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Analyzing the New Orleans Saints’ offense heading into free agency

(Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Wide Receiver

Will the Saints trade Michael Thomas this offseason?

This has been something that has been rumored by multiple sources in the past, and the rumors have grown stronger with Thomas getting suspended by the team this year and struggling with injuries.

Trading Thomas would allow the Saints to acquire much-needed draft capital to help them engineer a quick rebuild, but with the amount of dead money they’d have to take, they likely won’t trade him when his stock is lower than it could be with a healthy season.

Remember, this is the same receiver who broke the single-season receptions record in 2019.

After Thomas, the rest of receiving corps needs some serious reworking. Emmanuel Sanders is another likely cap casualty, and while Tre’Quan Smith continues to show signs of promise, he also has failed to average over 32 yards per game in a season.

Meanwhile, Deonte Harris, Marquez Callaway, and even Juwan Johnson bring some level of intrigue, but none have much of a track record to lean on.

I do believe Smith can have a lot of success as a prototypical deep threat with Winston, while Harris can make an impact from the slot. However, it’d still be useful for New Orleans to add at least two receivers this offseason.

As noted by Pro Football Focus’ Eric Eager, wide receiver is not the strong-link position it once was meant to be, and with the Saints’ late-season struggles in a Thomas-oriented passing attack in the past, it’s time for them to finally support him with multiple reliable targets after him.

Yet, the Saints don’t exactly have the money to sign a Chris Godwin or Allen Robinson, or even a Nelson Agholor or Sammy Watkins. Luckily for them, however, this is a very deep free-agent class, and the opportunity to get playing time for a highly-regarded play-caller like Payton could intrigue some receivers.

It’s likely that Breshad Perriman, Rashad Higgins, and Kendrick Bourne are too pricy,  but Dede Westbrook, David Moore, Taywan Taylor, Isaiah McKenzie, Josh Reynolds, and even a reunion with Willie Snead are all intriguing scenarios.

Regardless, the Saints need to take advantage of a strong group of receivers set to enter the draft- they should draft multiple prospects at the position simply to guarantee they get one productive asset.

Florida’s Ka’Darius Toney and Purdue’s Rondale Moore are excellent fits in the first round with clear ability to make defenders miss after the catch, while Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman is more of a traditional deep threat.

In the middle rounds, Western Michigan’s Dwayne Eskridge, Lousiville’s Tutu Atwell, Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace, and South Dakota State’s Cade Johnson Sr. are intriguing targets, while Houston’s Marquez Stevenson is a late-round gem whose ability to make plays with the ball in his hands and overall big-play skills is someone that would definitely fit Payton’s offense.

Bringing in one of those affordable free agents, as well as multiple receivers in the draft, is exactly what the Saints need to build their next juggernaut offense.

Outside of the quarterback position, having premier talent at the receiver position is the most important, and, believe it or not, you can never have enough receivers. Given their recent postseason failures, this is something that they should be aware of.

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