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Steve Geller

"WWL First News" Sports Anchor
Weekdays 5am-10am

"Sports Talk" Producer
Weekdays 4pm-8pm

Twitter: @stevegellerWWL
Email: steve@wwl.com


Steve: Saints 1st round mock draft

We are just a month away from the NFL draft and no deal between the Saints & Malcolm Butler so far. That means that the Black & Gold still own two 1st round picks. I am all about adding as much talent as possible to the defensive side of the football so I'm using both 1st rounders on the Fleur de Lis D.

1. Cleveland Browns – Myles Garett DE, Texas A&M
2. San Francisco 49ers – DeShaun Watson QB, Clemson
3. Chicago Bears – Jamal Adams S, LSU
4. Jacksonville Jaguars – Leonard Fournette RB LSU
5. Tennessee Titans (from LA Rams) – Marshon Lattimore CB, Ohio State
6. New York Jets – Mitchell Trubisky QB, UNC
7. Los Angeles Chargers – Solomon Thomas DL, Stanford
8. Carolina Panthers – Dalvin Cook RB, FSU
9. Cincinnati Bengals – Derek Barnett DE, Tennessee
10. Buffalo Bills – Cam Robinson OT, Alabama
11. New Orleans Saints – Jonathan Allen, DL Alabama


I see Allen falling into the Saints lap here. He can play pretty much anywhere on the d-line and his power causes him to be a disruptive force. The reason the 6'3, 286 pounder won't be selected sooner is that there is concern over arthritis in his shoulder. Allen's tape doesn't lie, though; and he would wind up being the player teams are sorry they opted to pass on.





12. Cleveland Browns (from Eagles) – Patrick Mahomes QB, Texas Tech
13. Arizona Cardinals – Zach Cunningham LB, Vanderbilt
14. Philadelphia Eagles (from Vikings) – Marlon Humphrey CB, Alabama
15. Indianapolis Colts - Ryan Ramczyk OT, Wisconsin
16. Baltimore Ravens – Reuben Foster LB, Alabama
17. Washington Redskins – Haason Reddick LB, Temple
18. Tennessee Titans – Mike Williams WR, Clemson
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Malik Hooker S, Ohio State
20. Denver Broncos – Charles Harris DE, Missouri
21. Detroit Lions – Jabril Peppers S, Michigan
22. Miami Dolphins - Malik McDowell DT, Michigan State
23. New York Giants – Garrett Bolles OT, Utah
24. Oakland Raiders – Takkarist McKinley LB / DE, UCLA
25. Houston Texans – OJ Howard TE, Alabama
26. Seattle Seahawks – Dion Dawkins G, Temple
27. Kansas City Chiefs – Teez Tabor CB, Florida
28. Dallas Cowboys – Corey Davis WR, Western Michigan
29. Green Bay Packers – Christian McCaffery RB, Stanford
30. Pittsburgh Steelers – Tarrell Basham DE, Ohio State
31. Atlanta Falcons – Taco Charlton DE, Michigan
32. New Orleans Saints (from Patriots) – Tre'Davious White CB, LSU


Could White really become the Saints 1st LSU player drafted since Al Woods in 2010? He plays a position of need and has fantastic ball skills, which the secondary could really use. The 5'11, 191lb CB can also add to the return game on special teams. I can hear "Hold that Tiger" blaring in the Superdome for White already.

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Steve: Sean Payton interested in QB Johnny Manziel?

The Saints have been checking out some of the quarterback talent entering this year's draft hoping to find their heir apparent to 38 years young Drew Brees. What if the team instead looked to a young free agent in need of a fresh start. No, I'm not talking about Colin Kapernick...think even more controversial:



Rapport believes it would make a lot of sense for Brees to mentor Manziel. Johnny Football was released from the Cleveland Browns a year ago and spent the entire 2016 season out of football. If he does make a comeback, Manziel still has to serve a 4 game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. The 2014 22nd overall pick back will turn 25 years old in December.
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Steve: Saints rework Armstead's deal...Butler signing coming?

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Detroit Lions
The Saints have freed up some space under the salary cap by restructuring left tackle Terron Armstead's contract:



Saints sideline reporter Kristian Garic has confirmed Yates tweet. This could be a sign that the team is gaining room to sign Patriots restricted free agent Malcolm Butler to a deal. The cornerback caused a bit of a stir with his post on Instagram yesterday since he's wearing Black & Gold.

