The Saints had a glaring hole exposed in their NFC Championship game loss to the Rams. Luckily, it appears there are plenty of options to fill that void.
Brees could’ve used a trusty slot receiver like that just two weeks prior in the NFC Championship game against those very Rams. The Saints offense was a shell of its usual self, scoring just 10 points after the first quarter and being held to under 300 yards of total offense on the day.
Los Angeles had an obvious plan — devote half of your defense to shutting down Michael Thomas and make someone else hurt you.
The problem for the Saints was that no one else could.
Alvin Kamara was explosive out of the backfield, totaling 96 receiving yards, but even he was slowed down as the game developed. But outside of Kamara, no Saints pass-catcher had more than 40 receiving yards by the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter.
So the Saints are thin at the receiver position — like, really thin. But luckily for them, the 2019 free-agent class is chock full of reliable slot guys who have proven their worth elsewhere. The hard part for the front office will be figuring out the money part of it.
This list of this year’s free agent slot receivers includes Golden Tate, John Brown, Randall Cobb, Jamison Crowder, Adam Humphries and Cole Beasley. A few of these guys are on the wrong side of 30, and none are absolute game-changers, but that’s not what New Orleans needs. Thomas and Kamara already fill that role.
New Orleans sorely lacks an experienced, steady presence to take some of the pressure off of their stars. Whenever a smart defensive coordinator like Wade Phillips who’s equipped with elite personnel like that of the Rams decides to key in on Thomas or Kamara, Brees has no where to go. Adding a third capable receiver to this New Orleans offense would restore the dominant unit that we saw in the first half of 2018.
The financial end of things could be tougher to configure, as New Orleans is as strapped for salary cap space as about anyone in the league. They’re set to enter the offseason with less than $8 million to work with, fifth-fewest in the league according to Spotrac.
There are a few ways to work around this dilemma, and general manager Mickey Loomis has worked around similar situations before. Andrus Peat, Cam Meredith, and Kurt Coleman are all potential salary cap cut candidates. The team could also re-work Brees’ deal as it’s done in the past.
But if the Saints hope to make a third consecutive deep playoff run – maybe with a little better fortune this time around – they had better find a way to bring in some reinforcements.