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Saints rookie Daniel Lasco trying to soak up experience of veteran running back room

BERKELEY, CA - September 12, 2015: The Cal Bears Football team vs the San Diego State Aztecs at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California. Final score, Cal Bears 35, San Diego State Aztecs 7.

BERKELEY, CA – September 12, 2015: The Cal Bears Football team vs the San Diego State Aztecs at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California. Final score, Cal Bears 35, San Diego State Aztecs 7.

Daniel Lasco‘s first few days as a New Orleans Saint were a little different than the other rookies.

Lasco, the Saints’ seventh-round pick out of California, is the only rookie halfback on the roster. Undrafted fullback Sione Houma is the only other rookie in Lasco’s position group, and the pair play different positions.

The rookie sees it as an opportunity.

“It’s kind of like the first day of school, and you’re the freshman at a big campus,” Lasco said. “There’s a lot of knowledge and experience in front of you, and you’ve just got to go out and reach and grab all the things that they know.”

Lasco feels a little surreal sharing a room with Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller and Tim Hightower.

Even the hallway can give him goosebumps. Shortly after he arrived, he ran into Drew Brees, and the quarterback walked up and introduced himself.

As if Lasco, a self-professed Saints fan, didn’t already know who he was.

Now, with the Saints’ first organized team activities set to start on Wednesday, Lasco is excited to start learning from the veterans on the field, not just in the classroom.

“The competition is a lot different,” Lasco said. “I’m excited to take the next step and see what the veterans , see what it’s like going against veteran defenses. They’re more technical, and more fluid; I want to see how that flows.”

Saints waive long snapper Chris Highland

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The New Orleans Saints have waived long snapper Chris Highland, making a move to offset the signing of veteran wide receiver Vincent Brown.

Highland, who parlayed a veteran minicamp tryout into a contract and a shot in training camp last season when veteran Justin Drescher was injured, had been brought back at the beginning of May.

But the Saints identified undrafted Air Force tight end Garrett Griffin at rookie minicamp, and the former Falcon is expected to join New Orleans as soon as the Air Force grants him a release to play.

If the Air Force allows Griffin to join the Saints, New Orleans will have to make one more move to get down to the 90-man roster limit.

David Onyemata contract details

Here are the contract details on the four-year, $2.82 million deal signed by David Onyemata, according to a source:

2016
Base salary: $450,000
Split: $333,000
Signing bonus (prorated): $135,586 ($542,344 total)

2017
Base salary: $540,000
Split: $363,000
Signing bonus (prorated): $135,586

2018
Base salary: $630,000
Signing bonus (prorated): $135,586

2019
Base salary: $720,000
Signing bonus (prorated): $135,586

Source: Saints sign veteran wide receiver Vincent Brown

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The New Orleans Saints will sign veteran receiver Vincent Brown, a source confirmed to The Advocate on Monday.

Brown, 27, has spent five seasons in the NFL, including four with the San Diego Chargers, the team that drafted him out of San Diego State with a third-round pick in 2011.

The Saints brought in Brown, along with three other veteran receivers — Hakeem Nicks, Denarius Moore and Nathan Palmer — for a workout last week.

A 5-11, 190-pound target, Brown missed all of 2012 with a broken ankle, then put together his best season in 2013 by making 41 catches for 472 yards and a touchdown.

After that season, Brown signed a one-year deal with Oakland, but he only spent one year with the Raiders and then went back to San Diego for a one-game cameo last season.

By signing Brown, the Saints added a veteran who can compete for a roster spot in one of the youngest position groups on the team.

New Orleans has a solid nucleus in Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, Michael Thomas and Brandon Coleman, but none of the four have more than two seasons in the NFL under their belt, and Brown has a chance to compete for a roster spot with the group of undrafted free agents the Saints have assembled behind the top four at the position.

But there are no guarantees. New Orleans carried only four receivers on the 53-man roster last season, although they have carried as many as six in the past.

Saints mailbag: Will Garrett Grayson be the future quarterback?

We’re going to start this off with a bit of a rant.

Do you see Grayson as the Saints future QB?@Jkdewitt

I get asked about Garrett Grayson all the time. I’ll admit that it gets a bit frustrating constantly telling people to wait and see. I know this has nothing to do with what you’re asking, @jkdewitt, but I need this moment to get this off my chest.

