New Orleans Saints free agency has been busy for the team, despite their long-term salary cap issues. The Saints’ free agent signings include quarterback Derek Carr, defensive tackle Khalen Saunders, and safety Johnathan Abram. However, the sneakiest Saints move in 2023 NFL free agency is inking former Detroit Lions running back Jamaal Williams. Here is why.
Jamaal Williams is the sneakiest Saints free-agent signing
The Saints were the 22nd-ranked scoring offense in the NFL. The team has tried to solve some of that with the Saints’ free agent signing Derek Carr at quarterback. But while Carr will be a major upgrade over the likes of Andy Dalton and Jameis Winston, the issues on offense go well beyond just the signal-caller, though.
New Orleans was 19th in rushing yards last year. That is despite having one of the most talented running back in the league, five-time Pro Bowler Alvin Kamara. And the back who has struggled with injuries at times stayed relatively health in 2022, playing in 15 of 17 games.
Kamara had a year that was statistically mostly on par with his first five seasons in the league. He put up 897 rushing yards and 490 receiving yards. His touchdowns were down to a career-low of four, though.
The biggest problem for the team’s overall rushing attack was backup Mark Ingram. The team brought him back in 2021 to re-team up with Kamara. The duo had solid success as a pairing in 2017 and 2018. In 2017, Ingram had a career season, rushing for 1,124 yards and scoring 12 touchdowns, both career highs.
This was the best season for the Saints with Inrgam and Kamar together as well. The team went 11-5 in the regular season and made it to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. They should have gone even further, but the (infamous in Louisiana) “Minnesota Miracle” ended the campaign.
Unfortunately, at 33, Ingram didn’t pan out in 2022. In 10 games, he only produced 233 yards. The bruising back just wasn’t the runner he was last time around in the Big Easy and he couldn’t stay healthy for the entire season.
Kamara has always been best with a tough, physical, between-the-tackles runner that he splits time with. That’s why the position of RB2 was so crucial in the Saints’ free-agency plans.
And those Saints’ free agency plans came up with a sneaky-good player in Lions running back Jamaal Williams. In 2022, Williams was supposed to be the No. 2 change-of-pace back to the dynamic D’Andre Swift. The veteran far outperformed the youngster, though, and Williams quickly became RB1 on the depth chart.
The result was a career year for the former fourth-round pick of the Green Bay Packers. Williams rushed for 1,066 yards and scored an NFL-leading 17 touchdowns. Before his
Breakout campaign, Williams never rushed for more than 601 yards in a season or scored more than four touchdowns.
This earned the Saints’ free agent signing a good chunk of money in NFL free agency. His three-year, $12 million contract will pay him $2 million more than he made in his first six seasons in the NFL.
Signing Williams in Saints free agency is a sneaky good pickup because it finally provides the team and Kamara with a partner in his prime. The fewer short-yardage, goal line, and ho-hum three-yard plunges up the middle that Kamara has to do, the better he will be.
Jamaal Williams will also be a huge help to Derek Carr. The former Las Vegas Raiders QB is best when he has a strong running game. Even though the Raiders struggled last season, their offense functioned best when Josh Jacobs was going well. Carr should also be better the better the team’s play-action game is, and Williams helps with that.
Williams isn’t Jacobs, but a combination of Williams and Kamara could be even better than the Raiders runner. The duo provides a thunder-and-lightning team that should be one of the best of its kind in the NFL next season. It wouldn’t be a total shock if both these players had 800-plus rushing yards or if they both went for 1,000-plus yards from scrimmage.
The Saints offense was in need of some help this offseason, and the Saints got it during NFL free agency, especially with the Jamaal Williams signing.
If the quarterback can come through, three-time Pro Bowler Michael Thomas comes back, second-year wide receiver Chris Olave continues to develop, and Kamara does what he always does and delivers around 1,300 yards from scrimmage, the Saints offense can go from duds to studs in 2023.
And if that’s the case, the turnaround in the Bayou could be swift. The Saints haven’t made the playoff the last two years, but that could change quickly.
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