New Orleans Saints

Saints wisely take a flier on bounce-back candidate Rishard Matthews

The New Orleans Saints have added a potentially useful contributor to the wide receiver position in veteran Rishard Matthews, who cleared 50 receptions in 2016 and 2017.

Whether it’s Dez Bryant or Brandon Marshall, the New Orleans Saints have been looking for another veteran contributor at the wide receiver position. Although they have an elite wideout in Michael Thomas, a veteran deep threat in Ted Ginn Jr., a breakout candidate in Tre’Quan Smith, and the capable Cameron Meredith on the roster, another weapon could go a long way in helping Drew Brees reach his second career Super Bowl. Rishard Matthews looks like a wise flier as a potential bounce-back candidate in 2019, and ESPN’s Field Yates reported that Matthews officially signed with the Saints after successfully auditioning at minicamp.

Matthews caught only five passes for 24 yards on nine targets in a disastrous 2018 campaign with the Tennessee Titans, and it would be his final year with the organization. After an offseason injury cut into Matthews’s ability to learn the new coaching staff’s offensive scheme, Matthews clashed with Matt LaFleur. He forced himself off the roster and joined the New York Jets, where he did nothing and was placed on the injured reserve in December with a hamstring injury.

So that’s the bad as it relates to Matthews. The good is that Matthews never had any issues with previous coaches and even took a discount to stay with Tennessee after the 2017 season. In 2016 and 2017, Matthews had career years with the Titans, benefiting from Marcus Mariota’s accuracy at quarterback. Matthews was particularly efficient in 2017, averaging 9.14 yards per target. He was even more productive the year before, turning 65 receptions in 945 yards and nine touchdowns for career-highs across the board.

While Matthews has always had the raw talent, it wasn’t until he played with Mariota that he broke out. The 2018 season wasn’t kind to Matthews both in terms of coaching and injuries, but good health would go a long way in helping Matthews this season. Plus, Sean Payton is one of the most player-friendly head coaches in the NFL, and he’s known for getting the most out of skill position players. A veteran wide receiver like Matthews would love to play for him. More importantly, Brees is a Hall of Famer who has made plenty of receivers look good. Mariota is talented, but Brees will be the best quarterback Matthews has played with to date.

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At 29 years old, Matthews is still in his prime as a wide receiver and can win with savvy. Assuming he gets on the same page as Brees and stays healthy, he could emerge as a strong No. 3 option in the high-powered Saints offense. The Saints will be dying to get to the Super Bowl after coming an embarrassing blown call short of getting there, and Matthews is a cheap, low-risk signing who has the past production to help them get there. At worst, he adds depth to a wide receiver corps that needed a quality veteran to aid the likes of Ginn, Smith, Meredith, and young slot receiver Austin Carr.

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