In just one more week from now, the New Orleans Saints — along with the other 32 teams in the NFL — can began negotiating with available veteran players in this year’s 2020 NFL Free Agency class, to potential new contracts to come and play for their team and represent their city.
The Black and Gold during the past few off-seasons have had some mixed results with bringing some of those veteran free agents from other teams into the fold, and for every “good” player that they’ve signed in recent years (like 2019 1st team All-Pro Saints linebacker Demario Davis), they’ve definitely had their fair share of “bad” ones that didn’t quite work out in the end.
Many Who Dat fans still get themselves ‘all stirred up’ or angrily-upset, just from hearing the mere mention of names from the team’s not-so-great past free agency history. Names that ended up being a total waste of their time and perhaps more importantly: a waste of their available money to spend at that time, underneath the designated amount of that particular season’s salary cap.
Names from the Saints’ past such as Jairus Byrd, C.J. Spiller, Brandon Browner, James Laurinaitis, and Coby Fleener, just to name a few.
Each of the former NFL players mentioned in that previous sentence were all ‘big names’ who signed big-money deals to come down to NOLA, but only to end up being proverbially “shown the door” after they failed (and miserably so, in some instances) to fulfill the terms of their contracts.
And so it’s with that very thought in mind this morning here at Big Easy Magazine, that we give you the names of 5 available veteran free agent players — all of them who will be available beginning next week in 2020 NFL Free Agency — that Saints Front Office brass should absolutely AVOID spending a single penny on, in spite of the best intended wishes of some over-exuberant Saints fans.
Starting first with…
BESHAUD BREELAND, CORNERBACK, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
— Pro Football Rumors (@pfrumors) February 15, 2020
With Saints CB’s Eli Apple and P.J. Williams set to become unrestricted free agents next week, the Black and Gold could quickly find themselves needing to add depth at the position; and possibly even another starter opposite of #1 CB Marshon Lattimore if they were to decide not to bring back #2 CB Janoris Jenkins — who is slated to earn $11.2 million in the final year of his contract after coming to NOLA near the end of last season.
One name at the cornerback position that’s been bandied about by Saints fans on Social Media in recent weeks is that of Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs CB and soon-to-be 7th year veteran Beshaud Breeland. After an “up and down” career during his first 6 years in the League after being taken originally by the Washington Redskins in the 4th Round of the 2014 NFL Draft, the 28-year old Breeland is one of the ‘biggest names’ on this year’s free agent market.
In 2019, Breeland recorded 15 total tackles, 3 pass deflections, 2 tackles for loss and an interception in Kansas City’s three playoff games. But perhaps even more impressive of an accomplishment was that the former Clemson University star only allowed just 48.4 percent of passes that were thrown his way, to get completed against him.
— Tyler Greever (@Tyler__Greever) September 15, 2019
However, the revitalized Breeland still allowed 5 touchdown passes to be completed against him last season, a sure sign that he hasn’t been able to successfully eliminate that particular undesirable aspect and deficiency (a knack of giving up “big plays” in pass coverage) from his overall performances; that have haunted him first with Washington and then once again following a brief 1-year stint (in 2018) with the Green Bay Packers.
And for a Saints defensive secondary that is seeking to rid itself of the stigma of yielding “big plays” to opposing wide receivers, Breeland is a veteran free agent that New Orleans seemingly would be much better off without, by choosing to explore other possible options instead.
JIMMY GRAHAM, TIGHT END, GREEN BAY PACKERS
— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) March 4, 2020
In case you might have missed it somehow: former Saints All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham was released by the Green Bay Packers this past Wednesday, and predictably a fairly sizable portion of Saints fans were giddy over the possibility of him returning to NOLA and be “reunited” with QB Drew Brees in the Saints’ high-powered offensive attack.
