Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Saints Free Agency 2020: Part One

Even with everything going on in the world, the NFL officially began its free agency period last Wednesday. News of signings, however, began to leak on Monday as the league’s legal tampering began and free agents could officially contact and visit other teams. As usual the Saints, despite being close to the league’s salary cap were once again busy on the free agent market—both in terms of re-signing their old players and bringing in free agents from elsewhere. 

So this week, let’s take a look at the Saints’ most important re-signings of their offseason so far and next week, we’ll take a look at their biggest free agents. 

QB Drew Brees, 2 years, $50 million

The Brees re-signing was merely a formality. Over the past few years, Brees has made it clear that he would only re-sign with New Orleans or retire. In reality, this is a one year deal worth $25 million with a voidable year tacked on for the purposes of spreading Brees’ cap hit across multiple seasons and giving the Saints more flexibility to bring in other free agents. If Brees wants to play in 2021, he’ll sign a contract that looks exactly like this one. 

There was little reason to think Brees would retire. Even at age 40 when quarterbacks generally decline, Brees was better than ever. He led the NFL in completion percentage at 74.3%, just 0.1% short of his career mark of 74.4% set in 2018. Age has cost Brees the ability to throw the ball down the field, but he has compensated by becoming an ultra-accurate short and intermediate range passer. In only 11 games last year, he threw for 2,979 yards with 27 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. Grade: A 

G Andrus Peat, 5 years, $57.5 million 

This signing is a little more puzzling. The Saints seemed all-set to move on from their former first round pick. New Orleans already has Larry Warford, who was signed a few years ago for big money, and Nick Easton, a former starting center, who filled in at guard last year when Peat was hurt. He’s missed games over the past two seasons due to injuries and with the Saints tight against the salary cap, it seemed like Peat’s time in the Big Easy was over. Maybe they’re getting ready to move on from Warford instead? Additionally, there did not seem to be a big market for Peat, who now has the fifth largest annual salary ever given out to a guard. Grade: C 

 DT David Onyemata, 3 years, $27 million 

Onyemata’s Cinderella story continues. Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Onyemata never played football until he emigrated to Winnipeg for college. After four years in college, the Saints selected him in the fourth round out of the University of Manitoba. Early in his career, Onyemata was a backup defensive lineup who generated a few sacks per season and mostly was used in run-stopping situations. In 2019, however, he filled in for the injured Sheldon Rankins, starting all 16 games. He had 3 sacks, 11 quarterback knockdowns, and continued to play well against the run, helping New Orleans finish with the 5th ranked run defense according to DVOA. Grade: B 

LS Zach Wood, 4 years, $4.78 million

The Saints re-signed their long-snapper, maintain continuity with punter Thomas Morstead and kicker Wil Lutz. Good for him.  Grade: B 

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