Category Archives: Uncategorized

Source: Marques Colston restructures deal

Marques Colston has agreed to restructure his contract.

The New Orleans Saints wide receiver has agreed to lower his cap figure for the 2015 season and will remain with the team, according to a source. Details of the agreement were not immediately known.

Colston was previously scheduled to count $9.7 million against the salary cap.

Fox Sports first reported the agreement.

More to come…

Saints have not offered tenders to RFAs Travaris Cadet and Tyrunn Walker, according to report

The Saints will surrender a layer of protection in their efforts to retain Tyrunn Walker and running back Travaris Cadet.

New Orleans has the ability to tender the restricted free agent, which would require and initial one-year, $1.54 million offer and give the team the right of first refusal on any offers from other teams. But the Saints will decline these right and instead try to sign the duo for less money, according to an ESPN report.

Offensive lineman Bryce Harris is also an unrestricted free agent.

Losing Walker or Cadet could hurt the Saints.

An undrafted free agent in 2012, Walker provided depth at both tackle and defensive end and showed promise on the defensive line last season by recording 2.5 sacks and forcing a fumble. If he were to depart, New Orleans would need to find additional depth from somewhere.

If Cadet is not retained, he would be the second running back to leave the Saints after Pierre Thomas was cut earlier this week. Mark Ingram, who is an unrestricted free agent, could also sign with another team as early as Tuesday.

Cadet provided depth at running back, often serving behind Thomas as the third-down back or in passing situations. He caught 38 passes for 296 yards with a touchdown last season.

Saints Draft Prospects: Shaq Thompson could be a versatile weapon for Rob Ryan

BY CHRISTOPHER JASON

Shaq Thompson

Position: Linebacker
School: Washington
Height: 6-feet
Weight: 228 pounds

Shaq Thompson is the most versatile prospect in the 2015 NFL Draft. He recorded 81 tackles from his linebacker position and 456 rushing yards on offense for the University of Washington. Although he is undersized compared to other NFL outside linebackers, he is a pure playmaker who will succeed against today’s NFL offenses.

Thompson’s most sought after attribute will be his pass coverage skills. He has the ability to cover running backs out of the backfield or tight ends. He also excels in zone coverage and possesses very good football smarts, reading the quarterback and putting himself in the correct position to make plays in the passing game. I wish his athleticism was used more off of the edge and as a blitzer but his value as a coverage linebacker makes it tough to use him much as a pass rusher.

Thompson is undersized but he is very physical against the run. He makes quick decisions and plugs gaps swiftly but he sometimes has trouble getting off blocks. When watching him on tape, he is always around the football and never gives up on pursuing the ball carrier. He may have trouble against NFL linemen but he uses his athleticism and smarts to dissect plays quickly.

Not only does the Washington product excel on both defense and offense, but he is also a missile on the kickoff and punt coverage teams. Overall, Thompson is a big time playmaker who has the potential to be a four-down player in the NFL.

Where would he fit in New Orleans?

Weighing in at only 228 pounds, Thompson’s best fit would be at weakside linebacker in a 4-3 defense. Thompson’s size may force him to bulk up to defend the run better at the next level, but he would provide great pass coverage on tight ends and running backs. In my opinion, every team needs a versatile linebacker like Thompson in today’s pass-happy NFL and he would be used like a Swiss Army knife in Rob Ryan’s defense. He may not be a three-down linebacker right away, but he will provide an instant impact on third down and special teams.

Where could the Saints draft him?

A versatile player like Thompson is conveted by many teams, so the Saints would most likely have to use their first round selection on the former Washington Husky.

NFL Mock Draft: Saints select Brandon Scherff in Mel Kiper’s latest projection

It’s still impossible to know which way the Saints will look in the draft until the free agency period is over and we know which holes they need to fill.

But given how things currently stand, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. now believes the team will select Iowa offensive lineman Brandon Scherff.

In his latest mock draft, Kiper explains that he believe Scherff could be this year’s Zack Martin:

“I’ve said before I see Scherff as a high-floor addition on the offensive line, because even if he doesn’t stay at tackle I think he can become a dominant guard pretty early on. The player isn’t a facsimile, but you can make a comparison to how Dallas drafted Zack Martin and moved him inside as a rookie and saw him flourish; I think the Saints can count on immediate dividends from Scherff. He’s one of the more dominant run-blocking linemen we’ve seen in the draft in the past few years, and he brings experience and the ability to take on the job like a professional right away.”

Our thoughts on Scherff can be found here.

 

Jairus Byrd converts roster bonus to signing bonus

The Saints have cleared $4.8 million in cap space by tweaking Jairus Byrd’s contract.

The New Orleans safety converted his $6 million roster bonus to a signing bonus, spreading it out to hits of $1.2 million in each of the next five years, per NFLPA documents.

Byrd signed a six-year, $54 million contract to join the Saints last offseason after spending the first five years of his career in Buffalo.

His cap number for 2015 is now $5.5 million, down from $10.3 million.

The Saints are working to move money off the salary cap to get in compliance with league rules by March 10. The team needs to shed around $15 million more in salary.

New Orleans released running back Pierre Thomas on Wednesday to clear another $1.735 million from the cap.

Byrd suffered a torn meniscus in October that limited him to four games last season. He tweeted on Wednesday that he’s been cleared for action.

In a recent interview, Sean Payton said he expects Byrd to take part in minicamp.

ESPN’s Field Yates first reported the news on Byrd’s contract.

Making sense of the Pierre Thomas release

Who catches screen passes now?

That was the initial thought when news of Pierre Thomas’ release hit on Wednesday afternoon. The next thoughts were why Thomas and why now?

Let’s start with the second half of that equation first. Thomas was scheduled to count $2.565 million against the salary cap next season. It was a good bit of money, but it did not appear to be a wildly exorbitant figure on the surface.

Maybe it was a little inflated. Maybe it was too much. But there’s a part of it that is hard to understand. Thomas was still effective. He can play. He’ll hook on somewhere and continue to catch screen passes and fill a role and force you to appreciate all he brings to the field and locker room.

But these are the shrewd kind of moves that successful franchises make. Was money part of the equation? Probably. But a team that is $20-plus million over the cap doesn’t start making moves to get in compliance with league rules by cutting a player to create $1.7 million in cap space. They start by focusing in on bigger salaries and tighten the belt there.

And the fact is Thomas was overpaid. His cap charge might not look like much without context. It looks like too much when consider that he had the 21st-highest cap charge among running backs under contract entering Wednesday. Thomas is a good, important role player, but the value isn’t there when you look at it through this prism.

Thomas was still an effective runner, but he only logged 45 carries for 222 yards last season. He was marginalized in this regard. His primary value was as a receiver, where he caught 45 passes for 378 yards, placing him 10th among running backs.

The economics don’t add up. Injuries played a factor. Thomas was limited at times this season. But the harsh reality is that can’t you pay $2.565 million for 600 total yards over 11 games. There’s no way to justify it.

That brings the first question into play. The person who catches screen passes probably isn’t on the roster. Maybe it ends up being Travaris Cadet, who is an unrestricted free agent, but the guess here is that someone will be brought in to fill that role. Maybe it’s a rookie. Maybe it’s not.

But by releasing Thomas, the Saints at least gave themselves the flexibility to explore both options. That $1.7 million likely doesn’t sign a stud, but maybe the team frees up a little more space and can throw a little bit more money on top and sign someone like Shane Vereen, the New England running back who logged 447 receiving yards and rushed for 391 more.

He’s younger and is the kind of player who can dictate individual matchups the way Darren Sproles once did. As talented as Thomas is, he did not have that kind of impact on defenses in New Orleans. Whoever it is, this player will fill an important void. Quarterback Drew Brees loves the screen pass and Thomas played a major part in him completing 29 of his 32 screen passes thrown to running backs last season.

One of the questions that many fans asked after Thomas’ release became public was whether this meant Mark Ingram would definitely be back. The easy answer is that any additional money saved at the running back position has to be good for his prospects of returning.

But the other part of that equation is that Ingram did not play the same position as Thomas. Sure, they’re both running backs. But Ingram is paid to move the chains on the ground and grind out difficult yards. Thomas was asked to catches passes and run sweeps.

Sometimes their responsibilities overlapped and resided in a grey area. They are both running backs, but their job descriptions are vastly different. Maybe the next guys does it all. Who knows, but if Ingram comes back then someone who can catch passes will be needed.

The other thing people pointed to was that the Saints were parting ways with another leader. I did it in my news story on the transaction. It seems hypocritical for the team to cut ties with another respected player after saying a lack of leadership is what sunk the team last year.

But it’s foolish to say a team should keep a player around because he’s a good leader unless he literally can inspire his teammates to reach levels no one else can get them to reach. Those guys are few and far between. To keep a guy on the roster he has to be able to produce and do so at a level that matches up with his salary.

If he can meet that criteria, then he can lead whoever he wants. If he can’t, then it’s time to go.

That’s the way it is. It might seem harsh, but championships are won by teams that make harsh decisions. Those who get caught up in sentimentality and feelings suffer disappointment.

Even after working through all of this, there are aspects of the move that are difficult to process. But you have to believe there is a bigger plan that will soon unfold. All you can do is trust the process.

Source: Saints inform Pierre Thomas of release

The first cap casualty of the offseason has arrived.

The New Orleans Saints informed Pierre Thomas of his release Wednesday, according to a source. The move has not yet been posted on the league’s official transactions since Thomas did not take his exit physical in time.

In a message posted to Instagram, Thomas said his farewells to the city, his fans, and teammates.

“I want to thank the New Orleans Saints organization, all my coaches, my teammates, and the Who Dat Nation for an amazing adventure,” he wrote. “I have so many wonderful memories I will never forget. I am thankful to have spent the past 8 years in the great city of New Orleans!

“As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end but I’m not done yet.”

Releasing Thomas, 30, will save the Saints $1.735 million against the salary cap. The team needs to trim around $20 million more by March 10.

Battling injuries last season, Thomas rushed for 222 yards on 45 carries and caught 45 passes for 378 yards. His rushing total was the lowest mark of his eight-year career.

Thomas signed a three-year, $6.9 million contract last offseason that saved New Orleans $1.33 million against the 2014 cap. By releasing Thomas, the Saints will carry $830,000 in dead money next season.

Thomas joined the Saints as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Illinois in 2007. He’s amassed 3,745 rushing yards and 2,608 receiving yards over his career.

In the run to Super Bowl XLVI, Thomas amassed 98 total yards and scored two touchdowns in the NFC Championship game against the Minnesota Vikings. He then scored a touchdown and collected 85 total yards in the Super Bowl against Indianapolis, helping the Saints to a 31-17 win.

Guard Jahri Evans, wide receiver Marcus Colston, punter Thomas Morstead, quarterback Drew Brees, and tackle Zach Strief are the only members of the Super Bowl team still under contract.
Center Jonathan Goodwin and wide receiver Robert Meachem are set to reach free agency.

How the Saints move forward at running back remains to be seen. If a deal is not reached by Saturday, Mark Ingram can begin negotiating with other teams and sign with one as soon as March 10.

The team currently only has Khiry Robinson, Tim Hightower, who was signed to a prove-it deal earlier this offseason after being sidelined since 2011 with knee injuries, and Edwin Baker under contract. Travaris Cadet is a restricted free agent.

The biggest impact of Thomas’ release will likely come in the screen-passing game, where Brees completed 29-of-32 passes to running backs last season for 220 yards with one touchdown.
This isn’t a new position for the Saints. While many of the moves were the result of injuries or ineffectiveness, the team parted ways with Jon Vilma, Will Smith, Roman Harper, Jabari Greer, Darren Sproles, and Lance Moore last offseason. Some of those moves were made to simply create cap space.

And Thomas is likely only the first domino to fall this offseason.

The team also has to make decisions on players like Evans ($11 million) and fellow guard Ben Grubbs ($9.6 million), Colston ($9.7 million), and linebacker David Hawthorne ($6.01 million), who all carry large cap figures

According to an NFL Network report, the Saints have also began shopping linebacker Curtis Lofton, who counts $9.25 million against the 2015 cap.

If the Saints find a trade partner, the team would carry $5 million in dead money on the books.

If Lofton isn’t traded, his deal carries a $4.5 million roster bonus, which could be converted to a signing bonus. Doing so would save $3 million against the 2015 cap.

When asked recently if he would be willing to re-work his current deal to help the team save some money, Lofton, who recorded 145 tackles last season, responded by saying, “It depends.”

Another report indicated New Orleans is also shopping pass rusher Junior Galette, though it could be difficult to find a trade partner since $11.75 million of his salary for 2015 would transfer to the new team. The Saints would carry only $3.7 million in dead money.

Releasing Thomas and Lofton is an interesting development since Saints coach Sean Payton recently told Pro Football Talk that he felt a lack of leadership contributed to the team struggling to a 7-9 finish last season.

“I think the price of that experience and leadership hurt us some,” Payton said, referencing the veteran players cut last offseason. “I think there’s going to have to be a few guys we look at in free agency. I also think we have a good, young nucleus of players, a good locker room, by and large. And yet you can never take that for granted.”
Thomas, who was one of the team’s leaders, was a major part of that nucleus. Now the Saints not only have to replace his production, they’ll need to find a way to fill the void in leadership.

Saints are ‘shopping’ Curtis Lofton, according to report

The Saints are reportedly looking to part ways with Curtis Lofton.

New Orleans is apparently  “shopping” last year’s leading tackler, linebacker Curtis Lofton, according to NFL Network.

It’s a surprising report considering that Lofton was one of the better performers on defense, but the team needs to clear nearly $22 million in salary by Friday’s deadline and Lofton is due to count $9.25 million against the cap in 2015.

 

More to come…

 

Saints draft prospects: Benardrick McKinney is an intriguing linebacker

Benardrick McKinney

Position: Linebacker
School: Mississippi St.
Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 246 pounds

McKinney is a big dude. It doesn’t take long to locate him on the field. He’s the one casting shadows on everyone around him.

Watching him move, it’s easy to see why people are excited about him. He’s quick for his size and knows how to get around the field. It’s not uncommon to see him drop back in coverage and then close in on a screen pass. And he can hit in open space.

But watching McKinney, I found myself conflicted. There were moments where I was completely smitten by him, stretches where I was turned off, and other moments when I almost forgot I was watching him because he disappeared for stretches.

You can see where he could become a complete force for a defense. He has the potential to be the kind of linebacker who could transform a defense by simply being all over the field. He has the sideline-to-sideline ability the Saints lack. You can imagine him being coached up to be better in coverage and developing better recognition skills. Coming from New England before I arrived here, there were moments when I pictured Jamie Collins. Every defense needs that kind of player.

But the other side of that is maybe he doesn’t get better. Maybe all the false steps he takes and moments when you question his instincts are part of his DNA. For his size, you’d also like to see him be more aggressive and violent in traffic. There were many moments where he almost took a finesse approach.

If the team that drafts McKinney can’t coach these things away, he will still be a good player, but he might not develop into a star.

Where would he fit in New Orleans?

Anywhere, really. McKinney appears to have the ability to play any linebacker spot. Assuming he develops, he could be a three-down player at either inside or outside linebacker. It’s difficult to put him into a specific role since the rumor mill is reaching out and touching so many players at this position, but defensive coordinator Rob Ryan could plug him in anywhere.

Where could the Saints draft him?

The first round seems too high. If the Saints want him, they’ll have to hope he slides into the second round. At that point, the value would make sense.

DT Kendall Langford has visit scheduled with Saints

The Saints are starting to get active in free agency.

The team has scheduled a visit with former Rams defensive tackle Kendall Langford, who is getting a fair amount of attention since being released by St. Louis last week.

Langford, 29, met with Detroit on Tuesday and has an upcoming visit schedule with the New York Jets. He will then meet with New Orleans, according to ESPN.

Langford has recorded 15.5 career sacks and 242 tackles over seven seasons split between the Miami Dolphins and St. Louis. His best season came in 2013 when he recorded five sacks and 49 tackles.

Known more for his run defense, Langford recorded 13 run stuffs last season playing behind rookie defensive tackle Aaron Donald. he played 494 of 1,078 snaps for St. Louis.

Langford is free to sign with any team, so if his visit in New York goes well, he might not make it to New Orleans.

The Saints currently have Akiem Hicks, Brodrick Bunkley and John Jenkins under contract at defensive tackle.

New Orleans needs to shed an estimated $21.9 million in salary by Friday to be in compliance with the league’s salary cap.