It’s one of those quiet deals that goes largely unnoticed by the national media—but could prove very valuable come playoff time.
Return man and wide receiver Steve Breaston recently signed with the Saints for a one-year deal. There wasn’t a huge press conference, no big Twitter announcements to re-tweet.
But what does it mean for New Orleans?
Breaston is a veteran with talent. But his numbers have dropped during the past two seasons. The question: Should critics blame Breaston for this lack of production or the below-average quarterbacks trying to get him the ball?
We will find out in 2013-14, considering Breaston now has one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks throwing to him. Overall, the move was a smart one by the Saints. They signed Breaston to only a one-year deal so there’s little downside here. The upside, especially when you consider his big-game results, could be big.
Here’s a look at Breaston’s career:
Breaston, who had the fifth most receptions at Michigan when he played under coach Lloyd Carr, was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the fifth round of the 2007 draft.
He certainly didn’t begin his pro career with a bang. Cardinals’ coach Ken Whisenhunt didn’t utilize him much during his rookie year, considering he caught only 8 passes for 92 yards. Yet Breaston showcased his return prowess, returning a punt against the Steelers for a touchdown.
In 2008, during Breaston’s sophomore season (and biggest year to date), the Cardinals beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game and secured a Super Bowl berth. During the season, Breaston took over as the slot receiver and became a threat alonside Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. In fact, Breaston even filled in as a starter for Boldin while he was injured for a few weeks.
Breaston reached the 1,000-yard mark receiving against the Seahawks in week 17 of that season, and eventually caught 6 passes during a losing effort in Super Bowl XLIII to the Steelers.
In 2009 Breaston continued his role as a slot receiver, but teams began to realize he was more of a threat than they previously realized. His production slowed down as coaches began to gameplan against him, but he still managed to put up 712 yards with 55 receptions.
Yet part of Breaston’s potential value is producing in the playoffs. His best game of 2009 was a victory over the Green Bay Packers where he caught seven passes, and produced 125 yards and one touchdown. (The Cardinals went on to lose to the New Orleans Saints, who eventually won the Super Bowl.)
In 2010 Breaston’s play didn’t drop all that much—even when the play at QB for the Cardinals did. The great (but aging) Mark Warner retired and Derek Anderson took his place, which didn’t exactly work out well. Despite Anderson and Max Hall trading off the starting job due to ineffectiveness, Breaston still managed to put up 47 receptions and 718 yards.
Didn’t matter. The Cardinals cut Breaston after the 2010 season, so he signed a deal with the Kansas City chiefs—hoping Matt Cassel would be a better quarterback than Derek Anderson. After coming off of a Pro Bowl season and getting Jon Baldwin in the first round, it looked as if the Chiefs had a decent receiving corps and QB to go along with it.
Unfortunately, star running back Jamaal Charles tore his ACL in the 2nd game of the season, which left the Chiefs without one of their biggest weapons.
Thanks to the added pressure on the passing attack, Cassel didn’t perform well, or even mediocre. In fact, in 9 games (before being injured), he threw for only 1,700 passing yards.
Despite this, Breaston still caught 61 passes and had 785 receiving yards. In 2012 the Chiefs had trouble all around going only 2-14. Breaston caught only 7 passes for 74 yards before he was cut.
In short, Breaston is still a relatively young wide receiver with a lot of upside. With a QB like Drew Brees, Breaston has the ability to put up numbers similar to his 2008-10 seasons.
A breakout season may be a reality when you consider opposing defenses have to watch out for guys like Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston.
With the Saints high-powered passing attack, Breaston could be looking at an easy 60-plus receptions this season and 800 receiving yards. New Orleans fans will gladly take it.