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Veteran linebacker James Anderson has ‘good feeling’ about possibly returning to Saints

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SAN FRANCISCO — James Anderson had something to prove when he signed with New Orleans in early November.

A decorated veteran linebacker who spent seven seasons in Carolina and one as a starter, Anderson had bounced around to four different teams in 2014 and 2015 before landing with the Saints.

Anderson played 108 defensive snaps in six games down the stretch, made 16 tackles and started against Carolina, proving that he could still contribute.

“I think it was bigger to prove to myself,” Anderson said while making the rounds through Radio Row at Super Bowl 50 on Friday. “Everybody has their own opinion, but usually at the end of you’re career, everybody else knows it’s over before you do. I proved to myself I can still play, and I’m looking forward to coming back next year.”

Anderson did not play on defense in the final two games of the season, but he’s optimistic that the Saints might still need his services next season.

“I hope so,” Anderson said. “I have a good feeling about it, but we’ll just have to see what happens in the next month or so.”

Whatever happens, Anderson is grateful that New Orleans saw something where other teams didn’t.

“I’m real appreciative. They gave me a chance to come back and play,” Anderson said. “I put some things in place to kind of build on and get ready for next year. I think I took some positive steps there.”

Delvin Breaux, Saints should keep an eye on how Patriots handle Malcolm Butler’s contract

With the release of Brandon Browner Friday morning, it became clear that Delvin Breaux is the future for the Saints at cornerback — not that there was ever much doubt.

As things currently stand, Breaux is among the best bargains in the NFL. The CFL import is currently under contract for $525,000 next season and $615,000 in 2017. Given New Orleans’ cap situation, there’s no reason to tinker with those figures in the near future (nor can they be touched until after next season).

But the Saints will soon have to consider what exists beyond the new future. And what it will take to retain Breaux should soon come into focus depending on what the New England Patriots do with cornerback Malcolm Butler, who might be the most comparable player to Breaux in the NFL.

Butler seemingly came out of nowhere and hooked on with New England as an undrafted player one year prior to Breaux landing in New Orleans.

Both players are key parts of their defenses (Butler played 98 percent of New England’s snaps, and Breaux played 88 percent) and are considered to be among the better young coverage corners in the NFL.

With two seasons under his belt, the Patriots can now sign Butler to an extension and will likely explore those options this offseason. When Butler signs a new deal, it will likely set the market for Breaux, who should begin having contract discussions after next season.

Though, it’s possible one or both teams decide to ride out these situations. Butler will be a restricted free agent after next season, meaning the Patriots could decide to slow play it with him. The same could happen with Breaux though both teams will likely get a better deal if they decide to do the deals early.

So what will these negotiations look like? Here’s a look at the different tiers of cornerbacks in the NFL, with an assist from Jason Fitzgerald’s OverTheCap.com:

-Tier 1: $13.5-14 million average per year
Darrelle Revis, Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, Joe Haden

-Tier 2: $10-10.5 million APY
Byron Maxwell, Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr

-Tier 3: $9-10 million APY
Leon Hall, Sam Sheilds, Aqib Talib, Brandon Flowers, Vontae Davis

-Tier 4: $8-9 million APY
Jason McCourty, Chris Harris Jr., Kareem Jackson, Antonio Cromartie, Brent Grimes, Chris Culliver

-Tier 5: $7-8 million APY
Jonathan Joseph, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Tramon Williams

-Tier 6: $6-7 million APY
Alterraun Verner, Buster Skrine, Cortez Allen, Davon House

Butler and Breaux’s agents, when the time comes, will likely target the second or third tiers. But it seems much more likely both players will end up in the fourth tier if they sign early and are prevented from hitting the open market. Having restricted free agency to hold over them will also likely help each team get a more favorable deal.

For the Saints, this is a long way off and not something to be overly concerned about right now. But if the Patriots make a move on Butler, it will be worth keeping an eye on since it will set the market for Breaux.

Benjamin Watson wants to return to Saints after career year

New York Giants' Eli Manning, San Francisco 49ers' Anquan Boldin and New Orleans Saints' Benjamin Watson pose for photos after they were named the finalists for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award at a news conference Friday, Feb. 5, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

New York Giants’ Eli Manning, San Francisco 49ers’ Anquan Boldin and New Orleans Saints’ Benjamin Watson pose for photos after they were named the finalists for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award at a news conference Friday, Feb. 5, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Benjamin Watson wants a chance to reprise his surprising star turn in New Orleans next season.

Watson, 35 years old and heading into his 13th season, will be a free agent this offseason.

