As the New Orleans Saints now stand exactly only 1 more week away from the "official" start of the 2018 NFL Free Agency signing period, speculation is that the team will likely seek to add at least one and possibly two more wide receivers to their roster either through Free Agency or next month's 2018 NFL Draft, for the upcoming 2018 season later this year.
That's been necessitated by the fact that the Saints might not choose to re-sign either (or both) restricted free agents and young veteran wide receivers Willie Snead and Brandon Coleman.
As of this moment, there are ZERO guarantees that the Saints plan on bringing back either player, and the possibility exists that the Saints will NOT offer a tender for either player. (Per current estimates, an offer with no compensation attached from any NFL team to a player with Restricted Free Agent status is estimated at $1.9 million, according to OverTheCap.com).
While there are more than a few talented WR's that New Orleans will likely consider selecting in next month's Draft, there are a handful of talented WR's also available in Free Agency next week; and this morning as we continue our look at potential "targets" for the Saints, we come to the player who might be an intriguing option for the Black and Gold if neither Snead or Coleman return: now 5th-year WR Paul Richardson of the Seattle Seahawks.
After Miami WR Jarvis Landry (who's been being franchise-tagged by the Dolphins but is expected to be traded) and Rams WR Sammy Watkins, you could make a strong case that the 25-year-old Richardson is the next-best wide receiver on the current free agent market.
Richardson actually was a very good deep threat for the Seahawks offense which for a majority of the time, failed to provide enough adequate pass protection for QB Russell Wilson to fully take advantage Richardson's capabilities. And because of that, some teams likely will see the chance for unlimited potential — and be willing to pay for a player of his age and very notable top-end speed.
Richardson, the Seahawks' 2nd Round Draft pick back in the 2014 NFL Draft, only turns 26 in April; and in a manner very similar to fellow 2014 draft pick and free agent / Indianapolis Colts WR Donte Moncrief (click HERE to read our profile of Moncrief), still has a ton of "upside", which is assuming that he can stay healthy.
The Saints seemingly could and would outbid any other NFL team for his services, if they feel Richardson could flourish in their offense in New Orleans. The oft-injured Richardson has put together back-to-back healthy seasons for the first time since his junior year in college in 2013, with last season being his best.
Often compared to another Colts WR in the very fast T.Y. Hilton (because of their very similar size and speed), Richardson has a ton of ability and his best football could still be ahead of him.
And if he were to be paired up with a great quarterback such as Saints QB Drew Brees, he could become yet another added "weapon" that can get open and make big plays for the high-powered New Orleans offensive attack.
Richardson's footwork, cat-like quickness and blazing top-end speed (he ran a 4.40 40-yard dash coming out of Colorado but has unofficially run as fast as a 4.28 in the past) makes it tough for opposing DB's to stop him, despite his smallish size (6-feet, 185 pounds).
The former University of Colorado star burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2014 with 29 catches and a touchdown, looking like he just might be "the future" at wide receiver in Seattle. Unfortunately, he ended up tearing his ACL in the playoffs that season and only played in one game in 2015.
After being limited to a back-up role (21 receptions, 1 TD) in 2016 as his knee fully recovered, Richardson caught 44 passes for 703 yards (a 16 yards-per-catch average) and six touchdowns in 2017, and it would be very interesting to see what the speedy Southern California native could potentially do at the slot position in a high-powered offensive attack like the Saints have.
Richardson's college career at Colorado was equally "up and down" thanks to injuries, and he almost went unnoticed by evaluators after he missed his 2012 season with a knee injury. But the "break out" performance that would put him firmly on the map of NFL scouts, happened to occur just in time for his 2013 junior season with the Buffaloes, and it was an outstanding one.
Despite playing with a young quarterback, Richardson had a standout junior season for Colorado with 83 catches for 1,343 yards and 10 touchdown catches. Three times he had at least 10 catches in a game, even as the Buffaloes were struggling through a (4-8) season.
In all, Richardson had 20 touchdowns in three seasons in Colorado and averaged 41.8 yards per score (yes, you read that correctly). So essentially every time he scored, it was usually on a "big play".
Now with Free Agency only a week away, we'll see where Richardson will begin the next chapter of his playing career, and whether or not the Saints will be a part of it. There's always the chance that Richardson could even decide to return to the Seahawks, though at this point it seems inevitable that he will not be back in the Emerald City.
Despite Richardson's "break out" 2017 season last year for the Seahawks, ESPN 710 AM Radio Seattle (and former long-time ESPN "NFL Insider") John Clayton doesn't believe the team will pay a top dollar amount to keep him in the Pacific Northwest.
The well-respected and long-time NFL analyst speculated that the Seahawks would only be willing to give Richardson $5.5 million per year but wouldn't go above $6 million. Clayton noted that it was his belief their organization would rather save that extra money and instead pay wide star wide receiver Tyler Lockett when his contract is due to expire at the end of 2018.
Which means that Richardson is free to negotiate with any NFL franchise that will be willing to give the still-speedy play-maker a shot to prove that he can stay relatively healthy and make a significant impact in that particular team's offensive attack.