Saints Twitter account nominated for ‘Shorty Award’

For the third straight year, the Saints are a finalist for best sports team Twitter account in the Shorty Awards by the Real-Time Academy of Short-Form Arts and Sciences.

The six Shorty Award finalists announced Tuesday include the Saints, who won the Shorty Award in 2011 and were a finalist again last year.

The other finalists are the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, New Jersey Devils, Sheffield Wednesday and Chennai Super Kings.

The Saints received the Shorty Vox Populi award in the sports team category, a special distinction for the peoples choice as they earned the most fan nominations among the six finalists.

The Real-Time Academy will select the Shorty Award winners for each category with the announcement scheduled for April 8 in the TimesCenter in New York City.

Saints/NFL Draft chat with Advocate sportswriter Sheldon Mickles

Saints to have five selections in April draft

Barring trades or the awarding of compensatory picks, the Saints will have five selections in the NFL draft to be held April 25-27.

The NFL released the tentative order for the seven-round draft Thursday, but compensatory selections still have to be plugged in at the end of rounds three through seven. Those picks will be awarded at the owners meetings in late March.

As of Thursday, the Saints will have single picks in the first, third, fourth, fifth and sixth rounds. Their first-round selection will be the 15th overall and the third-round pick will be No. 75 overall.

The Saints’ second-round pick was forfeited for the second straight year because of the pay-for-performance scheme that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said defensive players took part in from 2009 to 2011.

Their selection in the seventh round was traded to the Seattle Seahawks during training camp for veteran linebacker Barrett Ruud, who was released in October.

The first round of the draft will be conducted on Thursday, April 25 with the second and third rounds on Friday night. The final four rounds will be held on Saturday, April 27.

Saints terminate contract of David Thomas, waive Patrick

The Saints announced Tuesday that they terminated the contract of veteran tight end David Thomas, a move that wasn’t totally unexpected.

They also waived cornerback Johnny Patrick, who was the second of their two third-round draft picks in 2011.

Thomas, a seven-year veteran, was entering the final year of a three-year contract he signed before the 2011 season. He was scheduled to earn $1.5 million in base salary this season and had a cap figure of $2.1 million.

Thomas had been with the Saints since 2009 when he was obtained for a sixth-round draft pick just before the season opener in a trade with the New England Patriots. He helped the Saints win Super Bowl XLIV that season.

The 6-foot-3, 248-pound Thomas, a solid blocker who occasionally lined up in the backfield at fullback, caught 81 passes for 677 yards and seven TDs while appearing in 48 games with the Saints.

“This was an extremely difficult decision to make with David today,” General Manager Mickey Loomis said in a team news release. “Since he came here in 2009, he’s been an important part of our team — both with his performance on the field and with the outstanding veteran leadership he’s provided for us.”

“David has been important part of our team since the day he arrived here,” Saints coach Sean Payton said, “and we appreciate everything he did for us these last four seasons. … On the field, he would set a physical tone and his versatility proved to be a great asset for us.”

Patrick played two seasons with the Saints — mostly as a reserve. The 5-11, 191-pounder recorded 29 tackles with three passes defensed in 24 career games and also had five special teams tackles.

Saints/NFL Draft chat with Advocate sportswriter Sheldon Mickles

Saints move Ingalls to OL; hire running backs coach

Saints coach Sean Payton continued to re-tool his coaching staff Saturday with the addition of another assistant and moving running backs coach Bret Ingalls to the offensive line.

Ingalls, who has been a member of Payton’s staff since 2009, moves into Aaron Kromer’s spot as offensive line coach and Michigan State offensive coordinator Dan Roushar was hired to be the new running backs coach.

Ingalls helped the Saints finish sixth in the NFL in rushing in both 2009, when they won Super Bowl XLVI, and in 2011.

Ingalls follows the path of Kromer, who was the Saints running backs coach in 2008 before becoming offensive line coach/running game coordinator when Doug Marrone left for Syracuse. Kromer resigned last month to become the Chicago Bears’ offensive coordinator.

