The New Orleans Saints, fresh off their 3rd straight heart-breaking loss in the NFL Playoffs, don’t have much time to dwell or be “bummed out” by not achieving their ultimate goal of reaching the Super Bowl; since they are intent on keeping the core of their current team intact in order to make at least one more attempt to win Pro Football’s World Championship.
However, with the Black and Gold only expected to have an estimated amount of $16 to $20 million to spend on their own free agents with the League likely to set the salary cap for the 2020 Season at approximately $200 million, the reality is that some of the team’s more well-known veteran players could be leaving NOLA to sign and play with other NFL teams.
It’s a dilemma that every NFL team faces once the season ends, but it is getting extra attention this coming off-season in 2020 because of the veteran Saints players that are now free agents following the heart-breaking loss a few days ago against the Minnesota Vikings in the opening NFC Playoffs Wild Card round.
The hard part for Saints front office brass (namely General Manager Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton) for the next few weeks now will be figuring out which of those free agents that they want to try and keep; and which of them that they feel are expendable and can be let go.
As of this moment: the Saints have a grand total of (27) free agents on their current roster, with a whopping (18) of them that are set to become unrestricted free agents and can negotiate contracts with any other team they want.
And while vitally-important players such as Drew Brees, Vonn Bell, and David Onyemata are all expected to receive new contract offers and be back for the 2020 Season, there are also a handful that likely won’t receive offers to return.
SAINTS 2020 FREE AGENTS (via John J. Hendrix of the Saints News Network / Sports Illustrated)
(Player’s Age in Parentheses)
Exclusive Rights Free Agents (3)
Exclusive Rights Free Agents (ERFA) – Player is not under contract, and has not reached three years of experience. If the team makes said player an offer at the three-year veteran minimum, the player has a ‘take it or leave it’ option. There is no negotiation with other teams.
- J.T. Gray, DB (24)
- Lil’Jordan Humphrey, WR (22)
- Keith Kirkwood, WR (26)
Restricted Free Agents (6)
Restricted Free Agent (RFA) – Player has only three years of experience, and would not have a contract with his current team. Any team would have the option to make a contract offer, but the team (Saints) would be able to match/retain that player with said offer.
- Zach Wood, LS (27)
- Justin Hardee, DB (26)
- Cameron Tom, G (25)
- Krishawn Hogan, WR (25)
- Austin Carr, WR (26)
- Taysom Hill, QB (30)
Unrestricted Free Agents (18)
Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) – Player is free to sign with any team. He would not have a contract with his current team. You would need to play four years, or get cut, to be in this category. This is a fluid list, as players like Manti Te’o, Noah Spence, and D.J. Swearinger were added late in the season.
Drew Brees, QB (41)
Teddy Bridgewater, QB (28)
A.J. Klein, LB (29)
Eli Apple, CB (25)
Ted Ginn Jr., WR (35)
Andrus Peat, T (26)
P.J. Williams, CB (27)
Zach Line, FB (30)
Vonn Bell, S (25)
Johnson Bademosi, CB (30)
Patrick Omameh, T (30)
Stephone Anthony, LB (28)
Josh Martin, LB (28)
Manti Te’o, LB (29)
David Onyemata, DT (27)
Noah Spence, DE (26)
Dwayne Washington, RB (26)
D.J. Swearinger, DB (28)
While most of the Saints’ 2020 Free Agency focus will be on which one of their quarterbacks to keep (Brees, #2 back-up Teddy Bridgewater, and 3rd string QB and jack-of-all-trades Taysom Hill are all free agents now), just as much of their emphasis this off-season will be placed upon which players are no longer a part of the future that they envision for the team and franchise moving forward.
So it’s with that all of that in mind this morning, that Big Easy Magazine lists a few of the now-current Saints veteran free agents that we believe SHOULDN’T receive new contract offers to return; and be allowed to leave to pursue the remainder of their professional football careers elsewhere with other NFL teams.
Starting first with….
ELI APPLE, #2 CORNERBACK
Many Saints fans will undoubtedly be split down the middle on whether or not Apple should be offered a new deal to return for the 2020 Season and beyond; since he has very good pass coverage skills for the most part but yet often seems to have mental lapses (namely committing untimely multiple defensive holding or pass interference penalties) that ultimately ends up hurting the team.
It might just be the reason why the Saints declined the 5th year option for Apple prior to the start of the 2019 season a few months ago, that would have guaranteed the former Ohio State star around $13.6 million. To that very point: in the recently-completed 2019 NFL Season that just concluded a few short weeks ago, Apple led the NFL with a total of (10) — count them — ten penalties for either defensive holding or pass interference, 7 of which were accepted and 3 of them declined since the opponent’s receiver made the catch anyway.
That said, Apple is still capable of being a top-notch NFL cornerback whenever he wants to be. But the penalties and the lapses in judgement (he also is prone to yielding the “big catch” to opposing WR’s in one-on-one pass coverage) clearly should give Loomis and Payton pause and likely to go in a different direction, moving forward.
And with the recent addition of veteran Janoris Jenkins (who many believe is actually the better player skills-wise), Apple is definitely one of the free agent Saints players that might not be back in 2020.
