Locking up a franchise quarterback is every NFL team’s number one priority; however, once you’ve done that it’s important to outfit said franchise-face with a suitable cast of role players to optimize his success.
Since the Saints were able to lure Drew Brees away from San Diego and to the bayou the front office has kept a keen eye on keep Brees stocked with weapons. They brought in Darren Sproles to act as a spark-plug out of the backfield, and have developed Jimmy Graham into the best tight end in the game as both a security blanket and big-play threat.
There is one place that has been a bit of a revolving door, though, and that’s at the wide receiver position. They were able to find the diamond-in-the-rough in Marques Colston – and they may have struck gold again with rookie Kenny Stills – but through the likes of Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, and Lance Moore the Saints have been unable to lock-down a legitimate number two guy.
Meachem (an unrestricted free agent), Moore (due $3.8 million with a cap cost of $5.1 million), and Joe Morgan (restricted free agent and recovering from ACL surgery) could all be on their way out of New Orleans, which means it will be time to re-tool Brees’ arsenal.
One place to start that process would be free agency, and there are a few guys that made cover32’s top-10 list for free agent wide receivers that could fit in perfectly with the Saints.
First off (and possibly a pipe-dream) is Jeremy Maclin. Maclin is recovering from an ACL injury suffered before the 2013 regular season, but any reservations about his ability to recover from the injury should be thrown out as an antiquated way at looking at injuries. With the recent strides made in the rehab process there’s no reason to think he can’t return to old form – and old form that led him to three straight years over 800 yards receiving. He won’t necessarily ‘wow’ you with speed (like his Eagles’ teammate Desean Jackson will), but crisp route running and large hands make him an attractive target for any quarterback (he’s also pretty darn fast when it comes down to it).
If for some reason the Eagles let Maclin walk teams will surely have to spend a pretty penny to ink him, which the Saints may not be willing to do. If not, they may look the way of Anquan Boldin.
Boldin would certainly be the cheaper (albeit older) option, and he would bring a physical presence to that offense that they’ve been sorely missing. In the playoff game against Seattle it often looked like the Saints receivers (including tight end and massive human being Jimmy Graham) were getting bullied by the eventual champions. Boldin would provide veteran leadership and a dependable third-down option for Brees, as well as establishing a toughness among the receivers they will need going up against the Seahawks of world.
If neither of these guys are options, one sneaky pick up could be ex-Packer James Jones. There’s always a chance Packers GM Ted Thompson could go away from his normal tight-wallet tendency, but if Jones hits the free agent market the Saints should at least take a hard look at him. He’s spent seven years in Green Bay becoming a reliable target both down the field and in the short game, and he’s only two years removed from his best year – in which he led the league in receiving touchdowns. Jones provides veteran leadership, excellent route running, and good hands.
There is no doubt that the Saints will look to fill holes in their wide receiver depth this offseason – either through free agency or the draft. If they end up landing one of these three guys, Drew Brees will certainly feel like it’s Christmas when they report for training camp in August.
To find out where Maclin, Boldin, and Jones rank among cover32’s top-10 free agent wide receivers, click here.