And he proved he’s still got plenty left in the tank after catching a career-high 74 passes for 825 yards and tying a career best with six touchdown catches in 2015.

“I had a good conversation with Sean (Payton) and Mickey (Loomis), and I love the Saints organization,” Watson said. “I’d love to be playing there. If not there, we’ll see where else. I think I’ll know more in about a month or so.”

Watson, who made Jimmy Graham‘s departure a non-factor in the passing offense with his ability to move the chains, would love to return to work with Drew Brees.

But he’s been around the league long enough to know there are a dozen different factors at play as the team moves forward.

“It is exciting to have the possibility to return there, but as an NFL veteran, you know how it works,” Watson said.

Watson, who is in San Francisco for the Super Bowl as one of three finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award — along with New York’s Eli Manning and San Francisco’s Anquan Boldin — loved his role in the offense last season.

He also likes the Saints’ environment.

“I like being in New Orleans,”  Watson said. “I like the community. The organization’s always treated me well, they’ve treated my family well, they’ve supported anything we’ve done. Any charitable endeavor we’ve done, they’ve supported it.”

Drew Brees still resting injured right foot, sat out Pro Bowl due to injury

NFL All Pro QB Drew Brees is seen at the Microsoft Tech Panel, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, during Super Bowl Week in San Francisco. (Greg Payan/AP Images for NFL)

NFL All Pro QB Drew Brees is seen at the Microsoft Tech Panel, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, during Super Bowl Week in San Francisco. (Greg Payan/AP Images for NFL)

SAN FRANCISCO — Drew Brees has spent the last month resting the torn plantar fascia in his right foot, and the Saints quarterback is close to being back to full strength.

Brees, who played on the injury for the final two and a half games of the season, has taken the time to let the injury heal in the past month.

That’s why Brees didn’t make the 10th Pro Bowl appearance of his career last week despite leading the NFL with 4,870 passing yards, tossing 32 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in a performance Sean Payton called one of Brees’ best.

“Just making sure that it heals properly before I start training,” Brees said. “Otherwise, I probably would have played.”

Brees, who has spent a busy week in San Francisco bouncing from panels to interviews to charitable functions and back again, told The Advocate on Wednesday night that the injury has healed well so far this offseason.

“It’s good, I’m taking it easy,” Brees said. “I’m, what, five weeks out now, so I’m still being careful, I’m not being careless or anything.”

Saints sign RB Vick Ballard to futures deal

The Saints are hoping to cash in on Vick Ballard’s upside.

New Orleans signed the running to a reserve/future contract Wednesday, likely with the hope Ballard can overcome the injuries that have plagued him since a promising rookie season.

In 2012, Ballard logged 966 yards from scrimmage for the Colts as a rookie. But he has only played in one game since. Injuries to his ACL and Achilles wiped out his 2013 and 2014 seasons, and he was waived/injured last season.

New Orleans had similar success last season by taking a flier on Tim Hightower, who saw his career derailed by injuries. He rushed for 375 yards over eight games with the Saints last season.

Former Saint Roman Harper says ‘little brother’ Mark Ingram looked better than ever in 2015

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — Roman Harper and Mark Ingram always had a special connection.

A pair of outspoken Alabama graduates who landed in New Orleans four years apart, Harper and Ingram had plenty in common.

Enough that Harper considers Ingram family.

“Mark Ingram, playing with him in New Orleans all those years, he’s like a little brother to me,” Harper said.

Harper and Ingram talk every couple of weeks, checking in on each other’s families, offering encouragement.

And Harper thinks Ingram was better than ever before going down with a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder with four weeks to play.

“He was having a great year,” Harper said. “I told him this past year, he’s faster, he looks quicker.”

Ingram emerged as one of the league’s better all-around backs in 2015, racking up 769 rushing yards and 50 catches for 405 yards as a receiver before the injury.

Harper isn’t surprised. The veteran safety thinks Ingram will just keep getting better.

“He’s just got to continue to grind it out,” Harper said. “He’s been great, and there’s no reason for him to let off the pedal or think he’s anything less than that.”

Source: Saints sign Erik Harris out of the CFL

The Saints have imported another player from Hamilton.

New Orleans has reportedly signed the Candian Football League’s Erik Harris  to a reserve/future contract following a workout Tuesday morning, a source confirmed.

The news was first reported by 3DownNation.com, which covers the CFL.

Harris was a member of the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, where Saints cornerback Delvin Breaux used to play.

