At the trade deadline, the two big positions of need that kept coming up as potential targets for the Saints were slot corner and WR2. This last game against the Rams may have solidified PJ Williams as the slot corner for now after a good rebound following a tough matchup a week ago against Adam Thielen and Stefan Diggs. While Williams improved against the Rams and seems to have a hold of that position of need, the Saints are obviously still in the hunt to add another weapon to the offense.
Rookie Wide Receiver and my personal favorite hype train of the season Tre’Quan Smith has faired well, scoring three touchdowns so far this season. However, Smith hasn’t exactly become a weekly threat averaging just 28.3 yards in his last three games since exploding on the scene against Washington in Week 5. Meanwhile, offseason signee Cameron Meredith has only compiled 114 yards in the three games he’s played, recording no targets in the last three games in which his production has been reduced following a Week 5 turnover – we know how much Sean Payton hates fumbles.
With Ted Ginn Jr. on IR and Tommylee Lewis working his way back, it makes sense that the Saints would be looking at another option to add as a threat opposite Michael Thomas or in the slot. In their search, the Saints will be looking at 3 candidates today, Kamara Aiken, Brandon Marshall, and Dez Bryant.
Kamar Aiken is still fairly young having only spent seven years in the league so far. He’s played meaningful snaps with the Ravens, Colts, and Eagles since coming into the league but also spent short stints with the Bills, Bears, and Patriots practice squads. Aiken had his best year in 2015 where he had 75 catches for 944 yards and 5 touchdowns. Since then, his production has been severely diminished catching only 29 and 15 passes in 2016 and 2017 after playing in (not starting) 16 and 15 games respectively. Aiken was recently released by the Eagles on October 19th. He’s determined to find his way back to form after his recent struggles and has shown he can perform well from the slot in the last few years as he’s transitioned away from the WR1 role he once held in Baltimore.
Brandon Marshall has been in the league as long as Drew Brees has been in New Orleans. His sustained success, however, has been a challenge. Once one of the leagues most fearsome receivers with the Dolphins, Broncos, and Bears, the vet has become a Journeyman playing with the Jets, Giants, and Seahawks over the last few years. He had an outstanding 1,502-yard receiving and league-leading 14 touchdown year in 2015 with the Jets but hasn’t been able to find that success again since. One of the things that Brandon Marshall brings to the table that is of high value is his run blocking ability. Marshall has been considered an outstanding run blocking wideout for his entire career, but if the Saints are looking for production and play-making ability. It might be a little too late for the 13 year player.
Dez Bryant has been attached to the Saints before, with rumors circulating this offseason that he might be on his way to New Orleans after the Cleveland Browns signing fell through. A lot of concerns about Bryant arise from his locker room composure, often referred to as “locker room cancer” by the public much like the recent Saints acquisition Eli Apple was referred to by former teammate Landon Collins. Apple has shown that a change of scenery, at least in this small sample size, can help a player adjust when situated in a winning mentality. Can the same be done for Bryant who, if signed, would more than certainly give the Saints another formidable weapon alongside Michael Thomas and budding Tre’Quan Smith? I think so. Nothing heals a bad attitude like success and right now, the Saints are the pinnacle of that. Don’t get me wrong, there will be some adversity. But not the kind that’s been felt in Dallas as of late. Bryant’s production has fallen off a bit since his huge 2014 season, but the 3-time Pro Bowler and 2014 First-Team All-Pro would be coming into a situation where he wouldn’t be expected to lead the receiving unit. Which goes for all three of these guys, actually. The question would be, can he come to New Orleans and produce? Just last year, he had 69 catches for 838 yards and 6 touchdowns, numbers which far surpass today’s other two auditioning wideouts since 2015.
With Bryant having just turned 30 two days ago, it makes sense that the Saints could get him signed on the cheap. Of the three, I personally prefer Bryant. Bryant and his passion are far more desirable to me than most who follow the team. But I think that kind of commitment to success would fit right in with the Saints culture. He’s a great run blocker much like Brandon Marshall when he puts in the effort. Though he’s older than Kamar Aiken, he’s still relatively young and capable for the role the Saints would need him to play as a WR2/slot presence (he’s consistently played around 20% of his snaps from the slot for the last four years). As far as I’m concerned, sign away unless Marshall or Aiken show up and look phenomenal.
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