Saints quest for help through free agency should continue
The New Orleans Saints snared Latavius Murray, Malcolm Brown, Mario Edwards and Nick Easton in free agency while convincing backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to re-enlist.
Are the Black and Gold done fishing in NFL free agency? No how, no way. However, now that “Black Friday” of NFL free agency has arrived and gone, the list of viable options has been whittled down significantly.
Ahead of the April draft, the Saints currently sit with the 62nd overall pick in round two as their only pick before the 168th overall selection in the the fifth round. Either current players on the roster will be sacrificed or future draft picks will be mortgaged a bit to help with the present.
That means spending on the mark is more viable, and there are still a few bargains and some players that could give your roster a boost.
The news of Max Unger’s decision to hang up the cleats at age 32 was a bit of a blindside. There are a couple of in-house options, Will Clapp and Cameron Tom, but the Saints apparently tabbed former Vikings starter Nick Easton to help fill the void. So what’s next?
There will be a second wave of free agency. Just catch your breath.
Sean Payton and company are still in need of a “Robin” to to their wide receiving “Batman,” star wideout Michael Thomas.
Perhaps the crafty 33 year old Jordy Nelson comes to NOLA this time around. The former Packers star has lost a step since his 2015 torn ACL but managed to grab 63 passes for 739 yards and three scores in 14 starts for Oakland in 2018. Nelson chose the Raiders before sticking with a planned visit with the Saints last offseason.
Prior to 2017 minor injury, the 6-foot-3 Nelson had a 53-game streak with at least one catch. In 2016, he was tabbed NFL Comeback Player of the Year after hauling in 97 passes for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Packers are once again courting their former starter.
How about Chris Hogan from the Patriots? The 30-year old is said to be a player the Giants like him. He was on two Super Bowl champion teams in New England, making 194 catches for 2,610 yards and 18 touchdowns for his career.
Hogan began his college career at Penn State before transferring to Monmouth University. He went undrafted into the NFL as a hard working, blue collar receiver. He does the little things needed to succeed. He’s smart enough to married to a doctor.
Randall Cobb, 29, has battled hamstring issues. In Green Bay last season, he was limited to six starts but has 470 catches for 5,524 yards and 41 touchdowns in his career. Cobb may be remembered most locally for a kickoff return of 108 yards against the Saints in 2011. The former Kentucky star just completed a four-year, $40 million deal which expired at the end of 2018. He is a true slot receiver who will likely be gotten at a discounted rate.
— UPDATE: Cobb has agreed to sign with the Cowboys. —
You didn’t think that I’d forget about that void for the Saints at tight end, did you? Jared Cook is at the top of everyone’s free agent list. The 32-year old is reminiscent of a younger Ben Watson. With 425 career grabs for 5,464 yards and 25 touchdowns, the former South Carolina Gamecock is not an especially good blocker. But he does have reliable hands and runs good routes. On 2018 opening day against the Rams, he had a monster day with nine catches for 180 yards, including a 45 yarder.
Cook has made 77 starts in 10 seasons but 30 of those have come in the past two seasons. He has a lot of tread still on his tires, playing very well over the course of a two year, $10.6 million deal with the Raiders. He’s going to end up with a nice raise somewhere.
I know that the Saints signed LaTavius Murray, but I expect to see another veteran running back added before training camp. Here are some options.
T.J. Yeldon, 25, has only 636 carries over the past four seasons due to injuries and time spent as Leonard Fournette’s backup. The ex-Alabama standout is an excellent receiver who totaled 401 yards rushing and added 53 catches for 472 yards and four scores as a target out of the backfield in 2018. Yeldon, who made 29 starts in Jacksonville, is likely best used as part of a committee of runners.
Bilal Powell is 30 years old and coming off of a neck injury suffered in week seven in 2018. During his eight seasons in the league with the Jets, he has 3,446 yards rushing for 15 touchdowns. Another excellent receiver out of the backfield, he has tallied 204 catches for 1,567 yards and five scores.
Now to address the offensive line’s depth. I find it highly probable that the Saints will dip their toe in the water in free agency a little more there.
Jared Veldheer, 32, has played both tackle spots and center. The nine-year veteran suffered a knee injury in 2018 but still managed 12 starts. The 6-foot-8 Velheer, who signed a 5 year $35 million deal with Arizona in 2014, could be a stop gap who can play anywhere along the line and bring more versatility than Jermon Bushrod did in a similar role last season.
Josh Kline has played only guard in the NFL. He signed with the Patriots undrafted in 2013but went one to make 64 starts in six seasons. He won’t turn 30 years old until December so Kline might be added as another option in light of Unger’s retirement to help in the interior line.
On the flip side, the defense could use another able bodied player or two.
Outside linebacker Mark Barron might be secured for the right deal. The 6-foot-2, 230 pounder was a first round pick of the Buccaneers in 2012.
A former coveted safety coming out of high school in 2007, Barron grew into a linebacker years after he signed with Alabama and played as a true freshman for Nick Saban. On October 15, 2015, he justified the move with a 19-tackle performance in his first start at outside linebacker against the Browns. He boasts 93 starts with 628 tackles, nine sacks and nine interceptions. in his career to date.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…