Bringing home Jarvis Landry puts New Orleans Saints back in playoff hunt

METAIRIE, La. -- When the New Orleans Saints signed former LSU safety and local icon Tyrann Mathieu last week, I wrote that it’s not often a team makes its biggest splash of the offseason in May.

Well, they just did it again with Friday's news that they are adding former Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry -- another former LSU star and Southern Louisiana native who fills a big need.

Fans around New Orleans have lamented for years that the Saints don’t sign or draft enough talent from nearby LSU. Now, suddenly, they’ve added two of the most dynamic former Tigers of all time.

More importantly, the Saints have shored up two of the most glaring weaknesses on a roster that now feels like a certified playoff contender, despite the loss of coach Sean Payton, left tackle Terron Armstead and safeties Marcus Williams and Malcolm Jenkins.

Landry, 29, almost feels like a luxury for a Saints team that is also getting No. 1 receiver Michael Thomas back from an ankle injury and just made a pair of aggressive trades to land Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave with the 11th pick in the draft just two weeks ago.

But there will be room for all three receivers, considering how gargantuan the need was for an improved receiving corps in New Orleans.

The Saints finished last in the NFL in passing yards in 2021 (187.4 per game) – largely because of injuries. Not only did Thomas miss the entire season, but quarterback Jameis Winston missed the final 10 games with a torn ACL, and the top four offensive linemen missed a combined 32 games.

Last year’s top three wide receivers – Tre’Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harty – now project as the fourth, fifth and sixth receivers.

The Saints still went 9-8 last season and barely missed the playoffs despite setting a NFL record with 58 different starters used, including four different quarterbacks. They did so on the strength of Dennis Allen’s defense. Allen, who was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach this offseason, led a defense that finished fourth in points allowed (19.7 per game) and seventh in yards allowed (318.2).

Now they should have a resurgent offense to pair with it.

Landry is coming off the least effective season of his career, thanks largely to a knee sprain that he suffered in Week 2 that sidelined him for four games. He finished with career lows of 52 catches, 570 yards and two touchdowns, and the Browns decided to upgrade with a trade for Amari Cooper this offseason.

Landry’s numbers also dipped a bit in 2020 (72-840-3) after he had made the Pro Bowl in five straight seasons with the Miami Dolphins and Browns from 2015 to 2019.

But the Saints don’t need Landry to be a No. 1 with this suddenly loaded trio of receivers. He should immediately become their best option in the slot – where he has lined up for nearly two-thirds of his NFL career as a versatile inside/outside option. And he brings another reliable veteran presence to an offense that struggled to get receivers open last year.

The 5-foot-11, 196-pounder already ranks 59th in NFL history with 688 career receptions, according to Pro Football Reference, and he also has 7,598 yards and 37 touchdowns.

The additions to the receiving corp, including the return of Thomas, should put Winston in a much better position to thrive in his second season as New Orleans’ starting quarterback.