Roushar, who served as Michigan State’s offensive coordinator/tight ends coach the past two seasons, has spent his entire 28-year coaching career in the college ranks. He was the offensive line coach for the Spartans from 2007-10 before being promoted to offensive coordinator in 2011.

Roushar’s coaching resume includes two stints at Illinois, where he was a member of the same staff with Payton in 1996. In his second stint with the Illini in 2003-04, he coached running backs in 2003 and was the offensive coordinator/running backs coach in ’04.

He has also worked as an offensive coordinator at Butler, Ball State and Northern Illinois, his alma mater. Roushar played quarterback for NIU in 1981 and ’82.

Last season, Michigan State junior La’Veon Bell won the Big Ten rushing title with 1,793 yards, the second-highest single-season total in school history.

Payton still needs to hire a secondary coach and assistant defensive line coach to complete his staff for the 2013 season. Last week, he hired Rob Ryan as his defensive coordinator and Stan Kwan as assistant special teams coach.

 

Saints’ LB Curtis Lofton restructures contract

With the start of free agency just 3 1/2 weeks away, the Saints have begun the process of getting under the expected 2013 salary cap of about $121 million.

ESPN.com reported Friday that linebacker Curtis Lofton, the team’s leading tackler last season, has restructured the contract he signed a year ago when he came over from the Atlanta Falcons.

By turning a $5 million roster bonus into a $5 million signing bonus, which can be pro-rated over the final five years of the six-year deal he received last spring, Lofton’s cap hit for 2013 will drop from from $7.1 million to $3.1 million.

That $4 million savings is just a start for the Saints, however, as they were reportedly more than $20 million over the expected 2013 salary cap recently.

According to NFL Players Association figures, Lofton — who was the Saints’ leading tackler in 2012 and is expected to be one of the inside linebackers in their new 3-4 scheme — will earn $1.1 million in base salary this season.

Lofton, a 6-foot, 241-pounder who will turn 27 in June, was credited with 157 total tackles and had one sack. He also forced two fumbles, recovered two fumbles and broke up 10 passes.

Saints/NFL Draft chat with Advocate sportswriter Sheldon Mickles

Saints’ Payton hires Rob Ryan as new defensive coordinator

Saints coach Sean Payton filled two of the five openings on his coaching staff Saturday morning with the hiring of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and assistant special teams coach Stan Kwan.

The hiring of Ryan, who was interviewed by Payton on Friday, was expected after Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham withdrew his name from consideration for the position Friday evening.

Grantham interviewed with the Saints on Thursday.

“I’m pleased the opportunity has presented itself for us to be able to add both Rob Ryan and Stan Kwan to our coaching staff,” Payton said in a team news release. “In regards to Rob, we have experience in preparing and playing against his defenses and they’ve always been challenging in terms of the different looks and pressures that they feature.

“We’ve had the chance to visit with each other and talk about our visions for our team and I’m excited about moving forward as we prepare for the 2013 season,” he said. “Rob is enthusiastic about joining our team and getting right to work.”

While there were five openings on his staff, Payton’s hiring of Ryan was an important piece to the puzzle as the Saints.

In announcing that he had fired defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo on Jan. 24, Payton said the team would change from the 4-3 front that’s been used since he arrived in 2006 to a 3-4 alignment after the Saints allowed an NFL-record 7,042 total yards in a 7-9 season.

Payton must still hire an offensive line coach, a secondary coach and an assistant defensive line coach to fill out his staff.

Saints continue search for DC after Grantham withdraws

University of Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who interviewed for the same position with the Saints on Thursday, withdrew his name from consideration on Friday.

Grantham met Thursday with Saints coach Sean Payton, who is seeking a replacement for Steve Spagnuolo, but Grantham decided to withdraw his name Friday and will apparently remain at Georgia.

Payton interviewed former Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan on Friday. Ryan, the brother of New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, was fired Jan. 8 after two seasons with the Cowboys.

Payton said he expects to interview one other candidate on Monday for the position. The new defensive boss will oversee the transition of the Saints from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4 front after they set an NFL record in allowing 7,042 total yards in 2012.