During late Saturday and throughout Sunday, it appeared more than 20 players who were either rookies not chosen in the 2014 draft or were beyond their first year out of school but unsigned had at least agreed to either free agent or tryout deals with the Saints, via league sources and credible Twitter reports.
While among them were guys with local ties, a few names stood out to me: Rutgers wide receiver Brandon Coleman, center Matt Armstrong from Grand Valley State and Sam Houston State running back Timothy Flanders.
Rutgers University confirmed its towering 6-foot-6, 220-pound wide receiver Brandon Coleman agreed to a deal with the Saints. Coleman tied a school record for touchdown receptions with 20, and he had 92 grabs for 1,743 yards in 26 starts.
As for Armstrong, he’s notable because of Grand Valley State alum Tim Lelito, the second-year offensive lineman who started two games at guard as an undrafted rookie in 2013. After Brian de la Puente — the Saints’ starter at center since 2011 — left in free agency for Chicago in April, the Saints repeatedly named Lelito as someone who would compete for that particular vacancy this preseason.
They assured that player would be either an incoming rookie or a veteran free agent. The Saints didn’t draft anybody at the position because they didn’t consider that spot very deep in the draft.
And coach Sean Payton refused to comment on what kind of communication the team may be having with free-agent center Jonathan Goodwin (a former Saint who went to the Pro Bowl the year New Orleans won Super Bowl XLIV and has been in San Francisco the past three seasons).
But Lelito’s first challenger became known Saturday, when Armstrong’s agent James Ivler confirmed during a brief phone conversation that his client “is a Saint.” Armstrong is an ex-teammate of Lelito’s at Grand Valley State and owns the most recent Rimington Trophy given out to the best center in the Football Championship Subdivision (previously known as Division I-AA).
And lastly, there’s Flanders, who announced his agreement with the Saints via Twitter. Dimunitive at 5-foot-9 and 207 pounds, Flanders is the all-time leading rusher in the history of the Southland Conference, which is in the FCS.
The All-American had 5,664 ground yards and 66 touchdowns from 2010 to 2013 after transferring to Sam Houston State from Kansas State, where he red-shirted his freshman year.
At the scouting combine in Indianapolis, Flanders said he met with New Orleans running backs coach Dan Roushar and grew up in Oklahoma as a Saints fan. He also had a pre-draft visit with the Saints.
Regardless, aside from Armstrong (@Strongarm56 on Twitter), Flanders (@TFlanders405) and Coleman, others who have either taken free agent deals or have been tapped to try out at this weekend’s upcoming rookie minicamp include:
-Ryan Boykin, RB, Ohio [via his Twitter] (@RyanBoykin20)
-Sergio Castillo, Kicker, West Texas A&M [media reports]
-Jerome Cunningham, Tight end, South Connecticut State (@Coco_Loco86) [his school confirmed]
-Brian Dixon, Cornerback, Northwest Missouri State (@BrianDixon_2) [via his Twitter]
-Kasim Edebali, Defensive end, Boston College (@TheDreamKasim) [his school confirmed]
-Spencer Hadley, Outside linebacker, BYU [source confirmed]
-Je’Ron Hamm, Wide receiver, Louisiana-Monroe (@j_hamm86) [his school confirmed]
-Spencer Harris, Wide receiver, Illinois [via coach’s Twitter]
-Cqulin Hubert, Linebacker, Southeastern Louisiana (CqulinHubert51) [via his Twitter]
-John Hubert, Running back, Kansas State (via his Twitter)
-Steve Hull, Wide receiver, Illinois [via coach’s Twitter]
-Shawn Jackson, Linebacker, Tulsa [via media reports on Twitter]
-Logan Kilgore**, Quarterback, Middle Tennessee State (@logankilgore) [via his Twitter]
-Seantavius Jones, Wide receiver, Valdosta State (@Stretch_did_dat) [league source]
-Ryan McGrath, right tackle, Ohio University
-Brandon McCray, Defensive end, Louisiana-Lafayette [via media reports]
-TraShaun Nixon, Linebacker, New Mexico State (@TNiX_02) [via his Twitter]
-Micajah Reynolds**, Defensive lineman, Michigan State (@CallMeCaj60) [via his Twitter]
-Derrick Strozier, Cornerback, Tulane (@D_Stro13) [via his Twitter]
-George Uko, defensive tackle, Southern California [via his agency]
-Chidera Uzo-Diribe, Defensive end, Colorado [via media reports]
-Lawrence Virgil, Defensive end, Valdosta State [school confirmed]
-Pierre Warren, Safety, Jacksonville State [school confirmed]
-Luke Wollet, Safety, Kent State [local media reports]
-Ty Zimmerman, Safety, Kansas State [media reports]
Note that any agreed to deals can fall apart for any number of reasons. None of these are official until the Saints release an announcement.
Golic Jr. signs
On another note, guard Mike Golic Jr. — who was undrafted out of Notre Dame in 2013 — has agreed to a deal with the Saints, he said on Twitter. It’s for two years, ESPN reported.
Golic spent last summer with the Pittsburgh Steelers but didn’t make the team. His father co-hosts ESPN’s Mike & Mike in the Morning with Mike Greenberg.