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2019 NFL Free Agency

Potential “Bargains” for the Saints in 2019 NFL Free Agency

With yesterday’s release of veteran strong safety Kurt Coleman, the New Orleans Saints now approximately have $12.5 million in salary cap space for next season.

That isn’t exactly a whole lot of room to work with for team management, meaning that there still are other players whom potentially could be cut or released as the team looks to free up some additional money before the start of next month’s 2019 NFL Free Agency signing period (which gets underway on March 13th).

While New Orleans isn’t expected to target any expensive or “big name” players on the market with the notable exception of Houston Texans safety (and former LSU Football All-American and NOLA native) Tyrann Mathieu, they very well might choose instead to take a closer look at players that are considered just as talented, but who  just haven’t made a lot of money or have gotten the media attention while doing it.

With that in mind, this morning here at the Saints News Network we’re looking at a few players that will be available in next month’s 2019 Free Agency class, that the Saints could target to improve their roster but without having to “break the bank” to do so.

And we start first with…..

 

COLE BEASLEY, “SLOT” RECEIVER, DALLAS COWBOYS

Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints clearly need a player that can complement#1 WR Michael Thomas as a legitimate 2nd option in the receiving game either on the outside boundary opposite of him or on the inside as a “slot” receiver; something that they’ve lacked since the departure of former Saints #2 WR Willie Snead.

And with last year’s rookies Tre’Quan Smith and Keith Kirkwood still essentially learning how to play at the professional level of competition, there’s plenty of room for an experienced player like Beasley in the Saints offensive scheme. His ability to utilize his quickness and get past the 1st down marker has been an invaluable trait for Dallas that would be undoubtedly would be coveted Payton and Brees.

Originally signed by Dallas back in 2012 as a UDFA out of SMU (Southern Methodist University), Beasley is a play-making threat with the ball in his hands, as he averaged 3.4 yards YAC (yards after the catch) last season for the Cowboys; while hauling in a total of 65 receptions for 672 yards and 3 TD’s. In his 7-year NFL career, Beasley has 228 catches for 2,355 yards and has scored 17 total TD’s.

Beasley is a much cheaper option for the Saints to potentially pursue financial-wise, particularly in comparison to a player such as Eagles free agent WR Golden Tate; who is this year’s top WR of the 2019 Free Agency Class and likely will get paid like one (Tate reportedly is said to be seeking up to $10 million per season).

USA TODAY Cowboys Wire writer / analyst K.D. Drummond of Cowboys Wire estimates that a contract for Beasley with a potential suitor such as the Saints would fall anywhere in the range of $22.44 million over three years. For a Saints team that is trying to make one final run at a Super Bowl title, those are numbers that could help them get one step closer to their ultimate goal.

 

AUSTIN SEFARIAN-JENKINS, TIGHT END, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously the Saints are in desperate need of getting a new #1 starting tight end for their offense following the retirement of Benjamin Watson; and after he was formally given his release last week by the Jacksonville Jaguars, 26-year old Free Agent TE Austin Sefarian-Jenkins is definitely a player that could be on the Black and Gold’s radar.

Originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back during the 2014 NFL Draft (#38 overall) out of the University of Washington, the 6-foot-6, 262 pound Sefarian-Jenkins was due to earn $4 million next season; but the Jaguars have opted to move on from the talented but inconsistent former All-PAC-12 performer.

Seferian-Jenkins has battled numerous injuries throughout his 5-year NFL career; and he also was suspended for two games in 2017 after violating the NFL’s substance abuse program. Out of a possible 80 games since 2014, the Fox Island. Washington native has only played a little more than half (43) of them.

In the 2018 Season, Sefarian-Jenkins appeared in only five games as he ended up on injured reserve after the Jaguars’ Week #5 loss at Kansas City, after catching 11 receptions for 90 yards and a TD. In his 5-year NFL career thus far, Sefarian-Jenkins has played in 43 total games (with 29 starts), caught 116 passes (on 190 targets), for a total of 1,160 yards and 11 TDs.

Clearly signing Sefarian-Jenkins might be a bit of a risk for Saints team brass to make, but when healthy, he’s indisputably one of the League’s best pass-catching TE’s. But nevertheless, his past history is something that could potentially be used as leverage in contract negotiations. At the right price (say 2 years for $4 million), Sefarian-Jenkins might be worth the risk for the Saints to take.

 

MUHAMMAD WILKERSON, DEFENSIVE TACKLE, GREEN BAY PACKERS

(Photo by Getty Images)

With starting defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins likely out until October and back-up David Onyemata facing a possible suspension to begin next season, the Saints need to find a player at the interior defensive tackle position who can capably fill in for the first month or so until their eventual return.

Which is exactly the reason why the Saints could opt to pursue 8th-year veteran Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Muhammad “Mo” Wilkerson, especially since the 29-year old still appears to have several good seasons left in his career and would give New Orleans some much-needed depth at the position; in spite of coming off a season-ending injury of his own.

Some Saints fans might recall that the Black and Gold actually pursued Wilkerson briefly last off-season, when the 6-foot-4, 315-pound former Pro Bowl defensive lineman with the New York Jets was deciding where he would play the next phase of his pro career. Ultimately he chose to sign with Green Bay, but he suffered a broken leg and he only played in three games.

Originally drafted out of Temple University by the Jets in the 2011 NFL Draft as a 1st-round pick (30th overall) for then-New York head coach Rex Ryan, Wilkerson has appeared in 108 career games (with 104 starts), has totaled 245 tackles, 44 1/2 sacks, 71 TFL’s, 103 QB hits, two interceptions, 29 passes defended, and 11 forced fumbles.

Wilkerson can be used in a variety of ways along the defensive line; as the versatile big man is capable of playing multiple roles. He can typically lines up as a 3-Technique defensive tackle, but he can also line up and rush the passer from the outside edge, as a strong-side defensive end.

However, his overall performance has been below expectations — something that could factor into him signing a 1-year “prove it” deal with a team just like the Saints, who could use Wilkerson’s desire to bounce back in 2019 to their advantage.

 

ADRIAN PHILLIPS, STRONG SAFETY, LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

(Photo by Tom Walko/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With yesterday’s release of former veteran Kurt Coleman, the Saints obviously are now in need of adding a safety to their roster for next season. NOLA native and former LSU All-American Tyrann Mathieu is the player that most fans expect the team to target specifically at the moment.

However, there’s always the possibility that Saints brass might want explore a cheaper (but hopefully nearly as talented) option; and Phillips certainly is talented enough to provide that, as the soon-to-be 27-year old put together a strong season last year for the Los Angeles Chargers and made the Pro Bowl as a special teamer.

Originally signed by the Chargers as a UDFA from the University of Texas in the 2014 Off-Season, Phillips finished this past season with 94 tackles, 9 PBU’s (pass break-ups), 1 interception and 1 forced fumble. In his 5-year NFL career, the Garland, Texas native has recorded 215 tackles, 18 PBU’s, 5 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles since his rookie season.

As noted by Bleacher Report NFL writer / analyst Kristopher Knox: Phillips very effectively is capable of playing the hybrid strong safety / linebacker role that has become popular in a variety of defensive schemes; and is capable of doing it well. But perhaps more importantly: he won’t turn 27 until the end of March, and Knox says that his combination of talent and relatively young age potentially makes Phillips one of the best bargains in the NFL.

Should Tyrann Mathieu’s asking price to “come back home” to NOLA get a bit too high for Saints team brass, Phillips would present them with an intriguing option that could be available on a relatively cheap contract….

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Saints News Network Featured Columnist (and Big Easy Magazine's Saints writer) Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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