We’re now in year three of the “Nick Toon experiment” and this upcoming season really does feel like the fork in the road for the Saints’ receiver. After a 2012 season spent entirely on injured reserve, Toon didn’t fare much better last season. He turned in a 4 catches for 68 yards 2013, despite a decent amount of time on the field. Put simply, Drew Brees just didn’t look his way much. When he did the timing was off, the routes were poor, and Toon struggled to secure the football. Toon is of course the son of former Jet and three time Pro Bowler Al Toon, but he’s yet to show anything close to the level of production that his dad had.
Toon reminds me a bit of a 7th round draft pick in Adrian Arrington out of Michigan who the Saints had big hopes for. Arrington was a preseason star that many fans fell in love with. Despite ideal size and decent speed which always helped him stick around the 53 man roster, Arrington’s career eventually fizzled out after 9 career receptions in a 5 year off and on tenure with the Saints. Similarly, Toon is loaded with potential on paper but can’t seem to put it together on the field yet. Unlike Arrington, his issue seems to be less about staying healthy and more about struggling to “get it” on the field.
Toon signed a 4 year deal for $2.51 million with the Saints as a rookie, so he only has two years left. Depth at receiver is currently very depleted, though, so if Toon is ever going to be trusted this is his chance. Behind starters Marques Colston and Kenny Stills there is almost no one. Clearly the Saints will play close attention to this position in the draft. Lance Moore is gone and Robert Meachem has yet to be re-signed, though the team has expressed interest in doing so. Beyond that the Saints have Andy Tanner and Joe Morgan who is returning from a devastating ACL injury. The Saints also expressed interest in veteran Sidney Rice, who has yet to sign with anyone. It’s safe to assume the Saints will have a number of receivers competing in training camp that are not currently on the roster, so a job won’t be handed to Toon.
Unless Toon can show a Marques Colston type transformation in camp, his days may be numbered. His career is starting to feel more and more like the way of Arrington’s. Colston’s transformation came quickly, but I bring that up because his first mini camp he was lost, dropped everything and was out of shape. He came back to training camp that rookie season a different person in perfect shape and clearly ready to make an impact. The rest is history. Toon has a rare combination of size and speed that any player would be jealous of, but the clock is running out on him to maximize this opportunity with the Saints. I loved the draft pick in the time and I still believe he can be an NFL player. It took Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem a few years to develop. But it’s now or never. If a receiver can get over the hump his third season into the league, it’s time to cut bait.