Saints fans every time Jimmy Graham hits the free agent market pic.twitter.com/7n4XzhGDBd
— Evan Saacks (@evansaacks) March 4, 2020
I remember when Jimmy Graham was a lethal tight end for New Orleans and now on to his next team. Best of luck 🏈 pic.twitter.com/b47K7wtXv4
— 🟨🟪Lil Bro Nick🟪🟨 (@JOKER_OF_JOKERS) March 5, 2020
It’s obvious that Brees and Graham shared a special friendship during their time in New Orleans together, and especially since with Brees throwing him the football; Graham averaged 88 catches, 1,110 yards, and 11 touchdown receptions a season and made the Pro Bowl in each of his first 4 years in the NFL. But as it’s been well-documented, Graham left the Saints during the 2015 NFL off-season after they traded him to the Seattle Seahawks , following some contentious contract negotiations with general manager Mickey Loomis.
Graham went on to briefly thrive with Seattle, and during the 2017 Season he caught a league-high 10 touchdown passes in the red zone from another great NFL QB in Russell Wilson, including eight of them that were inside the 10-yard line. In only three seasons with the Seahawks, Graham set the Seattle franchise record for the most receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns at the tight end position.
But injuries eventually caught up with Graham, and he ended up leaving the Pacific Northwest during the 2018 off-season to sign with Green Bay. During his two seasons in Green Bay, Graham’s play steadily declined and it became quite obvious that he no longer is able to compete at the high level that he used to be able to. In 34 games playing with another ‘elite’ QB in Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, Graham only managed to catch 5 TD passes in the red zone and clearly seemed to be a player that is “washed up” or well past his physical “prime” now at age 33.
With current Saints TE Jared Cook poised to return for at least one more season, New Orleans is more likely instead to address the position in next month’s upcoming 2020 NFL Draft — rather than signing one next week when Free Agency officially begins — and thus making the chances of a possible Graham-Saints “reunion” (in spite of the wishes of some very forgiving Saints fans), a long shot at best.
ANTHONY HARRIS, FREE SAFETY, MINNESOTA VIKINGS
— Vikings Territory (@vikingterritory) March 3, 2020
As mentioned previously: the Saints are facing the possibility that 4th year veteran safety Vonn Bell — who most observers and analysts believe will ultimately re-sign / return to New Orleans — is an unrestricted free agent himself and could possibly sign with another NFL team next week if he really wants to.
Additionally, 3rd year free safety Marcus Williams will now be entering a contract year in 2020; and if he isn’t brought back or re-signed next off-season, it potentially could leave the Black and Gold short-handed in the defensive secondary down the line; with rookie Chauncey-Gardner Johnson as the only leftover player at the position with any type of significant playing experience.
One name in Free Agency that’s been mentioned as a possible replacement if such a scenario were to occur for New Orleans, is that of 5th year veteran Minnesota Vikings free safety Anthony Harris. The 28-year old defender was graded as the best safety in football over the past two seasons by analytics website Pro Football Focus; which seems to be what has been since driving the recent hype surrounding the former University of Virginia star, who signed with Minnesota as an undrafted free agent during the 2015 off-season.
However, as cautioned by USA TODAY NFL national beat writer Steven Ruiz: despite being a phenomenal athlete, Harris lacks the instincts of other top-tier safeties throughout the NFL; and while he has been solid in pass coverage while essentially playing “centerfield” in the Vikings defensive scheme, Harris outside of a few acrobatic interceptions, just doesn’t spend much time around the ball.
Ruiz adds that Harris doesn’t rack up a lot of tackles and rarely makes plays outside of the deep-to-middle part of the football field; and given that Harris is said to be seeking a new contract somewhere within the price range of $15 million per season, the chances that Harris will end up wearing the Black and Gold is very unlikely — assuming of course that Saints team brass is in agreement with that assessment — which makes the re-signing of Vonn Bell an even higher priority for New Orleans.
