Who should the Saints target in free agency from the NFC West?
The New Orleans Saints are hurting for salary cap space and a new look team could be on the way. The Saints are always aggressive in their approach to retool their team, so come the first day of free agency, March 17th, the Saints will be looking for new players to join their franchise for the 2021 season.
The NFC West is one of the most competitive divisions in football, year in and year out, and every team in the division is talented and competing for a title. With free agency looming, here is one pending free agent from each of the NFC West teams the Saints should consider.
Arizona Cardinals, Chris Banjo, S
Chris Banjo, 31 years old, signed a one-year deal in 2019 with the Arizona Cardinals. In 2020 they re-signed him for an additional year. Before his stint with the Cardinals Banjo spent three years with the Saints as a key special teams player and depth player in the back end of the secondary.
In 2020, Banjo tallied 48 tackles as his role with the Cardinals grew. The Saints have already brought back safety J.T. Gray, but if they cannot re-sign gunner Justin Hardee, Banjo should be on top of their list for a reunion. He would be a low-cost option and Sean Payton knows the team would be getting a key special teams players as well as a vocal leader in the locker room.
San Francisco 49ers, Kendrick Bourne, WR
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders spent a season with the San Francisco 49ers where he excelled next to a rising star in Kendrick Bourne. Bourne’s stats have improved each year since he entered the league in 2017, and in his most recent campaign, he had 74 receptions for 667 yards and 2 scores.
Maybe Bourne’s most impressive stat from 2021 was that he had 12 third-down catches on only 15 targets. Bourne’s 667 receiving yards might not be eye-opening, but it was second on the team behind rookie Brandon Aiyuk who finished with “only” 748 yards. Bourne was originally an undrafted free agent from Eastern Washington in 2017, and we all know the Saints love finding their late-round and UDFA gems. The Saints have close ties with Bourne as both Sanders and Kwon Alexander played with two seasons ago. Alexander and Bourne remain close friends and train together during the offseason in Beaverton, Oregon at the Nike Campus. If the Saints are looking to add another skills player to their wide receiver room, a cheap and high value signing could be Kendrick Bourne.
Los Angeles Rams, Gerald Everett, TE
The New Orleans Saints recently released tight ends Jared Cook and Josh Hill from the roster, leaving the tight end room pretty bare. Gerald Everett is a young, talented, and athletic tight end from the Los Angeles Rams who could quickly come in and be productive. Everett had 417 receiving yards with only one touchdown in 2020, but he is fully loaded with talent and was over shadowed by the emergence of Tyler Higbee in Los Angeles. No longer splitting time with Higbee, Everett could see a large jump in yards and catches if he was put into the offense like the Saints. The Saints have been looking for a consistent tight end ever since they traded away Jimmy Graham, with guys like Ben Watson, Coby Fleener, Josh Hill and Jared Cook all given their shot to become the next stand out tight end in New Orleans.
Everett certainly wouldn’t be a high dollar signing, but the Saints cannot afford high dollar free agents this year, and Everett could be a low-risk and high-reward signing that ends up paying dividends. If given the chance to be a true starting tight end and not a back up, Gerald Everett could have a break out year with the Saints.
Seattle Seahawks, Jacob Hollister, TE
Seahawks free agent tight end Jacob Hollister certainly isn’t a house hold name, but it would be a classic “Saints” move to sign him come free agency. Hollister is a Bill Belichick discovery, as the Patriots signed him in 2017, although he never really became anything in New England.
The Seahawks traded for Hollister in 2019 for a seventh-round selection and he has showed flashes of being a productive player at the position. Hollister only had 209 receiving yards and three touchdowns in 2020, playing primarily behind Greg Olsen in Seattle. However, when looking deeper into the number, Hollister was still able to manage 349 yards and three touchdowns in just 11 total games. Hollister hasn’t shown he can be a true starting tight end, but he would provide great depth to a tight end room that has no one outside of second-year player Adam Trautman at the moment.
The Seahawks will most definitely be interested in re-signing Hollister this offseason with Greg Olsen announcing his retirement from the league. That being said, if Hollister were to hit the open market, it would make sense for the Saints to make a run Hollister considering the Saints have signed low-profile tight ends that have spent time with the Patriots before – Ben Watson, David Thomas and Michael Hoomanawanui to name a few. The Saints and Hollister should keep in close contact when free agency starts, and it will be interesting to see if Hollister becomes the new Josh Hill.
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