routes out of the slot. He has good short-area quickness that makes him a decisive route-runner, and he possesses solid hands.

Most of his production last season came on routes like quick outs, hitches and crossing routes.

If Amendola were to be signed, look for him to fill the same role that Willie Snead did back in the day. His average depth targeted in 2019 was a lowly 8.9 yards, which ranked 98th among qualifying receivers, so he’d fit right into the Saints West-Coast passing scheme.

It wouldn’t be the shiniest acquisition in the world, but it could be an impactful one next season, adding depth to a position of need.

Amendola signed a one-year $4.5 million contract with the Lions last offseason, and considering the fact that he’ll be 35 next season, I can’t imagine he’d ask for any more than that this time around.

Whether it’s free agency or the draft, the wide receiver position needs to be addressed this offseason. It’s been glossed over for too long now.

Unrestricted free agent receivers like Phillip Dorsett, Nelson Agholor, Rashard Higgins or others could also surface in the Saints’ search for pass-catchers.

While these free agents might not be long-term solutions, they could end up being contributing factors on a team that should be set up for yet another playoff appearance in Brees’ twilight years.