NELSON AGHOLOR, WIDE RECEIVER, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
— NFL News (@CSNews2019) February 19, 2020
The #1 top off-season priority for the Saints has been the desire to add another talented and play-making receiver to pair up in the team’s future along with 4th year All-Pro Michael Thomas; and while many observers believe that New Orleans will likely address the WR position in next month’s NFL Draft out in Las Vegas, there’s still the chance that they could opt instead to target a pass-catcher beginning next week in Free Agency.
An available free agent player that hasn’t gotten that much notoriety but yet has been mentioned as a possible option for the Black and Gold, is that of 5th year veteran Philadelphia Eagles WR Nelson Agholor. Originally chosen by Philly in the 1st Round of the 2015 NFL Draft out of USC (the fabled University of Southern California Trojans football program), the 26-year old has actually been one of the biggest “busts” at the WR position since that time.
In 5 NFL seasons, the 6-foot, 200 pound Agholor has caught a total of 224 passes for 2.515 receiving yards along with 18 total TD’s. But for a player that once upon a time was projected to be a “superstar” at the WR position, the soon-to-be 27-year old has fallen far short of expectations; although part of his perceived lack of production is due to a series of nagging injuries that have followed him throughout the length of his career thus far. During his storied college career with the Trojans, Agholor recorded an incredible 178 receptions for 2,572 yards and 20 touchdowns.
However, the Lagos, Nigeria native has only been able to average 44 receptions, 503 yards, and 3 TD’s per season dating back to that time. This past season in 2019, Agholor only managed to record 363 total receiving yards and 3 TD’s, and he ended up missing 6 of the last 8 regular season games for Philadelphia, due to a nagging knee injury. However, he’s expected to be fully healthy at the start of next season and will be seeking a brand new opportunity to play elsewhere in 2020.
But while he could be signed by the Black and Gold for a reasonable price (somewhere in the $5 million per season range), Agholor still is a player that would be a huge risk for New Orleans to take; and since they’re trying to win a Super Bowl before Drew Brees retires, it should be a safe assumption that his presence is one that Saints fans shouldn’t expect to see anytime soon.
DANNY TREVATHAN, LINEBACKER, CHICAGO BEARS
We have placed Danny Trevathan on IR.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) December 18, 2019
Once upon a time, this player (ironically) would have been considered an available free agent at his position that most experts and analysts likely would have agreed was among the League’s very best. But now about to enter in what will be his 9th year of his professional career in the upcoming 2020 NFL Season, Chicago Bears veteran linebacker Danny Trevathan is regrettably now a player who ends up on a list such as this one that you’re reading this morning.
Originally taken by the Denver Broncos in the 6th Round of the 2012 NFL Draft out of the University of Kentucky, the 6-foot, 239 pound Trevathan was one of the League’s brightest young stars and helped lead Denver to a World Championship win in Super Bowl 50 over the Carolina Panthers following the 2015 NFL Season. But Trevathan became an unrestricted free agent a few months later in 2016 NFL Free Agency, and signed with his most recent team of the past 4 seasons, the Chicago Bears.
Unfortunately however for the 29-year old Trevathan, he’s only managed to play a full season once since that time. Last season he was placed on injured reserve with an arm injury, and he’s essentially been plagued by one small nagging little injury after another since his arrival in the Windy City.
Bottom line: Trevathan just hasn’t been able to stay on the field long enough to make a lasting impact since he left Denver; and over the last few seasons seems to have now regressed physically to “injury-prone” status. To that point, Trevathan has missed a grand total of 16 games (15 regular season games and one Playoff game) dating all the way back to his final year with the Broncos in that 2015 Super Bowl season, which also includes the final 7 games of last season in 2019.
For a Saints team that currently has several linebackers who will be hitting the free-agent market either this off-season (A.J. Klein and Manti T’eo) or next off-season in 2021 (Demario Davis, Alex Anzalone, Craig Robertson, and Kiko Alonso); it would appear that they’d be much better-suited targeting a LB other than Trevathan — a player who as with every other individual on this very list this morning — is an available free agent player that the Black and Gold needs to AVOID at all costs….
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