Saints linked to 4th receiver that could be taken on draft’s 2nd day

It’s four weeks until the NFL draft, and the Saints have been linked to a fourth wide receiver many think will be taken in the first two days of the event.

The Saints hosted Wyoming wideout Robert Herron on Wednesday, and he was with them for a pre-draft visit on Thursday, the NFL Network reported. Herron has drawn third-round projections, and he’s meeting with a team that had Southern California’s Marqise Lee in for a visit earlier this week and had dinner plans with LSU duo Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry following the Tigers’ Pro Day on Wednesday.

Lee and Beckham are projected as first rounders. Landry is pegged as a second rounder.

Like Lee and Beckham, the 5-foot-9, 193-pound Herron is speedy, having clocked 4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash at Indianapolis. He had 72 catches for 932 yards and nine touchdowns in 12 games his final year at Wyoming, showing impressive straight-line speed as well as vision to set up blocks, CBSSports.com wrote in their draft prospect profile of him.

He also displayed toughness while taking big hits attacking the middle of the field and catching bubble screens; but, like any NFL hopeful, he isn’t without his perceived flaws.

CBS Sports said Herron’s height was not ideal for an outside receiver. The site questioned the level of competition he faced throughout most of his career; his ability to run routes since most of his big plays were reportedly made on verticals, drags across the middle and quick screens; and his track record on special teams, because he only returned three kicks for 39 yards and did not field any punts.

Pundits believe the Saints may pick a wide receiver early in the draft because their only player on the roster at that position with more than one complete season under his belt as of Thursday was Marques Colston. The team, however, has said it feels it’s set itself up this offseason to draft the best player available without regard to position.

Saints $3.6 million under salary cap after Bunkley, Bailey, Bush deals

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, left, and general manager Mickey Loomis are seen during NFL football pro day, Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, left, and general manager Mickey Loomis are seen during NFL football pro day, Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

With new deals for nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley, cornerback Champ Bailey and safety Rafael Bush on the books, the Saints were about $3.6 million under the 2014 salary cap on Thursday afternoon, according to the NFL Players Association website.

Bunkley recently cut his 2014 pay by nearly $2.9 million. He was originally owed $4.5 million in salary and bonuses for the upcoming season, but he’s due to make $1.65 million after slicing his compensation, information from both the NFLPA site and various media reports indicate.

The Saints signed Champ Bailey to a two-year deal that became official Wednesday and guarantees him only $500,000 but offers millions more in incentives. His deal will cost $1.25 million against the cap, via ESPN.

As for Bush, he signed a restricted free-agent offer sheet from Atlanta on April 3. The Falcons offered Bush a contract worth up to about $4.55 million over two years, but the Saints matched it to retain him.

The Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson on Thursday reported that the Saints gave Bush a $3.8 million deal that includes up to $750,000 in incentives for a Pro Bowl selection as well as interceptions in 2015. It has a full guarantee of $850,000 and a base salary of $1.85 million in 2014.

Some $350,000 are deferred to March 31, 2015, Wilson reported. Wilson added that Bush’s 2015 base salary is $1.95 million.

Pro Football Talk says it erred reporting Jimmy Graham only has until April 22 to file WR grievance: Saints notes

Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ--  New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) dunks the ball over the goal posts after his first quarter touchdown as the New Orleans Saints defeats the Tampa Bay Bucs 42-17 in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013.

Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ– New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) dunks the ball over the goal posts after his first quarter touchdown as the New Orleans Saints defeats the Tampa Bay Bucs 42-17 in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013.

Pro Football Talk on Thursday corrected a report that erroneously said Saints tight end Jimmy Graham had until April 22 to file a grievance arguing he should be paid $5 million more, or like a wide receiver, under the franchise tag New Orleans handed him in late February.

Graham actually has until 2017, Pro Football Talk is now reporting.

During the annual NFL owners meeting in March, the site published a report citing an anonymous source saying that Graham had 50 days to file a grievance through the NFL Players Association. April 22 was 50 days from when Graham was tagged.

Furthermore, the site reported that it was “likely” Graham and the Saints would reach a long-term deal before April 22.

But April 22 is actually irrelevant. If he went that route, Graham would not be filing a non-injury grievance but for a system arbitration, Pro Football Talk said.

Players have 50 days to file non-injury grievances. Players have three years to file for a system arbitration, according to the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, per Pro Football Talk.

The site apparently began going over its reporting after Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis told reporters at LSU’s Pro Day on Wednesday that he didn’t view April 22 as any kind of meaningful deadline in negotiations with Graham.

The Saints tagged Graham as a tight end after he led the team with 1,215 receiving yards and the NFL with 16 touchdown catches in 2013, the last season on the rookie deal he accepted from New Orleans in 2010.

But Graham, whose tag is worth about  $7 million, spent most of his time last year lining up out wide for the Saints. A franchise tag for a wide receiver is worth about $12 million, and it’s believed he could file a grievance through the players association to be classified as a wideout, given the massive boost in pay that could result in, depending on the decision of a third party.

Yet Graham would not even play under the tag if he and the Saints can agree on a long-term deal to replace the one he accepted from New Orleans as a rookie in 2010.

Loomis restated his desire for that long-term deal Wednesday. He said he hoped one was reached by the start of training camp but did not commit to a firm timetable.

“Lots of us would rather have things done sooner rather than later, but it doesn’t always happen like that,” Loomis said. “We want to have Jimmy Graham on our team when training camp begins, and I am sure he wants to be with us.

“So we’ll just keep plugging away at the process. He has a great agent (in Jimmy Sexton). All his people … know what they’re doing; so do we.”

Other tidbits:

-Florida State center Bryan Stork’s visit with the Saints will be Thursday and Friday, the Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson reported. Stork has drawn fourth-round draft projections as well as comparisons to Brian de la Puente, who started at center for the Saints from 2011 to 2013 but left for the Chicago Bears in free agency.

-After cornerback Champ Bailey’s two-year deal went on the books Thursday morning, the Saints are about $4.01 million under the salary cap, the NFLPA site showed. That figure does not account for safety Rafael Bush’s new two-year deal.