Here we go …

People want their teams to draft and develop players, right? That’s all I hear during draft season. Then when a team drafts a player they want to develop, suddenly everyone wants him to be a Day 1 NFL starter. That’s just not real life for most of the players selected in the draft.

And yet, for some reason, the narrative surrounding Grayson has been one of panic since the day he was picked. Why? Drew Brees is under contract. The Saints don’t need a starter right now. Grayson is someone the team believes has potential and wants to groom him for a few years to see where he’s at down the road.

I read tweets during last training camp (!) about how the Saints should get rid of Grayson. I’m not an NFL scout, but he never looked that bad to me. He looked like a rookie. He made mistakes. He was in his first camp. He was still learning. There were highs. There were lows. It was exactly how you would have expected him to look.

Keep in mind that this system was designed and has evolved over the last 10 years to suit a quarterback who will end up in the Hall of Fame,  not a guy coming out of a Colorado State. It’s like asking a first-year law student to pass the bar after handing him a syllabus on the first day of class.

We still haven’t seen what Grayson looks like with a command for the offense, when he can work through his reads without thinking about his reads. Let’s judge him after seeing that.

I don’t know if it was a bad sign that Grayson wasn’t named the immediate option when it was speculated Brees could miss time late last season. I don’t know if it’s a bad sign that Luke McCown was brought back this offseason.

What I do know is that there was a plan to develop Grayson. Had the opportunity materialized, I’m not sure that abandoning the red shirt last year and throwing him to the wolves would have been the right decision — especially not for a player who plays a position where confidence is so important. Is it worth risking failure when there’s a long-term vision?

The other part of that: No one knows for sure who would have started if Brees was unavailable. Maybe it would have been Grayson. Maybe it wouldn’t have. Either way, it’s a stretch to assume a decision either way would have meant something greater in the grand scheme.

So, what about the future? Will he beat out McCown this summer? Does it matter if he beats out McCown? Will he be the next quarterback? Will he get cut? I don’t know. No one does.

We need to see this camp and preseason. And even then, we might not have all the answers on this topic. Grayson needs time to grow.

Besides, Brees is still under contract for 2016. The Saints didn’t draft another quarterback. Nothing can be done right now. There’s no reason to rush to conclusions before we have the information needed to reach one.

OK, I’m good. Let’s get into the rest of the mailbag.

Why are we so acceptant of Drew’s salary-cap cost?@RickeyP11

I don’t think I’m really acceptant of it. I only speak for myself, but I’m not a big fan of kicking the can down the line. But I think, at least for now, considering the situation of recent seasons as well as this one, you just have to turn a blind eye to it for now.

The good news is that they haven’t done anything too ridiculous with the major moves this offseason. Terron Armstead’s contract is relatively flat after this season. He has a $5 million roster bonus, which could be converted to a signing bonus next year. That would pump his cap hits up around $15 million in 2019 and 2020.

Hopefully, the team sticks to a path of more responsible spending and contract structures. It’s easy to act like the cap doesn’t exist, but you’ll eventually run into issues. The problem isn’t just Brees’ cap number. That’s just the most visible symptom of a series of decisions that led to this.

Do you think Michael Thomas will break out like Odell Beckham in his rookie year?@Cheeseballs2k

So, we’re just setting the bar at one of the best rookie seasons of all time? No, pressure, Mike.

Beckham caught 91 passes for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns over 12 games that season. That’s 108.8 yards per game. The Saints have never had a receiver average more than 81.9 yards per game with Brees at quarterback.

I’ll let Thomas surprise me if that happens.

Is Cadet on the fringe again because of the excess at running back?@Midel_Castro

I think he was going to have to win his job no matter what. But drafting Daniel Lasco is another obstacle for him to overcome.

I like Cadet a lot. I thought it was a mistake when they let him get away. I never expected him to perform as well as he did at the end of the season, but he’s obviously a great fit for this system.

I know it will come back to haunt me — it still bothers me that I was SO wrong about him last year — but I still think C.J. Spiller can be a good player for this team.

Everything I said last year is still true. Theoretically speaking, Spiller has the skills to succeed in this offense. Sean Payton has displayed time and time again he knows how to use those kinds of players.

Having said that, I think Cadet showed he’s solid insurance in the event things don’t work out with the other players on the roster.

