The Saints signed Jarvis Landry on Friday, completing a facelift of one of football’s most anonymous receiving corps.
Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harris (now Harty), Tre’Quan Smith and Lil’Jordan Humphrey all tried to break through last year as Michael Thomas missed the season with persistent foot issues, but they were unable to step up.
Callaway led the team with 698 receiving yards, making the Saints one of four teams without a receiver breaking 700 yards (the Giants, Jets, and Browns were the other three). Despite coming on late in the season, his catch percentage was just 54.8, making him a sporadic target for Jameis Winston, Trevor Siemien and Taysom Hill.
The Saints, in fact, were last in passing in 2021, the first year of the post-Drew Brees era. They threw for 3,437 yards total; 2,141 of those yards went to wide receivers.
The Saints retaining Winston did nothing to lessen the need for receiver help. The team prioritized overhauling the position this offseason.
New Orleans’ top three receivers are now Thomas, rookie first-rounder Chris Olave and Landry. Callaway and Harty will likely be used situationally, leaving Smith as the odd man out.
Why Jarvis Landry will be perfect alongside Michael Thomas and Chris Olave
Landry will be a great complement to Thomas and Olave in the Saints’ offense.
Thomas has lined up in the slot about 25 percent of the time in his career, so his role is more or less set. He does most of his damage in the middle of the field in short yardage, where the Saints struggled last year.
Olave will likely be isolated on the outside on the other side of the field. Despite his size (6-0, 187 pounds), his physicality should allow him to play flanker. That will free up the slot for Landry, who has been slotted about 66 percent of the time in his career. Olave and Landry will likely swap spots often.
How will this help offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr.?
Former coach Sean Payton was famous for his involved offensive packaging. By having Thomas, Olave and Landry available as reliable every-down players, the Saints can “dumb down” their offense slightly with Payton’s retirement. Carmichael can ease into taking control of the offense. While there’s no doubt the Saints will look similar to how they’ve looked in years past, having two veterans and a promising rookie on the roster should give him more to work with.
The Saints also have a trump card in Alvin Kamara, one of the most versatile running backs in the NFL. He led the team with 47 receptions in 13 games last season and averaged 81.5 receptions over his first four years in the league. New Orleans now has the pieces for the increasingly important 11 personnel group (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers).
What does this mean for last year’s receivers?
While Callaway and Harty should still get situational looks — Callaway earned them late last season and Harty emerged as an every-down threat despite his size — the Saints can focus on having three consistent targets for Winston in Thomas, Olave and Landry. The revolving door at receiver took its toll on the team last season, and it never figured out the position.
Smith, a third-round pick in 2018, may still get looks, but he has struggled to get separation throughout his career. This teardown at the position will likely affect him the most.
Does this make the Saints competitive?
The Saints still have a lot of question marks. A potential Kamara suspension is looming over the team, and rookie Trevor Penning is a big unknown on the offensive line alongside the inconsistent Cesar Ruiz and Andrus Peat. While the defense doesn’t look to be an issue, the effect of losing Marcus Williams is unknown.
The Landry signing is very good for the Saints’ offense; frankly, it completes a miraculous turnaround of the receiver position given the Saints only made three moves to do it (trading for the Nos. 16 and 19 overall picks in the 2022 draft, then trading those picks to move up to No. 11 Olave, and then waiting to sign Landry).
The Buccaneers are still the team to beat in the NFC South, but the Saints aren’t as distant as one might think. If Payton’s successor, Dennis Allen, comes in and settles the team early, people might be talking about the Saints into December.