In what will be an underrated but key signing throughout the season, the Saints have reached a one-year agreement with Cornerback and Kick Return Specialist Marcus Sherels. Sherels previously played his first nine years with the Vikings after joining them as an undrafted free agent in 2010. It was apparently an annual ordeal whether or not the University of Minnesota product would be resigned or not. This season, fans an media had Sherels returning to the Vikes until Thursday when he left the team to sign with the Saints. It’s been reported that he’s chasing a Super Bowl and every Saints fan is happy to welcome him in to the hunt. The Vikings all-time punt return yardage and touchdown leader is now the third former Viking to join New Orleans since Free Agency began on the 13th. He’ll swap his purple and gold for black and gold along with RB Latavius Murray and OL (C) Nick Easton.
Much like Murray and Easton, Sherels should become a large part of the Saints 2019 success. He has the chance to become the first formidable returner the Saints have had in years. It shouldn’t shock anyone that 2019 becomes the year where the need is finally addressed. Darren Rizzi, the Saints’ new special teams coordinator, had Jakeem Grant at the returner position in Miami for the last three seasons. To go from Grant to Tommylee Lewis was enough of a drop off that the team decided not to pick up his RFA tender and he signed with the Detroit Lions.
New Orleans has become known for having great special teams players over the last few years in Craig Robertson, Taysom Hill, Justin Hardee, and Chris Banjo who have all been excellent in the coverage game. But the fact is that the Saints have been severely lacking a return threat since probably Darren Sproles. Last year Siants fans watched TLL return 11 punts for only 68 yards at an average of 6.18 yards per return. Meanwhile, Sherels was gathers 274 yards on 23 returns; averaging nearly twice as much at 12.0 yards per attempt.
Some might say Courtney Roby, but Sherels specializes in punt returns more than kick returns. Roby never returned a punt in his 8-year career. While Sherels has returned kickoffs here and there throughout his career, it’s his success in the punt return game that has stood out. In his career, he’s returned five punt returns for touchdowns. Though he hasn’t brought one back in two seasons, he did have two in 2016 and he had six returns of 20 yards or more in 2018 including the above 70-yarder against Miami. He might be nine years removed from it by now, but Sherels’ 4.37 40 time shows.
Not only does the former Gopher bring in his return ability, he can also be relied on to cover punts and kickoffs as well. In addition to also being able to serve as a reserve corner without creating a gaping hole or liability. The Saints have found yet another multi-faceted player that can plug in at multiple positions and serve several purposes. I wouldn’t expect him to be a #3 or #4 corner. Those spots belong to P-Rob and Hardee. But he’ll certainly contest Ken Crawley for a roster spot at the fifth corner.
This will likely be, much like Malcom Brown, one of those signings we all look back at before the playoffs and recognize for being a stellar move by the coaching staff. This is shaping up to be an exciting season for the Saints. And Sherels is in for quite a ride in 2019.
Follow Ross on Twitter @RossJacksonASC.