Ted Ginn Jr. could help fill void if Saints trade Brandin Cooks

METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints will sign former Carolina Panthers deep threat Ted Ginn Jr., according to ESPN’s Dianna Russini -- making it even more likely that Brandin Cooks will be traded.

Terms: Not immediately available

ESPN 150 rankingInsider: No. 145

Grade B: Depending on how much the Saints had to pay to get Ginn, 31, he is exactly the type of cheaper vertical threat I had in mind when explaining how New Orleans feels like its offense can continue to thrive without Cooks. Plus, Ginn could help spice up a return game that badly needs it. He has 6,451 career kickoff return yards and 2,295 punt return yards in 10 seasons.

What it means: Ginn is not the same level of player as Cooks. But he is still a dangerous deep threat who can help open things up for Saints receivers Michael Thomas and Willie Snead and tight end Coby Fleener, among others (think Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, Kenny Stills from years past). Ginn (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) was an underachiever early in his career after being drafted in the first round by Miami. And he has battled issues with dropped passes. But he has had his best years for the rival Panthers over the past two seasons -- with a combined 1,491 yards and 14 touchdowns (including catches of 55, 45 and 40 yards against the Saints).

What’s the risk: Ginn’s age, his past inconsistency and his issues with drops all combine to make him no sure thing. He has never had more than 56 catches or 790 yards in a season, and he has bounced around with four other teams. Plus, if the Saints do wind up trading Cooks, Ginn will likely be compared to him, which will make it awfully hard to measure up. But the Saints aren’t counting on Ginn to play the same role as Cooks, who is coming off back-to-back 1,100-yard seasons. They just need a vertical threat who allows them to keep their offense diverse and multiple -- something coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees have been able to do for years, even without ever having a Pro Bowl receiver on the roster.