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FutureStarrSaints Free Agency Update
The Saints are facing a difficult salary cap situation and must find cost-effective solutions. They have already done some contract restructuring to address this issue, but it appears they may part ways with some veteran players as well.
Top free agents include tight end Juwan Johnson and linebacker Kaden Elliss. Defensive linemen Marcus Davenport and David Onyemata are expected to hit the market as well.
At this trade deadline, New Orleans Saints superstar Alvin Kamara is one of the most sought-after running backs. After weeks of speculation, it appears the Saints may finally be ready to part with him.
With the trade deadline quickly approaching, it can be easy to become optimistic. But there are a few reasons why this trade could prove more challenging than anticipated at first glance.
Kamara is currently facing trial for battery resulting in substantial bodily harm. If found guilty at trial, he could face up to five years in prison and discipline from the NFL under their personal conduct policy.
That's a lot of punishment for someone coming off his best season yet and still possessing enough talent to lead an offense. Furthermore, the Saints already have plenty of running backs in their rotation.
Additionally, the Saints recently signed veteran running back Latavius Murray to their practice squad. While this doesn't signify much, it's an encouraging indication that they are taking a closer look at their backfield in greater depth.
Kamara is currently dealing with a rib injury, and was limited to less than half his usual snaps against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1. This suggests that he may not be fully healthy yet.
Although that doesn't guarantee a trade, it does make the Saints' situation more difficult. At present, they find themselves in an uncertain space while trying to build for the future.
On Monday night, the Saints added Marcus Maye as a veteran defensive backfield player. Before signing with New Orleans on Monday, this 29-year-old safety was an invaluable asset for the New York Jets and started all 32 games last season; recording 153 tackles (8.0 for loss), 3.0 sacks and 13 pass breakups.
He is expected to replace Marcus Williams in the Saints' secondary. It remains uncertain if Maye will be available for their season opener against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
How the Saints deploy Maye depends on whether or not they sign a quarterback. They have been seen as one of the top candidates to acquire Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, and it is expected that they will make an important trade if he becomes available.
Maye is set to start at safety for the Saints, replacing Williams and bolstering their special teams units. He also helps fill in for Malcolm Jenkins who decided not to take more money this offseason.
With a healthy and talented safety in Maye, the Saints should continue to have a strong presence on the back end of defense this year. While it remains uncertain how much Maye will play this year, his ability to contribute in rush defense gives them much reason for optimism this season. Additionally, Charlton has joined an experienced defensive line that includes projected starters Cameron Jordan, Marcus Davenport, as well as second-year pro Payton Turner; this should allow them to compete for one of the top pass defense DVOA ratings in the NFL this season.
ESPN's Field Yates reported on Twitter that the Saints will re-sign Tre'Quan Smith. A two-year deal worth $6 million is in place, with an additional $4.5MM in incentives built-in. This represents a major boost over Smith's rookie contract; $2MM of it is guaranteed (Twitter link).
Smith has been a valuable player during his time in New Orleans, yet he has yet to prove that he can be an effective receiving threat on a team with plenty of competition at wideout. His career numbers (22 catches for 388 yards and two touchdowns) are disconcerting, and he hasn't demonstrated the ability to separate from NFL defensive backs or consistently impact offense with his lateral moves.
Smith had a promising season in 2020, but his production dipped after Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry sustained injuries last year. However, he had an impressive final game against Atlanta where he caught five of six targets for 76 yards with one touchdown.
He could be an ideal addition to the Saints' deep passing attack in 2022, giving Jameis Winston and company more freedom to challenge for yardage further downfield. Unfortunately, it's likely he won't command a top-tier contract.
If the Saints want to make a significant impact in free agency, they need to free up significant cap space. That way, they can sign quarterback Derek Carr and make other additions such as an improved linebacker prospect.
The Saints have already restructured the contracts of FS Tyrann Mathieu, OLs Erik McCoy and Ryan Ramczyk, as well as K Wil Lutz. With these changes plus other simple restructures on other contracts, the Saints should be able to free up under $20 million in cap space.
As the New Orleans Saints continue to add veteran players to their roster during the offseason, they signed former LSU receiver Jarvis Landry to a one-year deal worth up to $6 million.
Last season, the 29-year-old Cleveland Browns wide receiver caught 52 passes for 570 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games. Despite injuries and subpar quarterback play last year, he should have an opportunity to make an impact this season in New Orleans.
No doubt, the Saints have been in need of wide receiver help for some time now. With Michael Thomas expected to return and the team trading up for Chris Olave in the draft, now is an opportunement to upgrade their passing game.
With that in mind, Landry could help them regain their usual form and give Jameis Winston some options in the red zone. Adding another veteran wideout to the mix is an economical way for the Saints to improve their offense without breaking the bank.
Landry can offer a veteran presence for the offense, but his potential is limited in this new system. With so many short yardage targets to choose from, Landry won't have much room to make big plays downfield.
Landry still has plenty to offer the Saints in 2022, and signing him would be a wise decision. He's been an impressive contributor in the NFL and should fit perfectly with the rest of the offense. Furthermore, Landry can serve as a mentor for younger wideouts such as Tre'Quan Smith and Marquez Callaway who will be joining them this coming season.
Marquez Callaway first joined the Saints as an undrafted free agent in 2020, quickly making him one of their lone stars. He has a special bond with quarterback Jameis Winston that has only grown stronger over time.
His contested catch ability is one of Winston's strongest assets, as evidenced by his three touchdown catches last year. Additionally, Winston has demonstrated the ability to break free from various routes - short or long.
Though not a high-end DFS option, Callaway could still be an interesting trade deadline option for teams seeking a WR depth upgrade. He may not be quite the same player he was in 2021, but his potential still remains high for any squad needing help at the position.
He's an experienced return man and could serve as either a punt or kick returner. On Sunday against the Panthers, he fielded several punts during warmups.
Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry have both been released, leaving Callaway the No. 4 receiver spot. His snap share suggests he should be active each week while competing against teammates Deonte Harty and Tre'Quan Smith for that position.
The Saints already have a formidable receiving core, but they may need to address the position in the off-season. That could involve trades or free agency moves as there is plenty of talent at this position and some salary cap space to work with. Which deal works best for them depends entirely on team leadership's preference; traditional free agency deals may not be possible due to financial restrictions. It will ultimately be up to them how they choose to proceed moving forward.