Saints agree to terms with former Cowboys LB Butler

The Saints added another piece to their defensive puzzle Thursday when unrestricted free-agent linebacker Victor Butler agreed to a two-year contract.

The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Butler is a five-year veteran who played his first four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys.

Butler, a fourth-round draft pick and the 110th overall selection of the 2009 draft, was coached by new Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in 2011 and ’12 when Ryan served as the Cowboys’ defensive boss.

Butler played in 63 games with two starts and had career totals of 64 tackles, 11 sacks and five passes defensed. He forced three fumbles and recovered one and also had 40 tackles and a forced fumble on special teams.

With the Saints, Butler will compete with converted defensive ends Junior Galette and Martez Wilson for a starting spot in the team’s new 3-4 alignment being implemented by Ryan.

In his final season with the Cowboys, Butler, who was converted to a 3-4 outside linebacker after he played in a 4-3 scheme all four years at Oregon State, had a career-high 24 tackles with three sacks.

Butler was a teammate of newly-acquired Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis at Oregon State, which is coached by former Saints secondary coach Mike Riley. Lewis signed a five-year contract with the Saints on March 14, two days after the free-agency signing period began.

An All-Pac 10 selection as a senior, Butler recorded 65 total tackles and had 12 sacks and 21 tackles for a loss. He also forced four fumbles and recovered one.

Butler visited the Steelers, Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles before reaching a deal with the Saints.

Saints’ Payton delivers gift baskets to pediatric patients

Saints coach Sean Payton’s Play it Forward Foundation teamed up with Basket of Hope to deliver 250 gift baskets Monday to patients and their families at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans.

Payton handed out “Super Baskets of Hope” and visited with 25 children ranging in age from newborns to teenagers during his visit, according to NewOrleansSaints.com.

The baskets were filled with toys, board games, stuffed animals and books, while parents received inspirational and faith-based publications to help them with their challenges.

Saints to have five picks in April 25-27 draft

The NFL has announced the order for all seven rounds of the draft that will be held April 25-27.

The Saints have five selections after forfeiting their second-round pick as part of the bounty scheme penalties and traded a seventh-round choice to the Seattle Seahawks for linebacker Barrett Ruud, who was later released.

Barring trades, the first pick for the Saints will be the 15th in the first round. They’ll also have single selections in the third (No. 75 overall), fourth (No. 109), fifth (No. 144) and sixth (No. 183) rounds.

Saints reportedly interested in former Colts DE Freeney

The Saints continue to explore ways to improve their 32nd-ranked defense through free agency.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported the Saints may be interested in signing former Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney, a three-time first-team All-Pro selection and seven-time Pro Bowl pick.

Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis didn’t respond to an email seeking confirmation of the team’s interest in Freeney, or if they have scheduled a visit with the 11-year veteran.

Freeney, was released by the Colts on Feb. 15, just four days before his 33rd birthday. He recorded 107 1/2 sacks in his 11 years with the team, but was hampered in recent seasons by ankle problems.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos could also be in the hunt for Freeney’s services.

Freeney could be used as a rush outside linebacker in the Saints’ new 3-4 scheme that they’ll use under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, but the former Syracuse star had only five sacks last season when the Colts switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4.

The Saints signed former Steelers cornerback Keenan Lewis on the third day of the free-agency signing period and had former Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha in for a visit as well.

Asomugha, who played for Ryan with the Oakland Raiders from 2004-08, is reportedly trying to decide between the Saints and San Francisco 49ers.

Linebacker Victor Butler, who played the past four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, also met with team officials before subsequent visits with the Cleveland Browns and Eagles.

Like Asomugha, Butler played for Ryan the past two seasons when Ryan ran the Cowboys’ defense.

Saints/NFL Draft chat

Saints agree to one-year deal with LB Herring

The Saints on Thursday agreed to terms on a one-year contract with veteran linebacker Will Herring.

The 6-foot-3, 241-pound Herring played with the Saints in 2011 and ’12. His contract was terminated just before the free agency signing period began on March 12 as the Saints had to trim some payroll to get down to the salary cap of $123 million.

In a six-year career, Herring has appeared in 81 games with 11 starts. He has played mainly on special teams for the Saints and recorded a career-high 14 tackles on kick coverage last season.

Saints’ de la Puente, Quddus earn performance-based pay

Two Saints were among the top players receiving bonus checks from the NFL’s performance-based pay program for 2012, it was announced Wednesday at the owners meetings.

Center Brian de la Puente, who started all 16 regular-season games, received $289,373 and ranked third among the top 25 players collecting a bonus, while reserve safety Isa Abdul-Quddus was 25th with $233,063.

As an exclusive rights free agent last season, de la Puente, who recently was tendered as a restricted free agent at $2.023 million for this season, earned a base salary of $540,000 last year. Abdul-Quddus’ base pay was $465,000.

Under the system, a fund is created and used as a supplemental form of player compensation to reward players with high playing-time percentages and low cap numbers.

Performance-based pay is computed by using a “player index.”

Saints/NFL Draft Chat

Saints sign TE Watson; agree to terms with Roby, Humber

The Saints on Monday agreed to one-year contracts with two of their own unrestricted free agents — wide receiver Courtney Roby and linebacker Ramon Humber — and also signed tight end Benjamin Watson to a three-year contract.

Roby, who has excelled as a kick returner as well as on kick coverage since joining the Saints as a free agent in 2008, and Humber, who has played in a reserve role for the past three seasons, were two of the team’s 11 unsigned players at the start of the free agency signing period on March 12.

Watson, a 6-foot-3, 255-pounder, comes to the Saints from the Cleveland Browns, with whom he appeared in 45 games with 41 starts from 2010-12.

Originally a first-round draft pick of the New England Patriots in 2004, Watson, a former University of Georgia star, has played in 116 NFL games with 88 starts and has 321 receptions for 3,776 yards with 28 touchdowns.

Watson, who is expected to back up Jimmy Graham, played in all 16 games for the Browns last season with 14 starts and recorded 49 receptions for 501 yards and three touchdowns.

Roby, who has been elected a permanent captain for the special teams units the past two seasons, has played in 61 games with the Saints.

The former Indiana University standout has averaged 25.6 yards on 94 kickoff returns with one TD and has a club-best 61 special teams stops with two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble.

He had 10 special teams tackles last season and recovered a blocked punt in the season opener against the Washington Redskins that he returned for a touchdown,

Humber has also played a key role for the Saints’ special teams with 43 tackles. Last season, he tied for second on the team with 14 tackles — his highest single-season total as a member of the Saints.

Saints agree to terms with Roby on one-year contract

The Saints have agreed to terms on a one-year contract with veteran wide receiver Courtney Roby.

Roby, who has excelled as a kick returner as well as on kick coverage since joining the Saints as a free agent in 2008, was one of the team’s 11 unsigned player at the start of the free agency signing period on March 12.

Roby’s teammates have elect him as a permanent captain for the special teams units the past two seasons.

Roby has played in 61 games with the Saints. The former Indiana University standout has averaged 25.6 yards on 94 kickoff returns with one TD and has also recorded a club-best 61 special teams stops with two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble over that period.

The 6-foot, 189-pound Roby played in 13 games in 2012 and again was among the team leaders with 10 special teams tackles. He also recovered a blocked punt in the season opener against the Washington Redskins that he returned for a touchdown,