The New Orleans Saints are bringing in three wide receivers for a workout on Tuesday, and one of them happens to be the highest-profile unemployed receiver on the market: former Cowboys pass-catcher Dez Bryant, according to Jane Slater of the NFL Network. One of those other two receivers is veteran Brandon Marshall, who was recently released by the Seattle Seahawks:
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 6, 2018
Kamar Aiken, most recently of the Philadelphia Eagles, is the third player, according to Rapoport.
Other than a brief flirtation with the New England Patriots that went nowhere, this is the first solid news that Bryant is visiting another team since he spent time at the Cleveland Browns’ facility, as shown briefly on this past season of HBO’s Hard Knocks.
Why is he still a free agent?
Bryant is a talented receiver who turned down a multi-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens in the offseason but has struggled to draw interest since. Many thought, after the tease of his appearance on Hard Knocks, that the Browns would extend to him an offer. That happened, according to Bryant, but he didn’t sign with the team.
He has publicly stated that he’s looking for a one-year deal. There was also a post on his Instagram from September that alluded to medical issues he had been going through:
In that same post he implies that he is beyond those issues and ready to play football again.
As far as off-field issues are concerned, there is some history, but nothing recent that should make an NFL team averse to signing him. Bryant was suspended for lying to the NCAA in college, and had some minor run-ins with the law early in his career, in 2011-2012. He’s been a very productive player since then.
Bryant, 29, is a three-time Pro Bowler and a 2014 All-Pro, but was released by the Cowboys after eight seasons and just under 7,500 receiving yards with the team. He had 69 receptions for 838 yards and six touchdowns last season. At the time of the Browns visit, Bryant appeared to be in excellent shape, and there’s is no reason to think that’s changed.
Why the Saints are a good fit
We’ll likely hear plenty about this visit, whether he joins the Saints or not, given Bryant’s passion for being open about things on Twitter. He’s spent much of the season talking about football and the week-to-week action, and has become one of our favorite analysts to that end. All the while, he’s said he’ll return to the football field “soon.”
If Bryant joins the Saints, he’ll join a 7-1 team currently in first place in the NFC South, and one that features Drew Brees at quarterback. Brees currently has 18 touchdowns against one interception, and though Michael Thomas is an excellent receiver for them, the team’s second- and third-leading receivers are running back Alvin Kamara (427 yards) and tight end Benjamin Watson (292 yards).
Thomas is coming off a game in which he caught 12 passes for 211 yards, and at 25 figures to be the long-term No. 1 receiver for the Saints for years to come. But behind him, there’s an awful lot of room for improvement, even with Brees’ history of being able to work well with virtually any group of receivers.
There’s also this … is he for it or against it?
Having Thomas opposite him would also take a lot of pressure off of Bryant, and undrafted rookie Tre’Quan Smith, the team’s No. 2 receiver with Ted Ginn Jr. on injured reserve. The Saints themselves are coming off a a win over the then-unbeaten Los Angeles Rams, and have to be thinking this year is a Super Bowl year.