A position-by-position look at where the New Orleans Saints stand heading into the 2014 offseason -- ranked from 1-12 in order of the team’s need for upgrades or replacements.
Current depth chart:
Marques Colston. Age 30, signed through 2016. 2014 salary and bonuses: $5.6 million. 2014 salary-cap number: $8.3 million.
Kenny Stills. Age 21, signed through 2016. 2014 salary and bonuses: $495,000. 2014 salary-cap number: $543,613.
Lance Moore. Age 30, signed through 2015. 2014 salary and bonuses: $3.8 million. 2014 salary-cap number: $5.07 million.
Robert Meachem. Age 29, unrestricted free agent.
Nick Toon. Age 25, signed through 2015. 2014 salary and bonuses: $570,000. 2014 salary-cap number: $671,903.
Joe Morgan. Age 25, restricted free agent.
As I wrote in my latest mailbag, I don’t think the Saints need to upgrade with a new “No. 1 receiver.” But they certainly need to start re-stocking the shelves with their longtime veterans getting older. And they could use a dynamic downfield threat somewhere in the mix.
Colston and Stills will be back as the Saints’ starters, which is a solid 1-2 punch. Although Colston had more quiet stretches than usual last year, I think he’s still playing at a high level. I never agreed with the notion that he was “slowing down” significantly last year. Speed and separation have never been the keys to his game -- he’s more about catching contested throws with his physicality, range and great hands. He finished with 75 catches for 943 yards and five touchdowns, and I think he can continue that production level for another couple years.
Stills, meanwhile, should only grow after his impressive rookie debut (32 catches for 641 yards and five touchdowns). The Saints used him often as a deep threat since he drew single coverage. But he’s a big target who can do a little of everything, which is why he became a primary starter this past year.
Beyond those two, however, this position is filled with uncertainty, starting with Moore. Although Moore has been a huge part of the Saints’ offense since the beginning of the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era, he has become a part-time player, and he’s due to make a lot of money in 2014. I was surprised by the way the Saints used Moore this past season as a No. 3 receiver behind Stills. He did, however, finish the season strong. So it’s possible they may discuss a pay cut that could keep him in New Orleans.
Meachem’s future is also uncertain since he’s an unrestricted free agent. He didn’t play a huge role in the offense last year (16 catches for 324 yards and two touchdowns). But he did still average 20.3 yards per catch, and he’s an asset as a blocker (he’s the receiver in their heavy run formations). So it’s possible he could come back and play a similar role in 2014.
Morgan appeared to have a lock on that deep threat/blocking role last summer before he suffered a season-ending torn ACL. Assuming the Saints re-sign him as a restricted free agent, he’ll have a chance to earn that same role again this summer. But he has now missed two seasons with major injuries, so he needs to prove he can shake off the rust. That’s a lot of “ifs” for a guy who might cost around $1.5 million or more, depending on the RFA tender.
I think Toon will get another chance to crack the Saints’ rotation this year. Although he struggled during his big audition against the New York Jets last year with two dropped passes, the Saints are still high on his future. He was inactive for most of the season because he was the No. 5 receiver, and the Saints typically only keep four active. … However, the physical Toon will have to impress this summer to beat out Meachem or Morgan or any potential newcomers.