"Nothing changed but the change" #BLESSED

A post shared by Malcolm CB Butler (@mac_bz) on




His message is vague, causing many fans to have different interpretations. If Butler is headed to New Orleans the biggest question is what compensation are the Saints sending back to New England. Will it be the 11th overall pick or a different package the two sides were able to agree upon?
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Steve: Butler came, he saw and then he left. So now what?

The Saints' spicy offseason is getting even hotter as the Malcolm Butler tension mounts. The restricted free agent came to town and left. NFL Networks' Ian Rapoport indicates the courting process is likely to continue:



This morning, Sean Payton was raving about the 27 year old cornerback:



The Texans were mentioned as another team who had interest in Butler, but nothing has yet to surface about him heading to Houston for a visit.

If the restricted free agent signed a offer sheet from New Orleans and New England didn't match, the compensation the Saints would have to send to the Patriots would be the 11th overall pick in this year's draft. That does not mean it has to go down like that, though. The two sides can work around they want to. We know Sean and Bill have a good rapport and respect one another from the numerous joint practice sessions during recent training camps. They also have mutual disgust for the commish, and that can be a pretty strong bond.

Ultimately, I think somehow, some way, Malcolm Butler will soon be getting fitted for a Saints uniform.
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Steve: CB Malcolm Butler has arrived....now will he stay?

Looks like restricted free agent cornerback Malcolm Butler was anxious for his meeting with the Saints. He arrived in town last night ahead of his scheduled Thursday visit with the team:



If the Saints can work out a long term deal with the 27 year old and New England doesn't match it, New Orleans would have to send their 11th overall pick to New England. There are ways to work around that, though, if both franchises want to.

Butler would have to sign his tendered deal with the Pats first, and then they could trade him to the Saints. It's very likely New England could get back the first round pick (32nd overall) they dealt to the Saints for Brandin Cooks, but New Orleans GM Mickey Loomis will surely try and finesse a package with their 2nd round selection instead. I would expect something to be finalized today; and, in the end, Butler will get a deal that pays him on average between $10-12 million a season.
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Steve: Saints add more LB help in Alex Okafor

Outside linebacker/defensive end Alex Okafor was in town Monday for a visit with the Saints; and according to NFL Insider Rand Getlin, he's not leaving without a new contract:



WWL's Saints sideline reporter Kristian Garic has independently confirmed the news.

Okafor is signing a 1 year deal worth $3 million. He was selected in the 4th round by the Arizona Cardinals in 2013. The pass rusher has tallied 13.5 sacks in his 4 year career but was dealing with a torn bicep in the AZ desert last season. He provides depth at the very least for the Black & Gold, who just saw Kasim Edebali sign with the Denver Broncos. Okafor is 6'4, 264lbs and is reunited with Texas alumnus Kenny Vaccaro.



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Is today D-Day for Brandin Cooks trade?

USP NFL: PRESEASON-TENNESSEE TITANS AT NEW ORLEANS S FBN USA LA
Who's ready for a wild Friday? According to Michael Lombardi of theringer.com we shall receive a definitive answer on whether or not Brandin Cooks will be traded:



Lombardi is a former NFL executive, so he has a vast number of connections. New England is said to be considering trading cornerback Malcolm Butler while Tennessee has two 1st round draft picks and may be willing to part with either the 5th or 18th overall selection.
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Steve: Saints/Patriots trade talks heating up



It appears the Super Bowl champs have very high interest in Brandion Cooks. After being reportedly shot down last week for the 32nd overall pick in the draft, Bill Belichick and the Pats front office have fired a counter back: Butler is a 27 year old cornerback that seems to have become expendable for New England after they have inked free agent Stephon Gilmore early this morning. Stay tuned for more details as this story continues to develop.
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Saints FA Targets: Guards

This continues our four part series on position groups the Saints are targeting in Free Agency. Check out our Saints Free Agent HQ for breakdowns of the LB, DE, and CB targets for the team.
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The Saints may take a dip in the free agency waters to sure up their offensive line for 2017. Protecting Drew Brees is always a top priority. The guard position is the biggest question for the Black & Gold since Jahri Evans and Tim Lelito are both unrestricted free agents. Some options for the team to court include:

Kevin Zeitler – 6ft4, 315 lbs. - 27 years old
Zeitler is the top offensive lineman on the market and should easily command 11-12 million a season. He gave up just 1 sack last year in Cincinnati and is one of the best run blockers in the NFL. Beefing up the o-line is never a "sexy" offseason move but if the Saints were able to land this big fish it would be a huge SPLASH.



