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Top 5 free agents the Saints should target in the wake of Michael Thomas’ surgery

The Saints have had more roster upheaval than any team this offseason. Their questionable cap management, driven on winning in Drew Brees’ final couple of seasons have torn this roster a part and vanquished the depth they had built on both sides of the ball.

Just a few months they lost Drew Brees, Janoris Jenkins, Trey Hendrickson, Sheldon Rankins, Emmanuel Sanders, Thomas Morstead, and Jared Cook through free agency or retirement. On the back of that, Michael Thomas‘ surgery in June means that he will now miss a substantial chunk of the season, David Onyemata is suspended for the first six games of the season, and Marshon Lattimore may end up being suspended too as a result of his arrest from back in March.

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So what are their options to bring in an available veteran to help fill in for Thomas, who in the very least will miss the first month and that’s if the surgery and recovery work out flawlessly?

Saints Cap Space situation:

As per Spotrac, New Orleans has just over $11 million in cap available to them for this upcoming season. However, they also are projected to be over the cap by close to $40 million in 2022. I would therefore expect them to bring in a veteran on a one-year deal because they can take the full cap hit now and not add anything to their cap in 2022.

Obviously, on the cusp of training camp the Saints are late to the game and the free agent market, particularly at receiver, contains only veterans who’s age and production are to differing extents liabilities. That being said, there are some solid options who could turn out to be great additions to the receiver group and within their budget.

1. Kenny Stills

Could a return to New Orleans be in the works for Kenny Stills? He was drafted by the Saints in the 5th round of the 2013 draft and played there two seasons before being traded to Miami. He saw a significant decline in usage last season as he started zero games and appeared in just ten while catching eleven passes for just shy of 150 yards and a touchdown.

This doesn’t seem like it should be the Saints top choice, but remember, he played in Houston the past two seasons. In 2019, he started five games and appeared in thirteen while catching forty passes for over 500 yards and four touchdowns. Two years ago, he was the fourth option Deshaun Watson had on that offense. Last year, the entire team struggled and the offense sputtered. Although the numbers don’t look great, the Saints have the opportunity to bring in a familiar face and an experienced receiver just before training camp as a fill in due to Michael Thomas’ surgery.

2. Golden Tate

Golden Tate is a great route runner, a physical receiver not afraid of contact, and is not afraid not catch balls in traffic across the middle of the field. His numbers the past two years in New York saw a decline from 2019 to 2020 as the entire offense took a nosedive. In 2019 he finished with 676 yards and six touchdowns on 49 catches, whereas in 2020 he had 388 yards and two touchdowns on 35 catches. He probably has had the most consistent production as of late out of the remaining free agent wide receivers.

3. Dede Westbrook

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At only 27 years old, Dede Westbrook is one of the youngest of the well-known free agent receivers remaining. He is coming off of a torn ACL in 2020, which he suffered after appearing in just two games. His play has been inconsistent, but I would peg most of that to the turbulence of being a part of the Jaguars offense that past four years. In both 2018 and 2019, he averaged ten or more yards per catch and at least sixty receptions. In a free agency where mainly short yardage slot receivers are available, Westbrook is the most established big play option still available.

4. Seth Roberts

Another option for the Saints if they’re looking for a receiver who averages over ten yards a catch. Seth Roberts played well in his first four years in Oakland in a limited capacity. He played in no less that 15 games each of those seasons, but never started in more than seven.His final year in Oakland saw him haul in 45 catches for just under 500 yards and two touchdowns. In 2019 he played in Baltimore and 2020 in Carolina. His play dramatically dropped each year to the point where he only had four catches for 31 yards last season. In New Orleans, he would definitely have the opportunity to revive his career and the Saints would get a player who has played in different systems and would be cheap and hungry to prove himself.

5. Danny Amendola

Danny Amendola is an established veteran slot receiver who could help to fill the void between the hashes that Michael Thomas loves to own on slant routes. The 35-year-old still managed 46 catches for over 600 yards in 2020, his 12th season in the league. He would be an asset in helping Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill develop as the both head into this post Drew Brees era.

Additional available free agents, who did not make our top 5 include: Marqise Lee, Dez Bryant, Larry Fitzgerald, Alshon Jeffery, and Josh Gordon. The Saints will definitely need to bring in someone to fill in thanks to Michael Thomas’ surgery, but they do have some affordable options available to them through free agency.

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