Listed at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, Harris played linebacker in the CFL but has the versatility to also play safety. His official listing on the Tiger-Cats’ website is as a defensive back.

Harris finished with 43 tackles and two interceptions last season.

Back in December, coach Sean Payton said the Saints now spend more time scouting the CFL.

“I think anywhere there is football being played you have to pay attention to it,” Payton said. “It’s very limited we’re really looking at the college game, we’re looking at our league, everyone else’s practice squad players, and then the next spot is north.”

Drew Brees says he’d like to see video instantly available on sideline tablets during Super Bowl 50 panel

NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, left, and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees take the stage to participate in a news conference on technology Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, in San Francisco. With the 50th Super Bowl days away, the NFL is looking toward the future and how technology can change the game on the field and how it's viewed by fans over the next half-century.  (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, left, and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees take the stage to participate in a news conference on technology Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, in San Francisco. With the 50th Super Bowl days away, the NFL is looking toward the future and how technology can change the game on the field and how it’s viewed by fans over the next half-century. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

SAN FRANCISCO — Drew Brees has already seen advancing technology make his job on Sundays a lot easier.

And Brees believes the technology can get even better, both for players and fans alike.

Brees made his first public appearance of Super Bowl week on Tuesday by appearing on a panel with Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, NFL digital chief Brian Rolapp and a Microsoft representative to talk about the advance of technology in the game — The Advocate’s request for an interview with Brees afterward was denied — and there was one key thing on Brees’ wish list.

“I’m really excited about where the technology’s going with video on the sidelines,” Brees said. “It would really help with the preparation.”

Brees has gotten a chance to experiment with video on the sidelines in the Pro Bowl before.

During the 2015 Pro Bowl, Brees remembers watching a play where Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown ran a route over the middle behind the defender. Brees took it over to Brown, showed him the video and told him that if he crossed in front of the defender, Brees could find him for a big play.

Two series later, Brees and Brown hooked up for a big play on the same play call.

But Brees is already pleased with the advances the Microsoft Surface tablets allow on the sideline. When he first got into the NFL, he’d come off the sideline after a drive and get handed a sheath of stapled together photos of every play, making it hard to get through every look.

Now, he can get a closer look at what the defense is doing much faster.

“You just click on that first play, and up pop four images: a pre-snap photo, a post-snap photo and two other photos that might be half a second later, so you really see the development of a play, and what the defense did in coverage and all those things,” Brees said. “You can make adjustments, you take them right out on the field again, and you see all the angles, multiple angles.”

Part of the panel’s discussion topics centered around ideas submitted by fans for technological advances, and one in particular sounded good to Brees.

A fan wanted to put a camera in the helmets of each of the players, allowing fans to see what Brees sees as the pocket is crashing down around him.

“Football’s a whole different game if you’re on the sideline, and obviously, I have the best seat in the house,” Brees said. “The speed of the game, the collisions, the raw strength and power, all those things. … If you could ever put a fan in that position, it would open their eyes to a whole new realm of what professional football is.”

Saints round out coaching staff with Ronald Curry as offensive assistant

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton watches the action from the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton watches the action from the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The New Orleans Saints coaching staff is set.

New Orleans has hired former 49ers wide receivers coach Ronald Curry as an offensive assistant to replace Greg Lewis, who left to be a full receivers coach for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Curry, a former dual-threat quarterback who shifted to wide receiver in the NFL, played seven years in the league, and he’s been with the 49ers for the past three.

Now, Curry will rejoin Saints wide receivers coach John Morton, who worked with Lewis last year.

New Orleans also announced that outside linebackers coach Brian Young has a new title as pass rush specialist.

Curry’s move is the final hire as the Saints brought in assistant head coach/tight ends coach Dan Campbell, moved Dan Roushar to the offensive line, brought back Joe Lombardi as quarterbacks coach and hired Peter Giunta and Aaron Glenn to coach the secondary as senior defensive assistant and cornerbacks coach, respectively.

Saints sign Kyle Prater to futures deal

The Saints are going to give Kyle Prater another chance.

The team signed the wide receiver to a reserve/future deal on Tuesday after he went through a workout, according to a source.

Prater (6-foot-5) spent some time with the Saints last training camp but was released on Aug. 17. During his time in practices, he was targeted 13 times and made nine receptions, according to The Advocate’s charting.

Prater had one catch for 19 yards during the preseason.

New Orleans has also signed fellow receivers Reggie Bell, Shane Wynn and R.J. Harris to futures deals.

Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, Brandon Coleman, Seantavius Jones and Marques Colston are also under contract.