The New Orleans Saints are officially in offseason mode. Time to look at where the Saints need improvement, and who will be the best fit for them.
One of my more popular series in 2017, my first year here at Who Dat Dish, was one of my very first series. In fact, the first installment was my first post ever at WDD. It only branched one more similar piece, but they were a lot of fun.
It was titled “One pick and one signing that will help out the Saints immediately.” In it, I suggested the Saints select defensive end Derek Barnett 11th overall in the 2017 draft, and that they sign (at the time) free agent safety Tony Jefferson.
Luckily, now-Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore was sitting there for the Saints to pick. And the safety position was addressed in the second round, where New Orleans selected now-All-Rookie, Marcus Williams. Barnett ended up being selected 14th overall and helped the Eagles win Super Bowl LII. Jefferson was a key signing this past offseason for the Ravens.
There’s a ton of free agency talk circulating. Almost as much talk as there is for the upcoming draft. For the Saints, it’s about 50-50 right now. This is due to their many minor (and a few major) issues to address this off season.
The 2017 NFL season has come and gone. It’s time to get into the swing of the next. I’m starting this series up again, with many more parts to release. One prospect and one free agent target will be listed as wants or needs for New Orleans.
The pick: Courtland Sutton
So, there are two big questions for the Saints regarding their first round selection. They will pick 27th overall, unless a trade happens. The most dire need for New Orleans lies in the front-7 of their defense. However, if a receiver as good as Cortland Sutton out of SMU is available that late, as ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. initially predicts, New Orleans has to grab him.
The Saints’ receiving corps is in a bit of a limbo currently. Michael Thomas is a star, and Ted Ginn Jr has lived up to his contract, and has some more years to show off his speed with the Saints. Behind them is a different story. Both Brandon Coleman and Willie Snead are restricted free agents this offseason.
Coleman could be a desirable player for a lot of teams, seeing his production as a blocker. Snead has had off the field issues and did not perform well this past season. Therefore, he either won’t get a lot of looks by other teams, or the Saints will just release him. New Orleans is in desperate need of a large and skilled receiver to play opposite Thomas.
Enter 6’4”, 218-pound Sutton. During his redshirt junior season in 2017, Sutton amassed 68 catches, 1,085 yards and 12 touchdowns. His sophomore year was even more impressive, as Sutton also started all 12 games and caught 8 more balls for 200 more yards.
He turns 23 this year, adding to New Orleans thriving youth. He will also be on a rookie-scale contract. So, if he lives up to expectations, the Saints would be getting a fantastic talent at a fraction of the cost. He’s local, as Sutton grew up in Brenham, Texas; six hours away from New Orleans.
Sutton has an NFL-ready body, and will be a physical option for Drew Brees. He’ll be a red zone target, whether the Saints address their tight end dilemma or not. Snatching Sutton late in the first could become another steal for the Saints. It could also jump start yet another historically amazing rookie class.
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The signing: Nigel Bradham
Here’s where addressing the front-7 comes into play. Philadelphia Eagles veteran linebacker Nigel Bradham becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason, Super Bowl ring and all.
The big question is whether or not the Eagles will let Bradham walk. He was a fourth round pick by the Bills in 2012, and just finished his second season with Philadelphia. He never missed a game in those two seasons and accumulated 190 total tackles with three sacks and one interception. Stellar play continued through the playoffs, and Bradham had seven tackles in Super Bowl LII. In 2014 alone with Buffalo, Bradham has 104 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
On top of his play, the Eagles need all the help at linebacker they can get. Injury concerns and lack of depth will push the Eagles to give Bradham any contract he wishes, most likely. Fans and local media were calling for an extension for the former Florida State Seminole during this season.
Bradham is a 6’1” outside linebacker. His speed and agility makes him a versatile defender, especially in a 4-3 defense. Luckily, that’s exactly what New Orleans runs. His two issues with the legal system has come and gone, and no major punishments have stemmed from either one.
Putting him on the other side of AJ Klein with a healthy Alex Anzolone would make one of the most athletic linebacking corps in all of football. If the price isn’t too high, the Saints should definitely look into snagging Bradham away from the Eagles.