So now the Saints have signed former Giants TE Jeremy Shockey, leaving the rest of the division considering the implications of the move. My good friend saintsational seems to have mixed feelings based on Shockey's attitude, which is the major concern I had when we discussed the possibility of bringing him to Atlanta. This is going to have a transformative effect on the Saints offense and their culture on and off the field, so I thought I'd take a quick look at what this might mean.
First of all, you don't make a move like this unless you think you're making a deep run into the playoffs. The Saints instantly upgrade their offense by adding yet another potent weapon in the passing game, which should help mask a running game that could be suspect if Pierre Thomas doesn't get his fair share of carries. Shockey's also fiery as hell and wants to win whether he's facing off against the Falcons or a bunch of tiny, defenseless children, so he'll add a much needed edge to a team that currently features notoriously friendly dude Drew Brees at QB. From those perspectives, he's a giant upgrade at tight end and will clearly change the face of the team.
On the flip side, Shockey has severe attitude issues. If this team launches on a losing streak, expect to see him pout his way through it. I wouldn't ever accuse him of dogging it, but his frustration can spill out onto the field and cause him to make poor decisions at times. The Shockey trade also does nothing to address the team's defensive shortcomings and leaves them without a second and (to a lesser extent) fifth round pick to spend on correcting those. The offense might be too powerful to make a difference during the season, but you can beat that the playoffs will be a lot more difficult for a team lacking on defense.
So what does this mean for the Falcons, exactly? It means we're kind of in trouble. The team was already ill-equipped at corner to deal with the Saints' collection of quick receivers, and we definitely don't have an option at safety to cover Shockey. The team is going to have to harass him at the line and stay close to him, but like a certain well known former Atlanta TE whose name rhymes with "Bumpler", Shockey is just too big and fast for most safeties and linebackers to keep up with. He's going to provide a huge challenge for Lawyer Milloy/Thomas DeCoud and Erik Coleman, never mind the average safety talent on the Bucs and Panthers.
Like it or not, Shockey's signing adds a little more weight to the Saints' division title hopes this season. With the Falcons rebuilding, Panthers unlikely to be more than slightly above average and the Bucs needing a lot more offense than they look likely to get, the guys from Nawlins took a one-year step forward. Our only hope is that Shockey is a complete bust and takes the whole team down with him, but I wouldn't count on it.