Many expected the New Orleans Saints to select a wide receiver within the first few rounds of last spring's NFL draft. They surprised most by not selecting one at all, although they did add a few talented undrafted free agents. The Saints were also rumored to be in the market for a receiver at last season's trade deadline, but failed to add one there either.
The Saints boast one of the best wide receivers in the league today, but have had little production from anyone else at the position over the last two years. That deficiency was exposed in a surprising first round playoff upset to the Minnesota Vikings. Today we have a look at a position that most believe should be at the top of the offseason needs list for New Orleans.
Free Agents: Austin Carr (restricted), Keith Kirkwood (exclusive rights), Ted Ginn Jr.
Under Contract: Emmanuel Butler, Deonte Harris, Krishawn Hogan, Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Tommylee Lewis, Tre'Quan Smith, Michael Thomas
Thomas has improved his statistical output in each of his four seasons and is coming off an NFL record-breaking 149 receptions for a league-high 1,725 yards and 9 touchdowns. The 27-Yr old Thomas is an elite offensive weapon and is nearly unstoppable through the short and intermediate zones. He has underrated athleticism, but Thomas dominates even the best defensive backs with his rare combination of physicality, incredible hands, and crisp route running skills.
Veteran wideout Ted Ginn Jr. started 2019 strong, catching 7 passes for 101 yards in a season-opening win over the Texans. The 35-Yr old Ginn would catch just 23 balls for 320 yards over the remaining 15 games though, and was often a non-factor in the offense. An unrestricted free agent, the 13-Yr veteran still has elite straight line speed to threaten deep, but struggles to separate underneath and has trouble holding on to the football.
Second-year receiver Tre'Quan Smith continues to tease with potential, but has done little to make anybody believe he can be a consistent offensive threat. A 3rd round pick in the 2018 draft, the 24-Yr old Smith caught only 18 passes for 234 yards in 2019, although he did catch five touchdowns. He has the size (6'2, 210-Lbs) and speed of a prototypical wideout but struggles to separate from coverage and often seems skittish in traffic.
Undrafted rookie Deonte Harris earned All-Pro honors with his elite kick return abilities. At just 5'6 170-Lbs., Harris is lightning-fast in the open field and is a deadly weapon with the ball in his hands. Harris was used little as a receiver during the regular season, catching just six passes, but flashed his gamebreaking potential with a 50-Yd reception against Minnesota in the playoffs. We may see Saints coach Sean Payton use Harris more in the offensive game plan this coming season.
New Orleans added two more undrafted rookies at wide receiver along with Harris last offseason. Emmanuel Butler and Lil'Jordan Humphrey both have good size but lack speed. Each showed nice potential during the preseason but neither were able to make a contribution during the regular season. The Saints will also welcome back Keith Kirkwood from injury this year. Kirkwood, who was an undrafted rookie in 2018, missed his second season with a hamstring injury. Another wideout with good size (6'3, 210-Lbs) but lacking great speed, Kirkwood is a physical player who operates well in traffic. He had 13 receptions for 209 yards and 2 touchdowns in eight games of action as a rookie, and had earned the trust of quarterback Drew Brees down the stretch.
The Saints have rarely relied on the free agent market for receiving talent during Sean Payton's tenure with the franchise, although they did have some success with Ginn. Given their salary cap constraints and the money often dished out to free agent wideouts, it would be surprising if New Orleans spent big money on a player like Amari Cooper or even Randall Cobb with Michael Thomas being the alpha at the position. A player like 26-Yr old Breshad Perriman, son of former Saints receiver Brett Perriman, could be a viable option. Perriman has good speed and still a nice upside after having the best year of his career last season with Tampa Bay. Another possibility could be a veteran like Demaryius Thomas. The 32-Yr old Thomas has championship experience, but has lost a step after struggling with injuries over the last two seasons. If healthy, Thomas is a physical receiver who makes big plays after the catch.
This spring's draft is deep in receiver talent, where it seems more likely that the Saints address their weaknesses at wideout. Justin Jefferson of L.S.U. was of the most productive wideouts in college football this past year, and is rising higher on the draft boards after a good performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. A smaller open field dynamo like Colorado's Laviska Shenault, Alabama's Henry Ruggs, or Jalen Reagor of T.C.U. could give the Saints offense an element that Tyreek Hill and Deebo Samuel added to the Chiefs and 49ers, last year's Super Bowl participants. K.J. Hill of Ohio State, Florida's Van Jefferson, or Michael Pittman Jr. of U.S.C. are examples of prospects available in later rounds who could be immediate contributors. At least this much seems certain; after the debacle that was the Saints receiving corps outside of the amazing exploits of Thomas, it would be shocking if New Orleans again did little to bolster the position.
How should the Saints address the wide receiver position this offseason?
This poll is closed
High level free agent
Low level free agent
Day 1 or 2 draft pick
Day 3 or undrafted players