Emmanuel Sanders might be the most important free-agent signing because his addition makes the New Orleans Saints the team to beat in the NFC.
The biggest free-agent signing by the New Orleans Saints was re-signing Drew Brees to a two-year contract. Behind that, the most important signing the team made was the addition of Emmanuel Sanders,33, who gives the Saints exactly what they’ve been missing.
Sanders signed a two-year deal on Friday night worth up to $16 million. The veteran who helped the San Francisco 49ers make a run to the Super Bowl might be the missing ingredient to do the same for the Saints.
He’s coming off a season that saw him get 66 receptions for 869 yards and five touchdowns.
Brees to Michael Thomas is already the deadliest combination in the NFL but the addition of Sanders means the Saints won’t have to be so dependent on them next year.
The Saints had an NFL record disparity between their No. 1 and No. 2 receiver last year with Ted Ginn catching 30 balls to Thomas’ NFL-record of 149.
Thomas will not catch that many balls this season. He needed every last one of his 149 receptions last year for a Saints offense that lacked a No. 2 receiver. But it’ll be totally fine if he only has 115 catches next year with Sanders picking up the slack.
Thomas and Sanders are going to dominate everything within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage. Thomas will finally have a running buddy to draw some attention his way. Imagine what Thomas can do if he gets a few more man-on-man matchups this year.
Tight end Jared Cook continues his renaissance and will be a matchup that Sean Payton continues to exploit, especially in downfield situations.
Having Sanders opening up room will be a blessing for Alvin Kamara to get back to the consistent running and receiving threat out of the backfield. Kamara only had one rushing touchdown entering Week 16 when he scored four touchdowns in the last two games. He also averaged a career-low 6.6 yards per reception on 81 catches. His yards and yards per reception have decreased two years straight but look for a stat correction in 2020.
Opposing defenses aren’t going to be able to devote 11 players to stopping Kamara and Thomas alone.
Veteran running back Latavius Murray proved to be a capable rusher when Kamara was out of the lineup and Payton is just beginning to tap into what he can do with Taysom Hill in this offense.
Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport might be one of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL next year with the potential between them to rack up north of 25 sacks. With the Saints poised to be scoring a lot of points and holding the lead late in games, the duo will pin their ears back and get after the quarterback with reckless abandon.
Marshon Lattimore has shown he’s one of the best cornerbacks when he’s right and signing Malcolm Jenkins brings a familiar face to a town he’s familiar with.
The Saints have one of the best rosters in the NFL with star power on both sides, but the player who could be the most important en route to a potential Super Bowl 55 berth is Sanders.
There are probably 10 teams in the NFC thinking they can make a run at the Super Bowl this year, but only in New Orleans is where that feeling is most realistic.