Do you see Fairley and Rankins taking over as the starting defensive tackles?@Wonton_Robin

This was followed up with another Tweet explaining that the logic behind the thinking was to get the four best players on the line.

I get it. Put the best players on the field and let them succeed, even if someone isn’t in their natural position. It’s the same thing we’ve been talking about here by suggesting that Andrus Peat could play at guard next season.

But I struggle to envision Fairley or Rankins playing a position other than three-technique defensive tackle. That would put John Jenkins and Tyeler Davison at the nose in base. That makes more sense to me.

Rankins did a lot of different thinks at Louisville, but he’s here because of his ability to rush the passer. I’m not sure Fairley has ever played nose. It’s hard to know if he’s suited for it.

I think by taking either of those guys and dropping them at nose it would take away from their ability to get after the passer. I can’t see it right now.

But I’ve been wrong before. I’m the guy who hyped up Spiller like he was going to be Marshall Faulk. By the way, I’m sorry for ruining your fantasy football teams. One of my editors here still hasn’t forgiven me.

Would the Saints ever consider putting Unger at Guard if Jack Allen looks good? I know it would be asking a lot of Allen.@EdTostevin

I think the Saints would consider doing whatever they think is the best thing for the team. But you said it; that’s asking a lot of Allen. He’s an undrafted player. Those guys aren’t guaranteed to stick around.

We’re talking about a guy who was in the Pro Bowl a couple of years ago as a center. I think that’s Unger’s best position, and it would take a monstrous performance for this to even become a consideration.

This is another one that I don’t see happening.

Do you think the Saints carry a fullback this year or an extra tight end?@RobertFouquet

I thought the Saints were moving away from the position last year by using Michael Hoomanawanui in a lot of packages where a fullback previously played. Then the fullback came back, and the Saints added an undrafted player at the position.

I’m not sure Payton will ever fully move away from the position. He likes having those guys around. And he knows how to use them to his advantage in the passing game.

There are going to be six or seven plays every year where he’ll sneak a fullback out of the backfield and get him wide open in the flat for a reception.

New Orleans will keep whatever player will bring more value to the team, but it will be hard for Payton to give up on fullbacks.

Pick one player for the Saints that becomes a Top 10 player at his position and one player to stay healthy all year?@Thaidai3

Easy. Delvin Breaux. Take out three plays from last season (slips against the Colts and the play where he got lost in the lights) and the rest of the country isn’t sleeping on this guy.

I don’t know about staying healthy, but James Laurinaitis doesn’t miss snaps. I’m convinced he’d have to lose a leg to miss any action.

What two players do you see making the biggest jump on both offense and defense?  — @AndrewHogue1

That’s tough to answer on offense. Even though I think Brandin Cooks will continue to improve, he’s already a star. It would be cheating to select him. Everyone else is already well established.

Whether he’s the third or fourth receiver, I think that Brandon Coleman will continue to improve. Something clicked for him late last year with Marques Colston out and I think he’s ready to contribute in a more substantial way.

On defense, I’m going to go with Hau’oli Kikaha. I think the Saints are going to use him in ways that will better suit his skills. I also think he’ll have more opportunities to contribute after disappearing down the stretch last year, which was in part due to an ankle injury.

Does the addition of Vonn Bell take less off of the plate of a Kenny Vaccaro and let him play a little more loose next season?@JDayErrday

I don’t know how much it will directly impact Vaccaro. He was already playing in the box and close to the line of scrimmage most of the time last year. I think he’ll continue doing those things, though his role could change a little bit.

I think it will more impact the safety position. The Saints might use more two-high looks, with Bell and Jairus Byrd splitting the field.

Saints lock up rookie class by signing David Onyemata

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The New Orleans Saints’ rookie class is signed, sealed and delivered.

New Orleans announced the signing of fourth-round pick David Onyemata on Wednesday, locking up the fifth and final draft pick of the 2016 draft class.

Onyemata, the Lagos, Nigeria native who moved to Canada and played at the University of Manitoba, was also selected in the fourth round of the CFL draft by the Saskatchewan Roughriders last week.

But he was always expected to sign with the Saints. Onyemata shares an agent with Saints head coach Sean Payton, and the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement spells out how much each draft pick will get paid, essentially taking the drama out of it.

