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Saints sign LS Chris Highland

The Saints have signed long snapper Chris Highland.

Highland, a product of Illinois State, spent last training camp with New Orleans. He received a good amount of work while Justin Drescher nursed an injury, but was ultimately released last August.

Highland will once again be battling with Drescher for the job and faces long odds to make the team.

His addition brings the roster to 93 players. New Orleans will need to make some moves in the near future.

Which UDFAs received the biggest bonuses from the Saints?

A look at which undrafted players received the biggest signing bonuses and guarantees from the Saints, according to league sources:

S Mike Caputo — $3,000 signing bonus; $2,500 of base salary guaranteed
OL Joe Cheek — $5,000 signing bonus
DB Trae Elston — $5,000 signing bonus
CB De’Vante Harris — $4,000 signing bonus; $3,000 base guaranteed
LB Dillon Lee — $4,000 signing bonus; $6,000 base guaranteed
WR Tommylee Lewis — $5,000 signing bonus
DL D.J. Pettway — $5,000 signing bonus; $5,000 base guaranteed
LB Dominique Tovell — $4,500 signing bonus; $2,500 base guaranteed
G Landon Turner — $5,000 signing bonus; $9,500 base guaranteed

The details of all the signings are not yet known. This post will be updated with new information as it becomes available.

Sources: Saints agree to terms with 19 undrafted players

The Saints ended the draft without selecting a guard to compete with Tim Lelito and Senio Kelemete.

That issue was taken care of by signing rookie free agents after the draft.

The star of the class is North Carolina guard Landon Turner, who was widely projected to be a mid-round pick. He dropped out of the draft and was quickly scooped up by the Saints.

BYU’s Ryker Mathews, Boise State’s Marcus Henry and Michigan State’s Jack Allen also could figure into the mix at those positions.

Below is a list of agreements with players, according to multiple league sources. These agreements are  subject to change until the contracts are officially signed.

OL Ryker Mathews,  BYU
CB De’Vante Harris, Texas A&M
G Landon Turner, North Carolina
WR Jared Dangerfield, Western Kentucky
CB Ken Crawley, Colorado
OT Avery Young, Auburn
C Marcus Henry, Boise State
LB Dillon Lee, Alabama
DE Mitchell Loewen, Arkansas
WR Tommylee Lewis, Northern Illinois
G Joseph Cheek, Texas A&M
DL D.J. Pettway, Alabama
FS Trae Elston, Ole Miss
LB  Jeff Schoettmer, North Carolina
C Jack Allen, Michigan State
LB Dominique Tovell , UL-Lafayette
WR Jordan Williams, Ball State
FB Sione Houma, Michigan
S Mike Caputo, Wisconsin


Saints came out ahead in trade value in deal with Patriots

The Saints felt they got the better of the Patriots in the trade that allowed them to move back into the second round.

Not only was the team able to select safety Vonn Bell, a player it considered selecting in the third round, it also came out ahead on the trade value chart.

The Saints gave up the 78th and 112th picks to acquire the 61st pick from New England.  According to the chart, the Saints gave up 270 points of value to acquire 292 points.

It’s unclear which chart the Saints used. There are a few variations used around the league, but the one New Orleans’ was operating off of had it coming out ahead.

“Either one you are on, the other team right away recognizes the one you are working with,” coach Sean Payton said. “It is pretty basic. It is not exact. You can go back and there are years where someone might have moved up more for less.

“Taking your (third round pick) into (a second round pick) costs a (fourth round pick). That is pretty normal. I think a few picks prior there were teams receiving a couple (fourth round picks) for a move like that. Just as it moves back in the draft, it changes. That part of it was easy.”

Saints feel still several good players available heading on Day 2 of draft

The Saints were disappointed with how the first round ended.

They were hoping to get a shot at Stanford guard Joshua Garnett and Texas A&M offensive tackle Germain Ifedi in the second round, but both players came off the board during the end of the first round.

