During the 2023 NFL offseason, the New Orleans Saints are likely to make more changes. With the number of roster spaces remaining available, this should not be surprising. They can, of course, do so through the draft or continue to probe the market for other potential free agents. Here we'll look at the most significant roster need of the Saints after the first week of the 2023 NFL free agency period.
The Saints have a better salary cap situation compared to their NFC South rivals, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, the Saints are still in the midst of a tough offseason with a deficit of $55 million and numerous positions to fill. Keep in mind that after 16 years with Sean Payton as head coach, the team had a disappointing season under new coach Dennis Allen. They finished with a losing record and failed to make the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Adding to their troubles, the Saints are currently $30 million over the salary cap. This makes them the second-worst in the league after the Buccaneers. Even after the first wave of free agency, it's clear that the Saints front still office has its work cut out for them.
Let's look at the biggest roster need of the Saints after the first week of free agency.
Improve receiver corps
Despite a disappointing season for the Saints, rookie wide receiver Chris Olave was a bright spot. He was their target in the draft, and after trading up to the 11th overall pick, he proved to be worth it. In fact, he earned PFWA All-Rookie Team honors with 72 catches, 1,042 yards, and four touchdowns. However, with question marks around Olave in the wide receiver room, the Saints need to prioritize signing another dependable pass-catcher this offseason. Yes, they may not go for the best wideout available. Still, this move would provide more options for the team's offense and give Olave a breather when needed. Recall that only one other player on the team surpassed 500 receiving yards. This makes the need for a new wideout even more pressing.
Keep in mind that while Michael Thomas is returning, Jarvis Landry will not be on the roster anymore. Although they have a solid No. 1 in Olave, adding a dependable No. 2 would surely benefit the team.
CHRIS OLAVE TOUCHDOWN 🔥
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) November 20, 2022
Keeping Thomas for another year was a smart move for the Saints. He provides a reliable and physical intermediate option for their new quarterback. However, the team still lacks depth in the position, especially given Thomas' injury history. For sure, Tre'Quan Smith has not been the answer. As of now, the Saints may turn to the draft to bolster their receiving corps or look to free agency.
DJ Chark is a top available veteran receiver with a rare combination of size and speed. At 6'4 and 205 pounds, he has the potential to outmuscle or outrun any defender. However, injuries have limited his effectiveness in recent years. He had ankle issues cropping up during the 2021 season, which caused him to play only four games. Despite this, Chark was signed by the Detroit Lions last season. However, his ankle problems hindered his contribution again. He finished the season with only 30 receptions for 502 yards and three touchdowns. Nonetheless, at just 26 years old, there is still hope for Chark to regain his early-career form. We see him as a great bargain pickup for a team during the second wave of free agency.
Although there is a lack of speedy wideouts in the open market, remember that Chark is a quality burner who could help teams in dire need of a receiver. His injuries may cause concern, but his potential upside outweighs the risk. If he can fully recover from his ankle issues, he could be a high-end weapon again. Take note that he had 73 catches, 1,008 yards, and eight touchdowns in 2019. We cannot emphasize this enough — he could be an excellent value signing for any team willing to take a chance on his ability to bounce back.
Another potential addition to the Saints receiving corps is Richie James. The former New York Giants wide receiver put up career highs in targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns in his first season with the team. Although he may not be a No. 1 option, take note that signing him would not break the bank for a team with limited salary cap space.
Another, more high-profile option for the Saints is Odell Beckham Jr. If the Saints really wanted to turn a lot of heads, OBJ could be on the table. He is coming off a successful stint with the Los Angeles Rams. However, he has injury concerns and a tumultuous past with the Cleveland Browns. While Beckham's value has likely increased after his solid performance in 2021-22, it remains to be seen if his injury history and off-field issues will deter potential suitors. Adding a player of Beckham's caliber would be a significant move for the Saints. However, their limited salary cap space may make it difficult to pull off.