It seems to be a consensus that the Saints need to acquire a receiver this offseason. Whether it be through the draft or free agency, the snaps that were filled by Ted Ginn Jr. and Tre’Quan Smith in 2019 would be better suited being filled by a more proven pass-catcher.
That could just be AJ Green.
The 31-year-old is coming off a 2019 season where he played zero snaps due to injury, and his $15 million per year contract is expiring next month.
It’s been well-documented that Green has struggled mightily with injuries, only playing one full season throughout the past four years. However, when the lanky speedster has been healthy, he’s been absolute dynamite.
Green has recorded at least 1,000 yards in every season of his career that he’s played at least 11 games. He’s incredibly ranked inside the top 10 among qualifying wide receivers in yards per route run in every single season of his career, besides his rookie year.
Keep in mind that these numbers from Green came with passes being thrown to him by far from a Hall of Fame quarterback.
It goes without saying that if the Saints got their hands on Green and he managed to stay healthy, it’d be not a steal, but a heist.
The only question with bringing Green in would be his fit with Michael Thomas.
Who lines up where? What if Mike doesn’t like having a downtick in targets with Green on the roster?
If you look closely at how Sean Payton and the Saints utilize their receivers, it actually could be a perfect fit.
Signing AJ Green could be the best thing for not only the Saints, but for Michael Thomas.
The recently-crowned 2019 NFL Offensive Player of the Year Michael Thomas is an absolute monster, no matter where he lines up. We know this.
But he’s actually most effective when playing out of the slot.
Thomas has led the league in yards per route run from the slot for three consecutive years now, by a wide margin. Brees loves to line him up there and get him matched up against linebackers and safeties.
The only problem is that it’s easier to shade an extra defender over and bracket/double team him while he’s in the slot. This is partially due to not having any other legit receiving option other than Jared Cook, who has definitely helped.
This lack of receiving help has resulted in Thomas only playing a little over 20 percent of his career snaps in the slot, despite his effectiveness there.
Green, on the other hand, has only played about 14 percent of his career snaps in the slot. He primarily plays on the outside, using his size to overpower smaller corners and his speed to out-run slower ones.
He’s a rare talent.
If you slotted AJ Green into the lineup, defenses would have to respect his speed and one-on-one contested catch ability so much on the perimeter that it would open things up underneath for Thomas.
Green’s game is so complete and versatile that Payton and the Saints offensive coaching staff would have an absolute field day thinking of ways to utilize him.
Green’s most-run routes since 2017 are go routes and slant routes, and his average depth targeted in that span is over 14 yards per target. For comparison, Cant Guard Mike’s average depth targeted for his career is under nine yards per target.
That type of complimentary game to Thomas is exactly what the Saints need.
Spotrac has Green’s estimated 2020 annual salary just above $9 million. If he happens to leave Cincinnati, look for the Saints to come running his way.