“(There are) guys that you kind of, as you watch certain players go off the board, if you don’t have a high grade on a player and someone takes them you feel good because it just pushes other players down,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “There were some good players taken. There are still a number of good players.”

There are still a number of good players remaining heading into the second round of the draft, including several that were projected to be first-round picks in the media.

New Orleans feels good about getting defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins in the first round, but, in some regards, this is where things start to become more difficult because the draft now becomes unpredictable.

“I don’t want to say that the first one is easy but there is more projection now,” Payton said. “There are more variables when you get past that 12th pick.”

Here’s a look at a handful of players who could make sense for the Saints in the second and third rounds.

LB Myles Jack, UCLA
LB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame
LB Su’a Cravens, USC
LB Deion Jones, LSU
LB Reggie Ragland, Alabama
DE Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky
DE Kevin Dodd, Clemson
DE Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State
DE Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State
DE Kamalei Correa, Boise State
DE Jihad Ward, Illinois
DT Chris Jones, Mississippi State
DT A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama
DT Jarran Reed, Alabama
DT Austin Johnson, Penn State
CB Mackensie Alexander, Clemson
CB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
CB Xavien Howard, Baylor
CB Cyrus Jones, Alabama
S Vonn Bell, Ohio State
S T.J. Green, Clemson
S Miles Killebrew, Southern Utah
WR Michael Thomas, Ohio State
WR Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma
WR Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh
WR Kolby Listenbee, TCU
OG Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
OG Vadal Alexander, LSU
OG Nick Martin, Notre Dame
OG Isaac Semumalo, Oregon State
OG Christian Westerman, Arizona State
OG Joe Dahl, Washington State
OG Connor McGovern, Missouri
QB Connor Cook, Michigan State
QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
QB Christian Hackenberg, Penn State


Nick Underhill: No smoke and mirrors for Saints with this pick — just great fit with Sheldon Rankins

‘A dream come true': Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins the big pick for Saints at No. 12

The safe — but correct — pick: Saints’ choice of Sheldon Rankins praised nationally

Rod Walker: Lots to like about Saints first-round pick Sheldon Rankins — even though he grew up rooting for the Falcons

Far from over: Get set for Rounds 2 & 3 of NFL Draft on Friday, players to watch, local prospects

Saints talked about Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil at No. 12

Mississippi’s Laremy Tunsil poses for photos with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by Miami Dolphins as the 13th pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL football draft, Thursday, April 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Mississippi’s Laremy Tunsil poses for photos with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by Miami Dolphins as the 13th pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL football draft, Thursday, April 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Laremy Tunsil‘s surprising fall out of his projected top-5 pick and down to the Miami Dolphins at No. 13 sparked a discussion for the Saints.

New Orleans doesn’t need a tackle, but Tunsil has the kind of grade that made any team take notice.

“As (Tunsil) came down the board, obviously, that was an unusual or notable thing that happened in front of us,” Payton said. “He’s an extremely talented player, athletic. … You start projecting, OK, who’s going to guard, and I think we felt real confident with Sheldon.”

Tunsil fell after a video posted on his Twitter account showing the Ole Miss tackle using a gas mask bong.

“What happened with him tonight was unusual and disappointing, I’m sure,” Payton said. “It was a tough deal, just watching it.”

For the coaching staff of the Saints, it was an unprecedented part of the first round.

“Not like that, with social media, right in the middle of the first round,” Payton said. “Never.”



Sean Payton disappointed for Jaylon Smith, Myles Jack

Sean Payton couldn’t help but feel for a pair of players who did not hear their names called on Thursday night.

A few months ago, linebackers and Jaylon Smith and Myles Jack were considered to be among the best players in this draft class. Some might even argue they were the best prospects in this class. But both players suffered knee injuries that knocked them out of the first round.

“Certainly you wouldn’t say just first-round talent, but early first-round talent,” Payton said. “Really good football players. You’re disappointed because you just watched the tape and you see both of those guys and the way they play, the passion they play with.”

Payton took it step further, saying that both players would have been selected in the first eight or 10 picks in any draft during the last decade.

