The Saints have agreed to terms on a 1-year deal with backup quarterback Luke McCown.
McCown will probably compete with Ryan Griffin for the primary backup quarterback psoition behind Drew Brees. He spent 2013 with the Saints as Drew's understudy.
McCown graduated from Louisiana Tech and was drafted by Cleveland in the 4th round in 2004. He has a career total of 2,035 passing yards, 9 TDs and a passer rating of 68.3. Click here for his full stats
Talking with the media at NFL owner's meetings in Orlando, Saints coach Sean Payton admitted that the moves the team made this season were difficult in an interview with Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio. "A number of players that played big parts in our Super Bowl... you get attached to the players you won with, and that made it more difficult," Payton said, adding "that part never gets easy." The Saints off-season moves included the addition of Safety Jairus Byrd and fullback Erik Lorig, along with re-signing tackle Zach Strief.
Payton specifically talked about the decision to trade RB Darren Sproles. "He's as smart of a player as I've ever coached. It really comes down to how long a player has been in the league, and trying to get younger as a team," Payton explained. "Our jobs are to communicate, and teach, and bring these guys in like family, and when a detachment occurs, it's going to be painful and not easy".
Payton had this to say about Jimmy Graham: "We see a clear role for what he does. The only little hitch here is there might be a debate on what position he plays. I expect by training camp he'll be someone we'll be throwing the ball to."
The Saints and Graham are in a bit of a contract stalemate. The Saints exercised their right to place the franchise tag on Graham earlier in the off-season. Graham has until April 22nd to file a grievance with the league as to weather he should classified as a tight end or wide receiver.
Any other NFL team has the opportunity to sign Graham to an offer sheet, but would have to give up two first round picks if the Saints didn't match an offer from another club. Payton said he wasn't that concerned about another team making a run at Graham "I don't know that any team is willing to try and sign him right now until this other issue might be resolved. I think if it were clearer, then another team would have a clearer vision as to what the cost or contract would be."
Payton said of the decision to move part of training camp to Greenbriar, West Virginia, "We're excited, I think it changes the climate a little bit. I think it will be a good change of scenery." Payton eluded to the Saints starting training camp in Greenbriar for the first two weeks, and then coming back to the teams training facility in Metairie for the final two weeks of camp.
The Saints began reshaping their roster early in the off-season, releasing veterans Roman Harper, Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma and Jabari Greer. Some of those players were coming off injuries, but for the most part, the Saints have made a concerted effort to get younger players in, keeping longevity in mind while retooling their defense.
The average age of a Saints defender is 25 years old. Clearly, Payton and company want to have a sustainable defense for the long term. Let’s take a look at some of the top players on that defense and their age.
OLB Junior Galette is 25 years old and is coming off a monster 2013 season with 12 sacks. Defensive End Cameron Jordan is 24, and like Galette he ended his breakout season with 12.5 sacks. The oldest player that was a starter last year was Brodrick Bunkley, and he’s 30. However, he might not be the starter or on the roster at all come training camp.
Last year’s number one pick safety Kenny Vaccaro is but 23. Keenan Lewis, the team’s best cover corner, is 27. At inside linebacker (starters) David Hawthorne is 28 and Curtis Lofton is 27. Get the theme here?
Thirty is young to you and me. In the NFL, that is retirement age. It’s assisted-living age! The Saints are building a defense that will not only be better in 2014 but will also likely be around for a while. When you have that kind of youth coupled with talent on defense, it tends to stick around for a while.
The Saints continued to add to that youth during free agency with grabbing Safety Jairus Byrd, who’s also just 27 years old. Don’t mistake youth for inexperience on this defense. Aside from Kenny Vaccaro, every penciled-in starter on defense has two or more years under their belt as the front line guy.
With the talent, experience, and youth coming together for a second season under Rob Ryan, I’m intrigued to see the growth of the Saints D in 2014. "Ryan’s Wrecking Crew" has the chance to be scary good next season. I expect them to draft at least one cornerback in May and perhaps a linebacker. You can also never have enough defensive linemen!
The former Saint came to New Orleans in 2005 as an undrafted free agent out of Toledo and enjoyed tremendous success with the Black and Gold. His most productive season in a Saints uniform came in 2012, with 65 catches for 1,041 yards hauling in 6 touchdowns.
