Saints made a hefty investment in rookie free agent Dallin Holker

Don’t say the New Orleans Saints aren’t willing to spend big to get the players they covet. The Saints guaranteed $235,000 of their contract with rookie Dallin Holker, per ESPN’s Katherine Terrell, making the former Colorado State tight end their highest-paid undrafted free agent this year. The deal includes a $10,000 signing bonus. He’s essentially guaranteed a spot on the practice squad, but the expectation should be for him to make the 53-man roster outright.

So why is he such an appealing prospect? The raw numbers aside (Holker caught 64 passes for 766 yards last season, scoring 6 touchdown receptions), he’s dangerous with the football in his hands. Pro Football Focus charting found that Holker drew an average depth of target at 8.9 yards, while gaining 5.9 yards after the catch per reception. He forced 15 missed tackles and picked up 38 first downs.

Holker’s times in agility drills at the NFL Scouting Combine were also impressive, with the second-best numbers in the short shuttle (4.21 seconds) and three cone drill (6.83). There aren’t many players this light on their feet at 6-foot-3 and 241 pounds.

But back to on-field performance. Here’s how each of the Saints’ non-Taysom Hill tight ends stacked up in those same per-target and per-catch stats:

The jump to the NFL from Colorado State is significant, but he has the physical gifts to succeed. Holker is an early favorite to take Graham’s place as the team’s third tight end. He’ll need to earn bigger opportunities over the summer, but the Saints could use more production out of the position.

Johnson was late to the party last year with Derek Carr under center and didn’t make a consistent impact until the last four games, catching 19 of his 37 passes and gaining 216 of his 368 yards while scoring 3 of his 4 touchdowns and converting 15 of his 23 yards. Moreau was miscast as a blocking tight end and averaged his fewest routes run per game (10.7) since his rookie year.

It’s worth noting both Moreau and Johnson dealt with injuries during the season, but they didn’t make the most of their opportunities, either. If Klint Kubiak has a better vision for the players, great, but they still need to execute when their numbers are called. They can’t afford to slip up with Holker waiting to get his chance.

Story originally appeared on Saints Wire