- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Things are still in flux with various undrafted rookies still waiting to sign their contracts and some veteran players maybe on the way out to make room, but right now the New Orleans Saints have more names at wide receiver (13) than any other position group, unless you want to be pedantic and lump the offensive tackles, guards, and centers together or do the same for the defensive ends and tackles (Which you shouldn’t. Don’t do that).
But which of these players have a real shot at making the team? We’ve got a long summer to figure that out and see how everyone stacks up against each other in training camp, but it’s worth evaluating the team as it stands now to see if they need more help — which factors into the decision of whether New Orleans should make a harder pitch for free agent receiver Jarvis Landry, for example.
The Saints rarely keep more than six receivers for Week 1, so it’s a safe bet that more than half the players currently under contract won’t make it through final roster cuts. That doesn’t mean some of them won’t return to the practice squad, but odds are a receiver that fans take a liking to will hit the waiver wire. Let’s survey the Saints receiving corps:
Michael Thomas, Chris Olave, Deonte Harty, Marquez Callaway
No surprises here. Thomas is expected to shoulder a heavy load in the offense after missing most of two years with a complex ankle injury, and expectations are high for Olave, too, as this year’s No. 11 overall draft pick. It’s a good thing the Saints have some quality depth behind them in Harty and Callaway, who led the team in receiving yards (698 for Callaway, 570 for Harty) last season with only Alvin Kamara catching more passes. But both of those players are better suited to complimentary roles in the offense and should benefit from Thomas and Olave drawing the lion’s share of defensive attention away from them.
On the bubble
Each of these receivers got on the field at some point in 2021, though only Smith and Humphrey caught multiple passes and the others spent most of the year on the practice squad. Smith’s struggles with injuries have been frustrating but it’s worth acknowledging he did post his highest yards per game (34.3) average last season. He’s still got to prove he can stay healthy, and with the Saints typically rostering just five or six receivers he has a lot of competition to fend off after returning on a two-year deal valued at the veteran’s minimum and inflated with incentives for performance. Smith shouldn’t be seen as a lock to make the team, which speaks to the upgrades the Saints have worked to pursue.
Jalen McCleskey, Kirk Merritt, Rashid Shaheed, Dai’Jean Dixon
McCleskey and Merritt were signed to reserve/future deals after the 2021 season wrapped up, which guarantees them only a spot on the training camp roster. That’s also true for Shaheed and Dixon, two other recent arrivals who have a lot to prove over the summer. Both undrafted free agent rookies bring strong resumes from the college level: Dixon totaled 236 receptions for 3,802 yards and 35 touchdown catches at Nicholls State; Shaheed caught 146 passes for 2,164 yards and 18 touchdown receptions at Weber State, but did more damage on special teams with seven kickoffs returned for touchdowns. Still, they’re also each in for a massive jump in the quality of competition they’re facing.