Moore was released earlier this month in cost-cutting move after his production dropped off dramatically in 2013. Moore missed three games this season with a hand injury and caught 37 passes for 457 yards and 2 TDs. A fan favorite for his scrappy play and stylish touchdown dances is off to Pennsylvania.
The Saints are scheduled to play the Steelers this season in Pittsburgh.
The Black and Gold remains active in free agency, with new additions and familiar faces.
The Saints and WR Joe Morgan agreed to terms on a one-year deal today. Morgan missed all of 2013 after suffering a torn ACL in training camp and so the team didn't have a deep threat down the field. Today's move provides the Saints with some flexibility in the Draft, either at cornerback or wide receiver.
The Saints are right up against the salary cap. Entering today, New Orleans had about $800,000 dollars remaining of cap space. Remember, only the top 51 of 53 salaries count against the salary cap, so the Saints can still move money around. Also, they may already have a restructure or two in place with a few players on their roster.
The Saints announced they've agreed to terms on a 4 year contract with fullback Erik Lorig today.
Lorig was drafted in the 7th round in 2010 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The converted defensive end at Stanford, provides the Saints with some versatility as fullback and a tight end. Lorig comes to the Saints with great size at 6'4 and 250 pounds and paved the way for Tampa's strong running game in 2012 with Doug Martin at tailback.
The Saints had a need at the position with Jed Collins a free agent after the team didn't offer him a restricted free agent tender this spring. Lorig is an upgrade over Collins as a blocker and a receiver.
Tampa used the fullback primarily as a blocker and to catch the ball. He does not have a single carry during his four years in the NFL. He also played on special teams.
He has more than 10 catches each of the past two season for an average last season of 4.3 yards and 6.9 in 2012.
Did the Saints get enough in return for Darren Sproles? All the experts at WWL agree: the Saints made the right move in trading Sproles to the Eagles.
"I think it's great value in return! I did think the Saints would hold onto Sproles for one more year... with that said, he is not the same player he was in 2011," said the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert. Sproles provided the Saints with a unique talent that forced defenses to game plan for him, a job which Bobby says will have to fall to other players now. "Is Travaras Cadet that player? I don't know. I think ultimately, that move is what was needed to continue to fortify the defense."
"It was expected, if you ask me!" said Saints Color Analyst Hokie Gajan. "It's better than releasing him outright and not getting anything in return for him. They know what they have in him, and the Saints know what they're doing. Who am I to question what they got in return for Sproles?" added Gajan.
Draft picks are much more coveted in today's NFL under this C.B.A. The running back position has been devalued so much in the league.
Considering Darren Sproles was drafted in the 4th round in 2005 by the San Diego Chargers, and the Saints acquired in him free agency in 2011, New Orleans got tremendous value in recieving a 5th round draft choice from the Eagles in exchange for Sproles.
Teams across the league have cut all-pro players like Demarcus Ware (Cowboys) and Derrell Revis (Tampa) and didn't get any compensation. The Saints turned Sproles into a great return. If you look at the draft history of the Saints in the 5th round, it's impressive. The Black and Gold have turned five fifth-round picks into starters since 2002; Carl Nicks, Thomas Morstead, Corey White, Kenny Stills, Rob Nincovich.
Sproles' production dropped off dramatically in 2013. He tallied just four explosive plays of 20+ yards last season. Sproles had over 70 receptions last season with the saints and while that production might be missed, he was virtually a non-factor in the running game.
His production in the return game also saw a drastic drop-off. In 2011, Sproles averaged 18.7 yards per punt return. In 2013, his average dipped to 12.9 yards per return. In kickoff returns, Sproles averaged 27.2 yards in 2011, and in 2013 it fell to 21.7.
Overall, it was a necessary move, and with money saved, it allowed the Saints to bring in Safety Jairus Byrd and gain a draft choice.
Once again, another Houdini-type move from the Saints front office!
The Saints made a huge splash and pulled off perhaps the biggest coup in free agency by agreeing to terms on a 6-year, $54 million dollar agreement with free agent safety Jairus Byrd. $28 million dollars of the deal is guaranteed. Byrd was widely thought of as the best safety and arguably the best player on the market. "Byrd could potentially be the Saints greatest defensive free agency signing in franchise history... when free agency is over, he will be the best signing in the conversation!" said WWL's Bobby Hebert.
