The New Orleans Saints and receiver Robert Meachem agreed to terms on a one-year contract last week, bringing back the team's 2007 first round draft choice for another season in Black and Gold.
Meachem, who will turn 30 in September, spent the first 5 seasons of his professional career in New Orleans. Just as they do this season, the Saints held the 27th overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, and selected Meachem out of Tennessee following a nice career in Knoxville where he emerged as one of the Southeastern Conference's more dynamic receiving threats. However, he would essentially go on to "redshirt" during the 2007 season as he battled a nagging knee injury which prevented him from seeing the field as a rookie. Robert Meachem
Over the course of the next four seasons, Meachem would go on to gradually make his imprint on the Saints' offense, rounding into form as a capable vertical threat, with the willingness to block on the perimeter in the run game. His most productive season as a Saint came in 2009 when he caught a career high 45 passes for 722 yards and 9 scores as the team went on to win the Super Bowl. Meachem appeared in all 16 games between 2009 and 2011, amassing 20 touchdowns during that time frame.
Following the 2011 season, Meachem signed a four-year $25.5 million free agent contract with the San Diego Chargers, hoping to bring similar aspects of his game to the West Coast, while also trying to help fill the void left by Vincent Jackson in Norv Turner's offense. Unfortunately, Meachem struggled to make an impact with the Chargers, posting just 14 receptions for 207 yards and a pair of scores in his lone season out west. Following a quiet preseason, he was released by San Diego last September as one of the team's final cuts.
His departure from the Chargers led him back to his old stomping grounds in the South, as the Saints swooped in and signed him for the remainder of the 2013 season just 2 days after his release. Though he did not put up eye-popping or game-changing statistics last season, Meachem graded out as the team's best blocker on the perimeter and remained a capable deep threat off of play action, an essential facet of Sean Payton's offense over the years.
Meachem would go on to post 16 receptions, 324 yards and 2 scores in 2013, and once again hit the free agent market. However, after experiencing cool to mild interest, he finds himself back with the Saints, as the team has met one of it's remaining offseason needs by signing a veteran receiver. The Saints will likely still target a wideout in next month's draft, but Meachem will add another body to compete for snaps behind Marques Colston and Kenny Stills. Behind Colston and Meachem, the team has a plethora of raw, unproven receivers in the likes of Stills, Joe Morgan, Nick Toon and Andy Tanner, further stressing the importance of adding more talent to the position via the draft.
With speed still to burn and the ability to block at will, Robert Meachem's signing won't set off any alarm bells or whistles around the league, by and large, but it is a refreshing acquisition from the standpoint of his noted all-around attributes along with his familiarity in the Saints' system. Meachem has pre-existing chemistry with Drew Brees and knows the ins and outs of Sean Payton's offense. As the Saints look to emphasize the run game more often in 2014, Meachem's willingness and ability to block on the perimeter will be as crucial as ever.
Signing Robert Meachem on a one-year pact at the veteran's minimum is good business and good value for the New Orleans Saints. That value will be maximized if Meachem can once again stay healthy and play his role to the best of his abilities as the Saints look to take the next step in 2014.