New Orleans Saints should sign a familiar face to fill WR spot

As the New Orleans Saints try to find silver linings from the Michael Thomas injury update, the most pressing item on their agenda needs to be the wide receiver unit.

The Saints made quick work of signing veteran Chris Hogan, but this news is about as exciting as lettuce going on sale at the grocery store. Hogan won’t impact the lineup the way they need him to.

It’s time New Orleans inked a quality wide receiver, and the Saints should look no further than their former player, Kenny Stills. He’s New Orleans’ prodigal son with a few productive years left in him and is exactly what the Saints are looking for this offseason.

With the Saints’ salary cap situation, the likes of Davante Adams and Michael Gallup are tantalizingly out of reach. Stills, however, is an extremely wallet-friendly option who could enjoy a golden renaissance of his former New Orleans years.

The Saints picked up Stills in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft and planned to groom him into Brees’ top pass-catching target. In his two seasons with New Orleans, Stills caught 95 receptions for an average of 16.5 yards per reception, recorded eight touchdowns, and finished with an average catch percentage of 71.4 percent.

His 931 receiving yards in 2014 is his career-best, but at the time Stills was young, immature, and never really ingratiated himself with the team. When push came to shove and a trade was on the line, Sean Payton took an injury-prone linebacker and a draft pick instead.

Fast forward eight years later. Stills flourished in Miami, was snuffed out in Houston, and now he gets a chance to come home, if the Saints want him. And why shouldn’t they?

Money isn’t a concern: the Saints could sign Stills at a near-veteran’s minimum and maintain their precarious salary cap situation for the future.

Production could be: Stills averaged a career-low 13.1 yards per reception last season, and as with most over-the-hill players whose names aren’t Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, his stats will continue to decline with age.

New Orleans Saints need to consider bringing back Kenny Stills

But his 13.1 yards puts him in the top three of all Saints players in 2020. Jared Cook and Tre’Quan Smith averaged just a bit more (13.6 and 13.2), and they were targeted at least twice as many times.

At this stage, the Saints can’t very well complain about inefficiency when they’ve got the perennially underperforming Smith vying for a No. 2 receiver spot. With Thomas gone, that means Smith could be bumped up to No. 1. How scary is that, Saints fans?

Add to the fact that Stills was competing with DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller for playing time on Houston, and it just goes to show how Stills could maximize what’s left of his potential in New Orleans. Compared to Hopkins and Fuller, Smith and Callaway are…well, smaller fish in the sea.

Stills could be the perfect big play deep-threat for New Orleans who flourishes in the spotlight and, under the right conditions, knows how to reach the endzone. On the Dolphins, he paired seamlessly with then-QB Ryan Tannehill, recording 24 touchdowns in four years (including an NFL receiver sixth-best overall nine touchdowns in 2016).

Maybe Drew Brees wasn’t Stills’ cup of tea. The beauty of Brees’ retirement (and arguably the biggest silver lining) is that players who didn’t perform so well in the Brees era now get a second chance.

Kenny Stills deserves a second chance on the Saints, and it’s up to the front office to get him back. They both need each other now more than ever.