Some Interesting Options on the New Orleans Saints 2020 Free Agency Shopping List

Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints are expected to remain a serious contender to get to the Super Bowl for at least a couple of more seasons if not longer, before their soon-to-be 20th year veteran starting QB (and future NFL Hall of Famer) Drew Brees eventually retires.

However in order to maintain that status, the team will need to improve their current roster at a few key positions; either by selecting talented players who will be coming out of college in the upcoming NFL Draft in late April, or perhaps even more likely — veteran players from other NFL teams that will soon be available to sign new contracts with a brand new team, in the 2020 NFL Free Agency signing period that officially begins on March 16th.

Specifically, the Saints will have to address a couple of spots on both sides of the football to remain within the top-tier of the NFL’s best teams; especially at wide receiver, offensive guard, tight end, linebacker, and in the defensive secondary: perhaps both at safety as well as at cornerback.

And of course, they might even end up needing a quarterback also; although Brees and 3rd string QB Taysom Hill (who this off-season will be a restricted free agent and is expected to receiver a 1-year tendered offer from the organization to remain in NOLA) are both likely to return for at least the 2020 Season.

That said, New Orleans should have a handful of interesting options to put on their 2020 Free Agency “shopping list” — and this morning here at Big Easy Magazine, we’re taking a quick look at a few of them.

Starting first with the one player that a sizable portion of Saints fans throughout the “Who Dat Nation”, would like to see playing in the Black and Gold next season and possibly beyond….


Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Saints, YouTube

Dallas Cowboys WR Amari Cooper and San Francisco 49ers WR Emmanuel Sanders are considered by most observers and analysts as the top pass-catchers at the receiver position in this year’s upcoming Free Agency signing period, but neither as of now are expected to leave their current teams and will both likely remain whey they are for at least the time being.

But then next right behind them is the one player that a large portion of Saints fans have been talking about extensively in recent months dating back to last season’s trade deadline, and who they’d like to see become the newest member of the team in spite of the storied history of his 9-year NFL career: former high school and college All-American and 3-time Cincinnati Bengals All-Pro WR A. J. Green.

The 31-year old Green — who turns age 32 in July — has battled a series of nagging injuries that forced him to miss all of last season. Prior to that, the former superstar in college with the University of Georgia Bulldogs only played a grand total of 9 games the year before in the 2018 NFL Season.

But nevertheless, Green still managed to tally 694 receiving yards and 6 TD’s that year and if you prorate those numbers over the course of a full season: he potentially was on pace to record over 1,200 receiving yards and 10 receiving TD’s at age 30. Bottom line: WHEN HEALTHY, Green is still one of the League’s truly “elite” wide receivers.

For the Saints and namely the front office management duo of general manager Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton, the likelihood of bringing Green to NOLA will ultimately hinge on his asking price. Green made $12 million last season without playing a single snap, and even if he is cleared medically to resume his once-prolific NFL career; is said to be seeking in excess of $10 million per year.

However, with the Saints desperately needing to add another play-maker at WR to ease the pressure (and burden as one of the few true weapons on offense) of current superstar Michael Thomas, the pursuit of Green definitely could become one of the previously-mentioned interesting options for the Saints in Free Agency starting in several more weeks from now.


With two of their three starting linebackers (young veterans Alex Anzalone and Kiko Alonso) both coming off season-ending injuries, the Saints could definitely be looking to add depth at the position; and most likely through the upcoming NFL Draft — although signing one in Free Agency remains an intriguing possibility.

One interesting option in that regard for New Orleans, might be another young veteran in 4th year star linebacker Cory Littleton of the Los Angeles Rams. The 26-year old Littleton, who originally signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent out of the reputable PAC-12 football program of the University of Washington Huskies; has quietly and with very little recognition or fanfare, become of the best young defenders in the entire NFL since that time.

Specifically, many observers feel that Littleton has emerged as one of the very best linebackers at pass coverage (a 90.6 grade in 2019, which ranked 3rd best in the NFL); which is evidenced by his stat-line a whopping 18 PBU’s (pass break-ups) and 6 interceptions over the course of the past 2 seasons. Additionally, Littleton is considered an ELITE special teams performer, which speaks to why he has recorded a total of four blocked punts in the past 2 seasons alone.

The only drawback or deficiency with his overall skill-set at this point of his still-blossoming career is defending against the run; although it’s believed that is an aspect that he can improve upon over due time. For the Saints, the biggest issue with regard to a pursuit of Littleton will undoubtedly be the amount of money that the promising performer will be looking to earn as a starter with a new team; which could exceed what the Saints are willing to pay considering that they could draft one out of college for a substantially less amount.

And with Saints All-Pro linebacker Demario Davis also now entering into a contract year for the upcoming season, it (saving money for the future) might be the reason why Littleton ends up somewhere else besides New Orleans. But the Black and Gold still need to be prepared for the eventual possibility that the linebacker position could end up being short-handed in the upcoming seasons ahead — and a signing of Littleton would prevent that from happening.