T.J. Lang – 6ft4, 318 lbs. – 29 years old
According to Pro Football Focus, Lang didn't give up a single sack on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers last season, but also didn't even allow a hit! Lang did miss some time in 2016 due to a foot injury and in the offseason opted to have hip surgery which caused him to miss the Pro Bowl. His new deal could average in between the 8-10 million dollar range.



Larry Warford – 6ft3, 333 lbs. – 25 years old
This youngen will turn 26 in June and is line to make around 9-10 million a season. Warford has missed a bit of time over the years; but just one contest this past season though due to a hip injury. Run blocking is his strong suit and has shown a ton of potential when not hurt.



Ronald Leary – 6ft3, 317 lbs. – 27 years old
This Baton Rouge native could end up coming home to Louisiana this offseason for around 5-7 million a year. He has a ton of power packed into his frame, but former LSU Tiger La'el Collins is ahead of him on the Cowboys depth chart. Leary started 12 games in 2016 and allowed no sacks while just getting flagged 4 times.
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Saints FA Targets: Secondary


This begins our four part series on position groups the Saints are targeting in Free Agency. Check out our Saints Free Agency HQ throughout the week for breakdowns of the LB, DE, and G targets for the team.
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CORNERBACKS

The Saints defense was able to show slight improvement last year but fixing the league's 30th ranked pass defense remains a top priority for 2017.

Sure the lack of a pass rush didn't help but there were also a ton of injuries at the cornerback position. Expected starter Keenan Lewis could never get on the field during training camp and they lost Kyle Wilson and Damian Swann before the season ever started. Kickoff comes and then PJ Williams and Devlin Breaux go down leaving newbies Ken Crawley and De'Vante Harris to be thrust into action. Veterans B.W. Webb and Sterling Moore were brought in and provided some pretty solid play as well as a positive presence in the locker room. Both of those vets are unrestricted free agents but could return as role players.

The Saints may also opt to do a little high priced corner shopping in free agency. Here are 4 upper tier targets they could pursue:

A.J. Bouye 6ft, 191 lbs. - This 26 year old came out of nowhere to post a Pro Bowl season for the Houston Texans and now looks to cash in. Is he a shut-down corner on the rise or a one-year wonder? He showed a solid ability to break up passes and is a good tackler. It is believed that Bouye could command around $12 million a year on his new deal.

Stephon Gilmore 6ft1, 190 lbs. - This former 1st rounder should see top dollar on the open market and is likely shuffling on off from Buffalo. He was drafted 10th overall by the Bills in 2012 and will look to cash in with a contender. Gilmore tallied 5 interceptions last year and even managed to pick off Brees at the Pro Bowl.
*The Saints may want to steer clear of this guy though given their past history with FAs who came from Buffalo (see Jairus Byrd & CJ Spiller…but then again Jabri Greer)


Logan Ryan 5ft11, 194 lbs. – Sean Payton and his staff have had a chance to take a good look at this 26 year old over the last 2 seasons of joint training camp practices with the Patriots. Ryan has played outside or in the slot for New England and recorded 11 passes defended with 2 INTs this past year. His ability to line up at multiple positions along with being a solid tackler make him a tempting target to try and lure from Emperor Bellichik's reign.

Prince Amukamara 6ft, 202 lbs. – This royal defender signed a one year contact with the Jaguars last year and proved he's still got "it" despite a number of previous injuries while with the Giants. Amukamara's speed and coverage skills could be a nice addition along with his veteran presence if New Orleans decides to not re-sign Webb or Moore.

SAFETIES


Safety has recently become a bigger need for this Black & Gold ballclub with the ending of the Jairus Byrd experience after 3 years. The Byrdman's time in New Orleans finishes with 33 games played in which he forced 2 fumbles and added 3 interceptions. Now, Vonn Bell, who is entering year 2, would be the guy starting with Kenny Vaccaro. That may prompt the Saints to add a more veteran presence for the free safety spot.

D.J. Swearinger 5ft10, 205 lbs. – He racked up 2 sacks, 3 interceptions, 8 passes defensed last season in Arizona. Swearinger was initially drafted in the 2nd round by Houston in 2013 but never lived up to expectations until this past season with the Cardinals. Maybe it was a product of the system in the dessert but still entering his prime at 25 years old.
Bradley McDougald 6ft1, 209 lbs. – Started all 16 games for Tampa last year and logged 91 tackles, 10 passes defended and two interceptions. Has shown improvement every year in the NFL since going undrafted out of Kansas in 2013. New Orleans staff pretty familiar with him having to play the Bucs twice a year.


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