Saints begin talks to explore retaining special-teams stud Ramon Humber

New Orleans Saints' Ramon Humber (53) reacts after recovering an onside kick against the Carolina Panthers in the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

New Orleans Saints’ Ramon Humber (53) reacts after recovering an onside kick against the Carolina Panthers in the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

Having established himself as one of the Saints’ best special-teams players in 2013, backup linebacker/soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Ramon Humber has been approached about the possibility of prolonging his time in New Orleans, according to sources.

The Saints have recently had early discussions with a number of their players who are due to hit free agency March 11 and whom they’d like to retain, including tackle Zach Strief, receiver Robert Meachem, linebacker Parys Haralson and safety Rafael Bush. Count Humber among them after he tied for third in solo special-teams tackles (6) and recovered onside kicks in both a Week 15 loss to St. Louis as well as a Week 16 defeat to Carolina.

He received almost 63,000 Pro Bowl fan votes for his efforts, which was No. 9 among special teamers. He wasn’t selected for the game, however.

Positioned under inside linebackers Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne on the depth chart, Humber has also filled in well on defense in some of the Saints’ specialty packages, recording 0.5 sacks and two tackles behind the line of scrimmage this past campaign. He arrived in New Orleans in 2010 after going to Super Bowl XLIV with the Indianapolis Colts, who lost that game to the Saints.

“We put a lot on his plate,” Saints special teams coach Greg McMahon said when asked about Humber toward the end of the 2013 season. “And we know what we’re going to get in this player — he’s dependable; he makes plays when he needs to make plays, so that’s why we kind of lean on him.”

The Saints have held the preliminary talks with Humber and the others while carrying an estimated salary-cap figure of $125 million. Recent reports have projected the 2014 cap could be about $132 million, if not more.

The primary objective New Orleans hopes to accomplish with any available cap space is to hold on to All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham, who’s at the end of the contract he accepted from the Saints as a rookie.

The team has said it is pursuing a new long-term deal for Graham; or, if that doesn’t materialize, it will apply the franchise tag on him. The Saints and Graham remained millions of dollars per season apart from a long-term deal as of Tuesday, Fox Sports 1 reported.