“I think it shouldn’t be a long process,” Payton said at the team’s rookie minicamp on Saturday.

Sources: Saints working out several veteran receivers Wednesday

Nicks

The New Orleans Saints are working out a group of veteran wide receivers on Wednesday, according to multiple sources and ESPN.

Multiple sources told The Advocate that former Giants star Hakeem Nicks, former Chargers receiver Vincent Brown and former Broncos and Colts receiver Nathan Palmer are working out for the Saints.

ESPN has also reported that New Orleans is taking a look at former Raiders receiver Denarius Moore.

Nicks, who is trying to revive a career derailed at one time by injuries, tried out for the Saints last September before finishing the season in New York, where he caught seven passes in six games.

Brown, who sandwiched three years in San Diego around a season in Oakland, has caught 73 career passes, and Palmer has bounced around the NFL, playing on the practice squads of six teams over a 4-year span in addition to active duty in Indianapolis and Denver.

Saints cut kicker Josh Scobee and waive tackle Bryan Witzmann

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The New Orleans Saints cut veteran kicker Josh Scobee and waived tackle Bryan Witzmann on Tuesday in moves designed to keep the team at the 90-man roster limit.

Scobee, who spent 11 years in Jacksonville, was initially signed in the offseason to provide competition for incumbent kicker Kai Forbath.

The former Louisiana Tech kicker arrived in New Orleans after a short stint with Pittsburgh ended after four games last season, and Scobee was hopeful he’d get a chance to compete with Forbath in training camp when he played in the Saints Celebrity Golf Classic on Monday.

“With experience comes a lot of good things and some bad things,” Scobee said. “Sometimes you get some bad things that happen to you that are tough to forget, but fortunately, I’ve had some good things happen to me in my career that I’m going to draw on here.”

New Orleans tried out long-time Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Connor Barth, former Detroit Lions kicker Nate Freese and undrafted rookie Anthony Pistelli at their minicamp over the weekend, but the Saints have not signed any of the three so far.

For the moment, Forbath is the only kicker on the Saints’ roster, but New Orleans has made a move at kicker after its rookie minicamp before. Last year, the Saints signed Zach Hocker and cut incumbent Shayne Graham in the days after the rookie minicamp.

Witzmann, an undrafted player out of South Dakota State last season, spent the end of the season on the practice squad, but New Orleans added former Vikings sixth-round pick Tyrus Thompson after the team’s rookie minicamp on Sunday.

Tight end Garrett Griffin will need permission from the Air Force to play for Saints

The current plan for Garrett Griffin is for him to finish classes and then join the New Orleans Saints after hooking on with the team following a tryout at last week’s rookie minicamp.

There’s only one issue. He needs the approval of the Air Force before he knows if he can pursue his football career.

The tight end has a commitment to the Air Force, and he’s hoping to know within a week if he will be ruled a reserve, which would then allow him to play for the Saints, according to a source. The other possibility is that Griffin will be called back by the Air Force in August and his football career will be put on hold.

There is recent precedent for the Air Force to sign off on Griffin playing for the Saints. United States Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced last week that former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds will be allowed to play after the Baltimore Ravens used a sixth-round pick on him, and Mabus also cleared Navy graduate Joe Cardona to return to the New England Patriots.

Saints waive QB Griffin Neal and DB Michael Caputo

Griffin Neal’s storybook rise with the Saints has come to an end.

The former Division III quarterback who spent last season playing in Germany, was among the a group of players waived by the Saints following rookie minicamp.

New Orleans also let go of safety Mike Caputo and wide receiver Shayne Winn.

The team also signed linebacker Tony Steward, bringing the total to five new additions following this weekend’s rookie minicamp after also signing wide receiver Jake Lampman, tackle Tyrus Thompson, cornerback Jimmy Pruitt and tight end Garrett Griffin.

The team must part ways with two more players.

Steward, a product of Clemson, spent last season with the Buffalo Bills and appeared in seven games. He finished with two tackles.

Neal signed with the Saints after catching the eye of the team at Tulane’s Pro Day. He told The Advocate over the weekend that he had some trouble calling plays in the huddle but felt as if he were starting to settle in.

Caputo signed with the Saints as an undrafted player out of Wisconsin earlier this month. He received a $3,000 signing bonus.