Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images
A rollercoaster of a day for Saints fans.
After a pretty quiet fourth day of free agency, the Saints came out of nowhere and shook Saints fans early with one move and then delighted them late with another. It was a busy, fascinating day in Saints free agency. Time to recap a rollercoaster 11 or so hours.
Saints re-sign Andrus Peat to a five-year deal
Saints have re-signed Andrus Peat to a five-year contract
— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) March 20, 2020
This did not go over well with Saints fans. It is clear why, though. Noticeable struggles on big stages at a position that is not often recognized when doing well or performing sufficiently. However, from the Saints’ perspective, this signing maintains continuity and familiarity for Brees. He will once again take snaps behind a line that he is accustomed to communicating with and has protected him very well. The Saints have been in the bottom three of the league in sacks allowed.
While the signing makes sense for many reasons as explained by Deuce Windham, it was still one that wore on Saints fans pretty heavily. But never fear. The Saints, as they always do, hit big in the second wave of free agency.
Saints bring back two more familiar faces
The Saints have agreed to terms with:
CB Justin Hardee (one year)
FB Michael Burton (one year)
— Amie Just (@Amie_Just) March 20, 2020
Burton and Hardee are names that are familiar to Saints fans, but not so nationally recognized. Burton spent his regular season with Washington but before that was on the Saints training camp and preseason roster before being released in late August. Saints starting FB Zach Line announced his retirement earlier this season and the team is still carrying Ricky Ortiz on the roster into 2020. Burton should be able to compete for the open FB role now.
I mentioned in our first day’s recap that bringing back Justin Hardee would make sense for the Saints even though they did not tender his RFA contract. Before signing Hardee, the Saints only had one backup corner on the roster in the newly re-negotiated Patrick Robinson. The Saints are in need of depth there and Hardee helps that while also providing them with another special teams ace to pair with Second-Team All-Pro J.T. Gray.
Each Burton and Hardee signed one-year deals. The Saints continued their focus on familiarity up through this point in the day as the focused only on returning in-house free agents, signing players like Malcolm Jenkins and Michael Burton who had been with the Saints before. Until finally…
Saints Sign WR Emmanuel Sanders to a two-year deal
Emmanuel Sanders just told me he intends to go to the #Saints.
— ig: josinaanderson (@JosinaAnderson) March 21, 2020
The big splash signing that everyone was hoping far falls right in line with the Saints’ usual free agency approach. They sat back and were patient much like they were with Malcom Brown, Demario Davis, and Jared Cook and pounced on their guy in the second wave of the open market.
Sanders brings precise route-running, deep speed, and great hands opposite Michael Thomas to create a very talented and dynamic pairing for Drew Brees to target in 2020. Sanders played in both Denver and San Francisco last season compiling a total of 66 catches for 869 and five touchdowns. Of those, 7 catches for 157 yards and a touchdown came against the Saints in week 14. Now, he will get his targets from the QB from the opposite sideline in future Hall of Famer Drew Brees.
The other talking point of this signing is the contract. After only two other receivers signed multi-year deals, Sanders became the third with a two-year $16 million contract. He can early up to $19 million after incentives, but this is a very cost-effective expense to add some more firepower to a Saints offense that has already scored the most cumulative points in the NFL since 2014, second most since 2017.
Related NFC South News
The Buccaneers’ new deal with Tom Brady officially released. On the surface, his contract looks much like Brees’ deal. Two years, $50 million total. However unlike Brees, his entire contract is guaranteed and includes up to $9 million in incentives based on performance and playing time. Brees only has $25 million guaranteed, which basically makes it like a one-year deal.