Byrd has 22 career interceptions in 6 seasons with the Bills and made 3 Pro Bowls. To put that in perspective, former Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins, T.J Ward (the other hot name on the market) and Donte Whitner combined for 3 Pro Bowls. "We had hoped for the opportunity to pursue Jairus Byrd,” said Saints GM Mickey Loomis. “After meeting with him, we are excited that he will become a member of the New Orleans Saints. We think that his play-making abilities will be an excellent fit with what we are trying to accomplish with our defense, and in our secondary.”
The Saints safety is obviously excited to land with New Orleans. “We played against the Saints this year, and I saw their style of play and was impressed by it. I think I will fit well in the scheme. This is a great opportunity to join a championship organization. I look forward to meeting my new teammates and being part of a great Saints defense,” Byrd explained a team released statement.
The Byrd signing is a huge get for the Saints! It tells me a couple of things, they've definitely taken notice of the Seattle defense and more moves are to come with the official transactions regarding Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas.
The first unrestricted free agent to leave New Orleans in 2014 is Malcolm Jenkins, according to a source.
The former first-round pick is headed to the Eagles on a three year deal. Jenkins was a part of the Saints' 2009 Super Bowl squad in his rookie season as a cornerback. In 2010, he switched to safety and was voted team captain in 2011. Click here to view his stats.
Free agency is off and running in the NFL! The cash-strapped Dallas Cowboys released veteran DE/OLB Demarcus Ware, and immediately Saints fans started clamoring for Ware in a Black and Gold uniform.
It makes sense... Sean Payton was a part of the Cowboys team as offensive coordinator when Dallas drafted Ware in the 1st round in 2005. Rob Ryan spent time with Ware as the Cowboys' defensive coordinator before coming to New Orleans last year.
I'm not sure what the price tag is at 31 years of age, but Ware was voted the third best player in the NFL by his peers following the 2012 season. After an injury-riddled 2013 campaign, the Saints might be able to snag this very talented pass rusher. Ware would be an interesting combination with Junior Galette and Cameron Jordan.
Ware has 37 sacks in the last three seasons with Dallas.
The Saints will release wide receiver Lance Moore, and save almost $5 million in cap space in the process.
The addition of last year's rookie WR Kenny Stills make this move more palatable. Moore was a part of the Saints' 2009 Super Bowl run, but last year his stats took a dive after he missed three games with a wrist injury. He notched 37 catches for 457 yards and only 2 TDs.
The bottom line is that today's NFL, if you're making a premium salary, you'd better have premium production, which Lance Moore simply did not. As such, it's not shocking to see the Saints release Moore. He is the last player that was still a holdover from the pre-Sean Payton era.
It's a harsh reality that the NFL hsa transformed into a young man's game, where teams are really just renting players as opposed to owning them. The young players fill a void at cheaper costs, and the superstar high-priced talent continue to be talented and high-priced.
The Saints are reportedly exploring the possibility of trading three big names on offense.
Those names are Pierre Thomas, Lance Moore and Darren Sproles, according to ESPN.
The cash-strapped Saints could trim several million dollars off the salary cap with a trade of one or three of the aforementioned players.
The possibility of a trade isn't surprising, considering the desire to re-sign Tight End Jimmy Graham and Tackle Zach Strief. The Saints have $1.5 million of cap space ahead of opening day of free agency on March 11th. Teams can begin negotiating with players on Saturday March 8th.
One former Saints player who asked to remain anonymous doesn't agree with me about the possibility of moving Moore, Thomas, and possibly Sproles.
"What the f*** are they doing? Tearing it down? They better be careful how fast they do it. They're being too aggressive in one off-season," he said.
He added "They seem to forget the formula to their success. They think they don't need any vets because some young players flashed and played well last season."
The Saints have put a non-exclusive franchise tag on Jimmy Graham. If you're not familiar, that means another NFL team - any NFL team - could make an offer and negotiate a contract with Graham.
Of course, the Saints would have the right to match any of those offers. For a player like Graham, every team in the league would be interested, but I expect the Saints would come to the table ready to match anything that gets thrown out. If Jimmy went somewhere else, the Saints would be compensated two first-round draft picks. It's a good way to let the market determine Jimmy Graham's worth.
Again, unless it is a truly blockbuster deal, I expect the Saints to come away from any negotiating table with Graham still in line.