While it might seem unlikely that any player would willingly want to leave the “dynasty” of the New England Patriots franchise that’s been in place for the better part of the past 2 decades, the harsh reality is that their time of dominance may be finally nearing its conclusion after nearly 20 years — especially if the rumors of 6-time Super Bowl champion and living QB legend Tom Brady (who currently now is an unrestricted free agent himself) considering to leave and go play for another team, are indeed true.

One such player that could want to explore a brand new opportunity somewhere else is 4th year NFL veteran and former North Carolina State University Wolfpack star Joe Thuney. The 27-year old former All-American has gradually gotten better with each passing season since entering the NFL via the 2016 NFL Draft; and the good folks over at Pro Football Focus noted that he just finished the past 2019 NFL Season as the 5th highest rated offensive guard in the entire League.

At 6-foot-5 and 308 pounds, Thuney is also extremely versatile (a quality which the Saints absolutely LOVE for their O-Linemen to have) and can play every position (center and tackle also) whenever called upon. Last year, Thuney only allowed 16 QB pressures against Brady on 693 passing attempts; which was the 3rd-highest pass-blocking grade (87.4) in the NFL.

Clearly, Thuney would serve as a HUGE improvement at the starting left guard position for the Saints if they decide not to re-sign / bring back current starter and 5th year veteran Andrus Peat — who himself is now an unrestricted free agent, and after struggling at times with pass protection as well as being somewhat injury-prone over the course of the past few seasons; likely won’t be coming back with the Black and Gold going forward.


While safety might not seem like a position of need for the Black and Gold, the reality is that 4th year veteran Vonn Bell — who most believe will re-sign / return to New Orleans — is still an unrestricted free agent and could possibly sign elsewhere if he wants to.

Additionally, 3rd year safety Marcus Williams is entering a contract year; and if he isn’t brought back or is re-signed next off-season, it potentially could leave the Saints in a bind down the line with rookie Chauncey-Gardner Johnson as the only leftover player at the position with experience. However, an interesting option for them in Free Agency could come in the form of former University of North Carolina 1st team All-ACC safety and 6th year pro Tre Boston of the division rival Carolina Panthers.

The 27-year old Boston — who has intercepted 13 passes since being drafted back in 2014 — has improved gradually over the course of his career; first as an original draft pick of the Panthers before also playing for the Los Angeles Chargers in 2017; and then with the Arizona Cardinals in 2018 before he eventually returned to Carolina once again last year.

The one drawback for Boston unfortunately has been his tackling ability (the same issue that Marcus Williams has very notably had himself at times), and to that point Boston has a total of 25 missed tackles in the past 2 seasons alone. But what makes him desirable nevertheless are his elite-caliber “ball hawk” skills that have allowed him to record a very impressive 11 interceptions and 16 PBU’s since the 2017 Season.

While New Orleans may not address this position at all via Free Agency and opt to do so instead through the NFL Draft (if they even do at all), Boston could still provide them with the chance to fill a need if Bell were to seek a new start elsewhere with a different team.


Current Saints veteran Jared Cook will be a free agent after this coming season (as well as approaching his mid-30’s age-wise) and even though he’s still playing at a high level, the position is one that will have to be addressed at some point; and this off-season might be the best time to do so given the players that are available in the upcoming 2020 signing period.

However in a manner much similar to the possibility of signing the previously-mentioned A.J. Green, this scenario also is one that probably seems unlikely at first glance for Saints fans; given the amount of money it will cost to sign a player with the caliber of the pure talent that’s possessed by former University of Arkansas All-American and young 25-year old Los Angeles Chargers superstar tight end Hunter Henry.

While Indianapolis Colts free agent tight end and 6th year veteran Eric Ebron — who also is now an unrestricted free agent — might seem like a more realistic and viable (and much cheaper) option for the Saints money-wise, the 4th year veteran and 6-foot-5, 250 pound Henry would clearly be an absolute perfect fit within the Saints offense and head coach Sean Payton’s high-powered passing attack.

The one problem besides the amount of money that New Orleans would have to pony up to obtain Henry’s services is his injury history, which is rather extensive and has caused him to miss a significant amount since he entered the League in the 2016 NFL Draft.

That said: when he’s healthy, Henry is considered one of the premier tight ends in the entire NFL; perhaps just a notch slightly below 49ers All-Pro George Kittle and Chiefs All-Pro Travis Kelce. Even more attractive for the Black and Gold is the fact that Henry has very good skills as a run-blocker, something that undoubtedly Sean Payton would find to be an admirable trait in Henry’s overall capabilities.

Henry can also line up in several spots along the line of scrimmage (in-line, at the slot, and even on the outside as a receiver out wide), which essentially makes him a dangerous threat in any style of NFL offense. If the Saints are willing to shell out the money for such an investment (and in spite of the risk of future injury issues), a signing of Henry could set them up at the tight end position for several years to come….

Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius

Help Keep Big Easy Magazine Alive

Hey guys!

Covid-19 is challenging the way we conduct business. As small businesses suffer economic losses, they aren’t able to spend money advertising.

Please donate today to help us sustain local independent journalism and allow us to continue to offer subscription-free coverage of progressive issues.

Thank you,
Scott Ploof
Big Easy Magazine

Share this Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *