Which wide receivers can the Saints afford to replace Michael Thomas?
With the recent news of the Michael Thomas injury, the Saints find themselves with a huge void at wide receiver. This unit was already incredibly thin going into 2021 but finds itself now without one of the league’s best receivers to start the season. The actual timeframe for Thomas’ return is unknown but the Saints will likely need another capable receiver to begin the year. The Saints did not address the thin position in free agency nor the draft and now find themselves scrambling to find someone who can produce. The New Orleans Saints should start making calls about various wide receivers but here are some potential targets which might be available via trade.
Who can the Saints trade for at wide receiver?
There are several NFL teams with different kinds of issues at wide receiver. Teams like the Cincinnati Bengals or Denver Broncos come to mind. These teams were deep at receiver but added to their unit recently via the NFL draft. There are also teams who have just accumulated receivers but have had recent coaching changes like the New York Jets or Houston Texans. Lastly, there are disgruntled players who want out of their current teams like the New England Patriots. All of these situations can help the Saints fill the void left by the Michael Thomas injury.
Trade partners from loaded rosters
The Bengals and Broncos are incredibly deep at receiver. The Broncos took Jerry Jeudy last year but lost Courtland Sutton to injury. Now that both are healthy and on the roster, it leaves receivers like Tim Patrick in the wash. Patrick is with the Broncos on a one-year contract already. Standing at 6’4, the lengthy receiver turned 51 catches into 742 yards and six touchdowns without Sutton last year. With the team having other needs, it is likely that Patrick will not get a long-term deal in Denver. If the Broncos would listen, Patrick’s large frame is the kind of receiver the Saints need.
Similarly, the Bengals could not pass up on this year’s star receiver in the draft. They drafted Ja’Marr Chase to pair with Joe Burrow, reuniting the college duo. Chase walks into a loaded receiver room. Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins performed well with Burrow last year. Boyd has a long term deal and Higgins is still in his rookie contract. The receiver likely left out is Auden Tate. Tate is similar to the aforementioned Tim Patrick in size. Tate is coming off of a down year. In 2020, Tate only had 14 receptions for 150 yards in nine games. Although, Tate’s 2019 season leaves some hope though. He turned 80 targets into 40 receptions for 575 yards in 12 games. This is the kind of size and production which the Saints could use in 2021.
The disgruntled and disgruntled?
Players who want out of their current situation could lend itself to easing the Saints situation at receiver. N’Keal Harry has made his intentions known with the Patriots. He wants out. The Saints could wait and hope that the Patriots cut Harry but moves between these two organizations are common. If Sean Payton calls up the Patriots, a deal could likely get done. Recent rumors have also tied the Saints to former receiver Brandin Cooks. It seems that Cooks is a player that does not stick to one team long and is always ready to move. Cooks could reunite with the team that drafted him after spending the last four years with three different teams. With a coaching stuff with the Texans, Cooks could likely be seen as expendable. Maybe Cooks’ grass-is-greener demeanor can be sorted out in his second stop in the Big Easy.
New regime, new turnover
Speaking of coaching changes, the New York Jets come to mind. It is not often that depth and the Jets are discussed but that has changed. The new coaching regime drafted Elijah Moore and signed Keelan Cole and Corey Davis in free agency. These new signings and coaches might leave Denzel Mims out. Mims was drafted last year, not by the current regime. If the new staff is not high on Mims, then the Saints might be able to get production out of the second-round draft pick. Likewise, Jamison Crowder is a holdout from the previous staff. Crowder is on the last year of his contract and will likely not be a Jet next year. These receivers are very different. Crowder is more of the speed and route guy while Mims is a large target who can move the chains. The Jets are very thin at running back. Latavius Murray has been a great change of pace back for the Saints but the Jets could use a runner like Murray in its backfield. A trade could be mutually beneficial for both teams.
Just do something
Signing Chris Hogan should not be the only move. Michael Thomas and his injury timeline should not hold the organization hostage. There is still some unknowns with how this surgery happened and why the time was so late after the end of the 2020 season. It is hard to speculate without knowing all the facts but it does seem curious that the star wideout waited so long for his first surgery. Whether it is malicious or simply happenstance remains to be seen. New Orleans should begin rebuilding their wide receiver room now though. The quarterback battle is not helped when there is no one to target. The Saints just need to do something to strengthen their wide receiver stock before the 2021 season.