ANDRUS PEAT, OFFENSIVE LEFT GUARD
— Sporting News NFL (@sn_nfl) January 7, 2018
While we won’t go so far as to label Peat a “bust” as some Saints fans have, the honest truth is that the former Stanford University All-American just hasn’t lived up to the team’s expectations after they drafted him with their 1st Round (#13 overall) pick back during the 2015 NFL Draft.
The soon-to-be 27 year old and 5th year veteran originally was drafted to replace the now-retired Zach Strief at the right guard position, but struggled mightily at that spot and he ultimately was switched over to the left side of the O-Line, where he had played for the majority of his college career. Peat eventually became the starter at left guard and also became the designated “replacement” at left tackle whenever starting left tackle Terron Armstead has been hurt and unable to play.
However, Peat seemed to take a major step back in the season that just ended, as he was notably beaten in one-on-one match-ups against some of the League’s better defensive ends and defensive tackles within the interior of the line of scrimmage; and perhaps even more worrisome: he always seems to be dealing with some sort of injury, which obviously is why he has earned the label of “injury-prone”.
Lutz kicks seem to have low trajectory,
But Andrus Peat’s guy just blew right by him in on that blocked FG. pic.twitter.com/tCg8SNbw0u
— Fletcher Mackel (@FletcherWDSU) September 18, 2016
Wanna know why #Saints QB Teddy Bridgewater seemed to be under immediate pressure on 3rd & 2?
If you can’t see Andrus Peat in this pic, it’s because he’s sitting on the ground. I provided an arrow for your convenience. pic.twitter.com/8YvoF2THg2
— Deuce Windham (@RevDeuceWindham) October 13, 2019
Despite his versatility that allows him to play multiple positions along the O-Line, it would seem very likely that Saints brass will target another O-Lineman with similar skills in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft in April — making Peat another player that should be considered expendable and not offered a new deal for 2020 and beyond.
TED GINN, JR. WIDE RECEIVER
Ted Ginn Jr. is the only WR left in the league from the 2007 NFL Draft and still runs a sub-4.4 40 pic.twitter.com/mNVpfJxJKp
— Rob Paul (@RobPaulNFL) September 10, 2019
“The man with the hands of stone”. That used to be the popular nick-name and catch-phrase associated with then-famous pro wrestler and former NWA World Champion Ronnie Garvin back during the 1980’s, but it easily can be used as an accurate depiction in the now-current era to describe the pass-catching capability of the soon-to-be 35-year old veteran Ginn. Originally drafted by the Miami Dolphins back during the 2007 NFL Draft out of Ohio State University, the Saints’ current #2 receiver on the opposite side of All-Pro superstar Michael Thomas has been a major disappointment.
While he still possesses world-class caliber speed that many observers and analysts felt made him a potential “superstar” in his own right coming out of college, Ginn’s well-documented inability to cleanly catch the football most of the time as well as a reoccurring issue with “dropped passes”; has become the main detriment for his opportunity to ‘make it big” for the multiple NFL teams that he’s been with throughout the entire length of his now-14th year career.
The Saints are the 5th NFL team that Ginn has played for since he was drafted over a decade ago, and after he was drafted by Miami, he was eventually traded by the Dolphins to the 49ers — who used him more for his kick return abilities than they actually did at wide receiver. Ginn then filled similar roles with Carolina and then Arizona, before the Saints signed him in 2017 NFL Free Agency three years ago.
The hope originally of Saints front-office brass was that Ginn could become another weapon for Drew Brees in the Saints’ high-powered offensive attack and top-rated passing offense, but he has fallen well-short of those expectations. Given his advanced age along with the numerous dropped passes and potential long touchdown receptions that he should have had since his arrival, the proverbial “writing is on the wall”; especially with the Saints said to be targeting a wide receiver with their first pick in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft.
P.J. WILLIAMS, NICKEL CORNERBACK
Nice route by Moore on PJ Williams pic.twitter.com/m0BuBCjqOC
— Billy M (@BillyM_91) November 24, 2019
The Saints gave Williams — who they drafted in the 3rd Round (#78 overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft after he helped lead Florida State University to the National Championship during the 2013 College Football Season — a 1-year contract extension last April. But that accomplishment aside, Williams unfortunately also has had a storied personal history which included several incidents off of the football field; most notably a hit and run while in college and then a DUI incident that nearly ended up costing him his entire career.
Simply stated, Williams just hasn’t ever developed into a Pro Bowl-caliber cover cornerback that the Saints had hoped that he would over due time; and it’s fair to say that the majority of his career wearing the Black and Gold has been a major disappointment. But he has remained on the roster nevertheless, because of his knowledge of the defensive scheme and to provide needed depth in the secondary.
In the recently-completed 2019 NFL Season however, Williams didn’t exactly blow any one away with his performances from week-to-week, which is confirmed by the fact that he had a three-year low in tackles while forcing just one turnover during the year.
He only started 8 out of the 14 regular-season games in which he appeared, and while he is capable of making the occasional “big play”, they unfortunately have come very few and far in between. Additionally, he is susceptible to getting penalized often for defensive holding as well as yielding big catches in pass coverage against opposing receivers, something that has led to many passionate “Who Dats” wanting to literally rip the hair out of their heads at times.
That in our eyes here at Big Easy Magazine makes the 5th-year veteran expendable — and one of the now-current Saints free agent veteran players that shouldn’t be re-signed to a new contract for the 2020 Season and beyond….
Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius