Back in the NFL: The #Saints are signing free agent WR Dez Bryant to a 1-year deal, sources tell me and @SlaterNFL. His marathon wait has ended with a landing spot on a playoff team.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 7, 2018
The Saints Get the Outside Help They Needed
For all of their prolific productivity on offense, the Saints could use another wide receiver. After Michael Thomas, the team’s next two leaders in targets are running back Alvin Kamara (66 targets) and tight end Ben Watson (32). Speedy wideout Ted Ginn Jr. is in fourth with 22 targets, but he was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury in mid-October. That leaves Tre’Quan Smith as the team’s no. 2 wideout opposite of Thomas. But in the four games since Ginn went down, he’s failed to leave much of an impression. Smith caught the pass that gave Brees the passing record; you remember the one —
A 62-yard TD to set the record!— theScore (@theScore) October 9, 2018
Drew Brees is a legend.
( : @Saints) pic.twitter.com/3amImTeScj
— but that one catch accounts for more than a quarter of his yardage. Smith has totaled just 12 catches for 214 yards and three touchdowns on the season. After Smith, the Saints’ wideouts include Cameron Meredith (nine catches, 114 yards, one touchdown) and Austin Carr (five receptions for 62 yards). Given the team’s lack of depth on the outside, adding another wideout makes sense. The question is whether Bryant can be the receiver to fill the void.
From 2012 to 2014, there was hardly any receiver in football better than Bryant. The Cowboys star averaged more than 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns per season in those years, dominating the league on an offense that featured Tony Romo and Jason Witten. But in September 2015, Bryant fractured his foot, and when he came back his statistical production dipped—he totaled just 401 yards in nine games that season. That offseason he had surgery again on the foot, and he never returned to being the same player. In 2016 and 2017, Bryant averaged just 817 yards and seven touchdowns. By this April, it was clear his playmaking ability was toast, and the Cowboys cut him.
It’s highly unlikely the Saints get the 2012-14 version of Bryant—that player is gone forever. Bryant is no longer much of a downfield threat, but he still has the physicality to bully receivers and make contested catches. He could be a productive red zone target for the Saints and provide another middle-of-the-field option on the outside on shorter routes. In any case, he’s depth at a position where the Saints desperately needed it.
Bryant should be useful in the right situations, and the Saints have the right roster to give him the opportunities that make sense. New Orleans had little to lose in signing Bryant, and had only one real need for an offense that is already one of the best in the league. Bryant won’t burn worlds like he did in his prime, but he could be the perfect player to fill the Saints’ wide receiver gap.
Red Dez Redemption
Bryant waited, and waited, and waited for the right situation to sign on to. Or maybe just no one offered him a job in all these months—we don’t know for certain. But the end result is the same: Bryant landed on a contender, just as he reportedly wanted to back in July. And New Orleans isn’t just any old contender—after beating the Rams last week, the Saints hold the tiebreaker over Los Angeles and are on the fast track to the Super Bowl. This will be the best team Bryant has ever played on.
In addition, Brees will also be the best quarterback Bryant has ever played with. Oh, and Sean Payton will be the best offensive mind Bryant has ever worked with. If there is any group of players and coaches who can maximize Bryant’s potential at this stage in his career, it’s the one in New Orleans. Hell, this is the team that regularly puts two quarterbacks on the field at the same time. They’re not going to just stick Bryant into his old role and hope he can be the player he once was—if there is a way for Bryant to still be useful on the football field, the Saints will find it. Bryant could not have hoped for a better landing spot.
For Once, the Cowboys Being on National TV Is a Good Thing
The Saints visit AT&T Stadium to play Dallas on November 29 on Thursday Night Football. After he was cut by the Cowboys, Bryant reportedly wanted to join an NFC East rival so that he would play Dallas twice per year. He won’t get that chance, but he will have at least one opportunity for revenge. Welcome home, Dez.