The New Orleans Saints boast one of the most complete rosters in the NFL. It’s for this reason that the Saints could truly take the “best player available” in the 2020 NFL Draft. It is why they only needed to draft four players, and could prioritize quality over quantity. However, New Orleans is always looking to improve, or solidify question marks for depth at a position. That’s why defensive lineman Margus Hunt was signed by the team earlier this weekend.
With that being said, and the Saints remaining needs taken into account, we have identified four potential “bargin bin” free agents that could pique the interest of New Orleans.
Eli Apple, CB
Former-Saint and current free agent Eli Apple was a player many pegged to be a candidate to return to New Orleans on a one-year “prove it” deal for the 2020 season. Instead, he reportedly agreed to terms with the Las Vegas Raiders only for the deal to fall through. The cornerback is once again on the free agent market, but his suitors seemed to have dwindled.
Raiders and former Saints’ CB Eli Apple were unable to finalize a contract, per sources, and Apple remains a free agent. Another one added to the list.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 2, 2020
Every day that passes and we get closer to the season, Apple’s price tag falls. The cornerback knows the Saints secondary and defensive scheme well. Despite effectively being benched down the homestretch in the 2019 season, Apple has been a relatively consistent player, who could easily step into a starting role, especially as an outside corner. New Orleans fans are used to poor secondary play, and this move could bolster the depth at the oft fraught position, for the right price of course.
Taylor Gabriel, WR
The Saints can afford to go into the 2020 season season with their receiving corps spearheaded by Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Behind them is a huge question mark. Will Tre’Quan Smith finally step up and perform to expectations after two disappointing seasons? Can Deonte Harris be more than just a return specialist?
In a year that seems to be the final “all in” season for quarterback Drew Brees, an additional, veteran receiver may be useful to have around in case the unthinkable happens. That veteran receiver would have to conceivably beat out a guy like Emmanuel Butler or Juwan Johnson in order to make the 53-man roster. Despite a lackluster 2019 campaign with the Chicago Bears, if Gabriel can produce to a level of the 2018 version of himself where he caught 688 yards on 67 receptions, then the Saints could have a decent insurance policy. Gabriel also represents a speed threat that was lost when New Orleans allowed Ted Ginn Jr. to walk after his contract expired. Gabriel would fill more than just a depth role, and could easily compete for the WR3 slot.
Clay Matthews, EDGE
Yes, New Orleans drafted Baun to compete for a depth spot in the linebacker corps. However, that may not preclude them from signing Clay Matthews to deal if the player is open to a relatively team-friendly deal. Prior to his 2019 season, which was essentially a scratch due to a broken jaw he incurred in Week 5 of the 2019 season, Matthews was a force to be reckoned with.
Matthews is a far cry from his 2017 and prior form. In 2018, the linebacker was given 65.3 grade by Pro Football Focus, a steep fall from his 2017 grade of 80.0. While not an end-all-be-all, the PFF grade shows a relative drop in production and performance. However, the Saints could use an additional pass rusher, which is something Matthews has excelled at from the edge.
Despite the degradation in production and the jaw injury, Matthews would provide a veteran presence alongside Demario Davis for a relatively young, and injury prone linebacker group. Matthews fits in with the winning culture the Saints are trying to develop, and he may want one more shot at another Super Bowl. New Orleans may present the best chance he has at that goal.
Jason Peters, Tackle
Despite being 38-years old, Jason Peters represents one of the best options at tackle available on the market. It is incredibly mind-boggling that the Philadelphia Eagles legend remains unsigned this late into the offseason. Peters posted an 82.4 grade per PFF, and only allowed three sacks in the 2019 campaign. While Peters has played nearly his entire career at left tackle, just last season he was willing to move over to right tackle to help the Eagles.
Terron Armstead currently has a strangle hold on the left tackle position, but since joining the Saints, Armstead has notoriously battled injuries that have seen him miss large amounts of time. Peters would represent a huge upgrade as a depth piece knowing that a starting caliber tackle is ready to go behind Armstead, or in an emergency Ryan Ramczyk on the right side. Peters’s injury history also can not be overlooked, and a bench role could help preserve the 38-year old in case his services are called upon. However, the main issue would come down to money and cap space, something New Orleans currently lacks.
Any more winners or losers you would like to add? Let us know in the comments. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @KadeKistner