It’s difficult to know when both players will be selected. Smith suffered a knee injury during Notre Dame’s last game and is now battling nerve damage. He’s expected to miss the 2016 season and, as Payton said, there are no guarantees.

As for Jack, the former UCLA linebacker could need microfracture surgery at some point the future. Drafting him is a risky proposition.

Some team will eventually take a chance on them. If it works out, those teams will be rewarded. Payton expects those gambles to take place soon.

“I think at this time tomorrow night there’s a good chance both those guys will be selected,” Payton said.

Saints did not have an opportunity to move down out of No. 12, Sean Payton says

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --  Saints head Coach Sean Payton talks to the media after the Saints' first practice of the 2015 Training Camp in White Sulphur Springs, WV.

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS — Saints head Coach Sean Payton talks to the media after the Saints’ first practice of the 2015 Training Camp in White Sulphur Springs, WV.

The New Orleans Saints have been high on Sheldon Rankins for a long time, all the way back to the end of his senior season.

But the Saints also used almost all of their allotted time for the No. 12 pick, waiting to see if Laremy Tunsil‘s fall down the draft boards might open up a chance to potentially trade down and get more picks.

New Orleans didn’t have the opportunity.

“As the tackle dropped from Ole Miss, one of the reasons we waited was just to see if anyone was moving up,” Payton said. “I don’t think we got any calls.”

Despite a flurry of trades and a few highly-rated players dropping lower than originally projected, New Orleans had few surprises before their turn came.

“This is the first time in my 10 years that, although there were a few tweaks ahead of us, this kind of went maybe like we thought,” Payton said. “It worked out well.”

Mickey Loomis: Kenny Vaccaro worth the price of fifth-year option


For some teams, figuring out whether to pick up the fifth-year option on a former first-round pick is a difficult evaluation of cost vs. production.

Kenny Vaccaro made the Saints’ decision pretty easy.

New Orleans made the hard-hitting safety the first member of the 2013 draft class to get a fifth year when the Saints picked up an option that will pay Vaccaro $5.6 million in 2017.

“He’s a good player,” Loomis said. “Felt like the value’s appropriate.”

Vaccaro, who burst onto the scene with a big rookie year in 2013, bounced back from a tough sophomore campaign to post career highs of 104 tackles and three sacks last season.

Mickey Loomis: Saints’ pursuit of Josh Norman no indicator of cornerback need

Washington Redskins’ newly signed cornerback Josh Norman, speaks during a news conference at the Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va., Monday, April 25, 2016.    (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Washington Redskins’ newly signed cornerback Josh Norman, speaks during a news conference at the Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va., Monday, April 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The New Orleans Saints saw Josh Norman as a target of opportunity when the Carolina Panthers surprised the NFL by rescinding his franchise tag last week,  instantly making the All-Pro a free agent.

New Orleans put in a bid strong enough to make it into Norman’s final two teams.

But Norman ended up signing with Washington on a five-year, $75 million deal that made him the highest-paid cornerback in football.

“We were in the mix,” Loomis said. “I think we made a strong offer, and he chose to go there.”

Loomis acknowledged that the Saints would have been forced to do some maneuvering to free up salary cap space to sign Norman. New Orleans currently has a little less than $3.3 million in cap space available, according to NFLPA records.

Norman, a 28-year-old who blossomed into one of the league’s best cornerbacks last season, represented the type of talent that rarely becomes available in free agency.

“I don’t think it’s a no-brainer, because you have to balance that with what’s on your roster, the salary cap you have available, the resources you have available,” Loomis said. “Obviously, we thought he was a good player and would impact our team.”

But the Saints’ pursuit of Norman is no indicator of a critical need at cornerback.

Loomis likes the pairing of Delvin Breaux and Keenan Lewis, plus the potential of second-year players Damian Swann and P.J. Williams.

“We like the guys we’ve got, we’ve got some young guys back there,” Loomis said. “I don’t think we view that as a critical need, and yet, there was an opportunity to get a really good player, and we took a shot.