Signing tight end Juwan Johnson to a two-year, $8.5 million guaranteed contract was one of the best re-signings of the offseason for the New Orleans Saints. His massive increase in production last season was a huge boost to the offense and will hopefully continue into 2023 under new QB Derek Carr.
However, Johnson still has plenty to prove, and there doesn’t seem to be a TE2 on the roster that could realistically step in if Johnson’s production or health falls off.
Luckily, the Saints have great opportunities in both free agency and the NFL Draft to add another piece to the roster.
Free Agent Tight Ends
Even over two months into the offseason, there are still multiple great free agent tight ends to give Johnson some support.
Cameron Brate may be the best option still available in free agency. The 31-year-old had 20 receptions and 174 yards last season with Tampa Bay while competing with two other tight ends. His experience could be a great addition to the Saints’ tight end room.
The FINAL touchdown pass of Tom Brady’s career.— Sunday Night Football on NBC (@SNFonNBC) February 1, 2023
An 8-yard pass to Cameron Brate. (Via: @NFLFrance) pic.twitter.com/JGixtulmVb
Dan Arnold, the former Saint, has played for Arizona, Carolina, and Jacksonville since departing from the team in 2019. He recorded 135 yards and played in 17 of the Jaguars’ games last season. He recorded 438 yards in 2020 but was moved to a backup role last year thanks to the talents of Evan Engram. He could be a fantastic addition back in the black and gold.
Geoff Swaim played 17 games for the Titans during his third season with the team. Swaim is regarded as one of the more talented blocking tight ends in the league, which could pair well with Johnson’s catch-heavy skill set. His physicality could be a perfect addition to a running game that now features both Alvin Kamara and Jamaal Williams.
Nobody wants to hear this, but Geoff Swaim is actually an important part of the #Titans run game. They need a true Y that can consistently hold his own vs DEs (I thought Austin Hooper could be that.) Chig needs to be taking snaps from WRs other than Burks/Woods pic.twitter.com/AcU7zagTJq— James Foster (@NoFlagsFilm) November 17, 2022
Kyle Rudolph may be 33 years old and coming off of his worst season ever, but he’s one of the most experienced tight ends in the game. He found himself in an unfortunate situation for one season in Tampa Bay, but an experienced tight end like Rudolph could be perfect for backing up a young Juwan Johnson.
Drafting a Tight End
The 2023 NFL Draft is, literally, historically loaded with TE talent.
There are potentially four tight end prospects that could be drafted in the first round of this year’s draft. That would be a record for most tight ends taken in the first. And there are still plenty of notable prospects outside of that fantastic four.
If the Saints were to go after a first or second round TE, there’s been plenty of mock drafts that predict them picking Darnell Washington out of Georgia. Washington’s 6’7, 270-pound frame makes him essentially an “offensive lineman that can also catch” and has an incredibly high ceiling.
Aside from Washington, there are plenty of tight ends that could be available in the second to fourth rounds. Tucker Kraft (South Dakota State), Luke Musgrave (Oregon State), and Luke Schoonmaker (Michigan) are all NFL-ready tight ends that boast impressive college careers.
Finally watched some Tucker Kraft (TE 85) and I’m going to tell you now, I’m a big fan pic.twitter.com/4YbI36nKbn— Draft Guy Jared (@DraftGuyJared) March 19, 2023
With the newly acquired cap space, the Saints are in the position to add some depth at positions that need it most. Likewise, with the tight end talent in this draft, the opportunity exists to draft a formidable TE prospect in one of the early or middle rounds and develop him to best suit the offense.
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