Ranking the Saints’ biggest needs after first wave of free agency

Marquez Callaway #1 of the New Orleans Saints. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Marquez Callaway #1 of the New Orleans Saints. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /
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Tre'Quan Smith, New Orleans Saints
Tre’Quan Smith, New Orleans Saints (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /

1. Wide Receiver

The Saints recently re-signed Tre’Quan Smith and….notice how no one is jumping for joy. After Smith disappointed everyone with his measly production last season, he serves a fringe WR3 role at best and will have to re-earn the confidence of his team.

The only good things going for the Saints at this position is the return of Michael Thomas and Jameis Winston confidently starting under center. The quarterback drama of 2021 did not help the team generate any semblance of chemistry between Winston/ Hill/ Siemian and the wide receiver room, so hopefully this season will see Winston building more offensive rhythm with his pass-catchers.

As of right now, he has one incredibly talented receiver who hasn’t played since 2020 and a handful of semi-productive supporting weapons. Smith, Marquez Callaway, and Deonte Harty composed the Saints’ wide receiver room last year, and none of them hit 700 receiving yards. We started to see Callaway improve toward the end of the season under the arm of Winston, but NOLA can’t afford to start slow again and risk missing the playoffs.

Fans will remember the team signing veterans Chris Hogan and Kenny Stills as a sad and desperate effort to improve the roster, but those players merely added quantity, not quality to the receiver room.

Come the start of a new season, the Saints’ goal for the wide receiver room should be fairly obvious: sign at least one quality starting-caliber WR2 to pair with Thomas, and add younger talents with the potential to grow into a starting role. While NOLA will no doubt look to the draft for options, the team also must strongly consider spending some of their precious cap space on a free agent wide receiver.

Last season taught the team the importance of having a capable and consistent receiver room. We’ll see if they’ve learned in 2022.

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For better or worse, much of the Saints’ offensive success will depend on Thomas’ productive return. If he doesn’t perform well or if he gets injured again, all of this goes out of the window, and it’s back to square one.