Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Saints Free Agency 2020: Part Two

Last week, we began our look at the New Orleans Saints offseason by focusing on re-signings of Drew Brees, Andrus Peat, and several other players. This week, let’s turn our attention to the two big players—one on defense and one on offense—that the Saints brought in from outside the organization to bolster the roster in the waning years of Brees’ career. 

WR Emmanuel Sanders, 2 years, $16 million 

The Saints wide receiver depth outside of Michael Thomas was nonexistent. Thomas led the team with 149 receptions. Ted Ginn, the ostensible number 2 wide receiver, had 30. Tre’Quan Smith was third with 18. Sanders fits the bill as a viable receiving option behind Thomas. 

Last season, Sanders split time between Denver and San Francisco. In 17 games, he had 66 receptions for 869 yards, including a memorable game against the Saints where he torched the defense for 7 receptions, 157 yards and a touchdown. Throughout his career, Sanders has ably served as a second wideout for receivers like Antonio Brown in Pittsburgh, Demaryious Thomas in Denver, and now for Michael Thomas in New Orleans. 

Now that Sanders is in his early 30s, health and age-related decline are a concern. He missed four games in each of 2017 and 2018 and was only ever a full-time starter for three seasons, from 2014-2016. The Saints investment in Sanders, however, is modest (two years and $16 million) and he fills a much needed hole on their roster.  Grade: B+ 

FS Malcolm Jenkins, 4 years, $32 million 

A familiar face returns to the Crescent City. The Saints selected Jenkins with the 14th overall pick in the 2009 draft. He spent the first five seasons of his career in New Orleans. Over time, however, Jenkins fell from favor amidst the ever-changing array of defensive coordinators in the early 2010s—in his career with the Saints, Jenkins played for Gregg Williams, Steve Spagnuolo, and Rob Ryan—before departing as a free agent after the 2013 season. The Saints did not even offer him a contract. 

Jenkins signed with the Philadelphia Eagles where he became a standout defender and played in their Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots. He also was bitter towards the Saints for the way they had treated him, once flipping off Sean Payton during a game between Philadelphia and New Orleans. 

Payton later admitted that letting Jenkins leave was one of the biggest mistakes of his coaching career and he and Jenkins mended fences. The reconciliation paved the way for Jenkins return this offseason. 

While the Saints would like to rectify their mistake in letting Jenkins go, they paid too high a price to facilitate this reunion. If Jenkins were still the 27 year old safety with a lot of upside, this deal would make a lot of sense. Unfortunately he’s not. Jenkins will be entering his age-33 season making top-flight safety money. There’s very little room for excess value here. If Jenkins underperforms, he’ll be an expensive overpay. If he plays well, then the Saints derive little benefit since they’re paying him at the top of the market. Grade: C 

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