NFL Team Report - New Orleans Saints - INSIDE SLANT
Years from now, Saints officials may look back on the second night of the 2013 NFL draft and consider it one of their finest hours -- or at least one-third of one.
Of course, everyone knows there are no guarantees in the NFL when it comes to the draft.
But what the Saints were able to accomplish in a short amount of time in the third round last Friday night could serve them well for years considering they addressed needs on the offensive and defensive lines.
Saints coach Sean Payton said one of their goals going into the draft was to go big, which they did when they dipped into two of the deepest areas of the draft -- tackle and defensive tackle.
One night after getting versatile safety Kenny Vaccaro with the 15th overall pick in the first round, a selection that filled a need to upgrade the back end of the secondary, the Saints went for tackle Terron Armstead and defensive tackle John Jenkins.
It's how they got them both that the Saints were pleased about as the 6-5, 306-pound Armstead was chosen with their own third-round pick -- No. 75 overall -- after they didn't have a second-round selection.
Minutes later, the Saints completed a deal that sent veteran running back Chris Ivory to the New York Jets for a fourth-round pick. The Saints then packaged that pick (No. 106) with their own selection (No. 109) to get the 82nd overall pick to choose the 6-4, 359-pound Jenkins.
"We wanted to become bigger and we had that opportunity," Payton said of Armstead and Jenkins, who may not start right away but will be counted on to shore up the offensive and defensive lines.
Armstead, who could get a chance to replace two-time Pro Bowl pick Jermon Bushrod at left tackle, soared up the draft boards over the last three months despite not getting a lot of attention until late January when he stood out in the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl.
One of the things that caught the eyes of scouts was his quickness when he posted a time of 4.71 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine -- reportedly the fastest ever for an offensive lineman at the Combine.
Jenkins was regarded as a solid run-stopper in the middle during his two seasons at Georgia after dominating the competition at Gulf Coast (Miss.) Community College.
The Saints, who ranked last in the NFL in allowing 147.6 rushing yards per game last season, could use someone to plug up the middle in the new 3-4 defense that Rob Ryan is installing.
The Saints wrapped up the draft by selecting wide receiver Kenny Stills Jr. in the fifth round and took defensive end Rufus Johnson from Division II Tarleton State, whom they project as a pass-rushing outside linebacker.
NFL Team Report - New Orleans Saints - NOTES, QUOTES
--Tulane quarterback Ryan Griffin was among 13 players who agreed to contract terms with the Saints after the completion of the NFL draft on April 27.
The 6-5, 206-pound Griffin started 39 games at Tulane. He completed 836 of 1,396 pass attempts for 9,026 yards with 79 touchdowns and 35 interceptions and set career records for attempts, completions and completion percentage,
Also agreeing to terms were linebackers Eric Martin, Kevin Reddick, Rayford Shipman and Chase Thomas; defensive end Glenn Foster; tight ends Josh Hill and Keavon Milton; guard Tim Lelito; cornerbacks Ryan Lacy and Rod Sweeting; running back Shawne Alston; and center Elliot Mealer.
They, along with the five players the Saints selected in the draft and a select group of other free agents, will participate in the team's rookie minicamp to be held May 10-12.
--ESPN.com reported last week that $2.6 million of Saints strong safety Roman Harper's 2013 salary became guaranteed on the third day of the league year.
Harper is scheduled to earn $5.25 million in base salary this year, plus another $100,000 roster bonus. The fact that he's guaranteed half of that makes it unlikely that the Saints will release the eight-year veteran.
Speculation quickly arose about Harper's future with the team after they selected Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro with the 15th overall pick of the draft. Vaccaro started games at both free and strong safety in college.
Harper has a cap figure of $7.1 million for this season including his base salary, roster bonus and a $1.75 million pro-rated portion of the signing bonus from the four-year contract he signed in 2011.
--Saints coach Sean Payton told state legislators Tuesday he's happy to be back after his season-long bounty suspension when he swung by the State Capitol to lunch with legislators and visit each chamber.
The state Senate congratulated him on his return as the Saints' head coach. Wearing a jacket and tie, Payton stood quietly while a long proclamation in his honor was read.
"After that prayer and introduction, it's time for dinner," the coach joked.
From the Senate, Payton crossed the hall over to the House, where business came to a halt as legislators posed for photos with Payton and tweeted the images to followers.
--The first player to sign with the Saints after the club's return to the city after Hurricane Katrina, linebacker Scott Fujita, signed a one-day contract with the team on April 22 and retired from professional football.
Fujita, 33, spent the most productive years of an 11-year NFL career with the Saints from 2006 to 2009, helping the team win Super Bowl XLIV after the 2009 season before signing with the Cleveland Browns.
"I've been fortunate to play in this league for a long time and for some great organizations, but there is no doubt that my times spent in New Orleans were some of the best years of my life," Fujita said in a statement released by the team.
"The way the team and community embraced us when we first arrived, and the way they continue to do so, even today, shows how deep this connection is. I'm honored to be a part of this organization and so proud to retire as a New Orleans Saint."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It just became a position where we had a lot of depth. We were clearly ready to move forward with the current depth at running back. That was one spot where we had a little more depth than others." -- Saints coach Sean Payton, on trading running back Chris Ivory.
NFL Team Report - New Orleans Saints - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
A closer look at the Saints' picks:
Round 1/15 -- Kenny Vaccaro, S, 6-0, 214, Texas
Even though they wanted a playmaking outside linebacker, the Saints didn't mind when the versatile Vaccaro slipped to them at No. 15. He'll likely get a shot at playing time in the secondary early.
Round 3/75 -- Terron Armstead, T, 6-5, 304, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Armstead was viewed as one of the biggest risers in the draft and the Saints agreed, getting him in the third round even though they had a second-round grade on him because of his size and athleticism.
Round 3/82 -- John Jenkins, DT, 6-4, 359, Georgia
The Saints traded two fourth-round picks to get back into the third round to take this massive space-eater. Jenkins is agile for a big man and should get an early shot at helping at nose in the new 3-4 scheme.
Round 5/144 -- Kenny Stills Jr., WR, 6-0, 194, Oklahoma
While they weren't necessarily looking for a wideout going into the draft, the Saints couldn't pass up on a productive receiver with 4.38 speed who caught 204 passes and 24 touchdowns at Oklahoma.
Round 6/183 -- Rufus Johnson, OLB, 6-5, 272, Tarleton State
An unknown going into the draft because he played at a Division II school, the Saints like the pass-rushing Johnson for his length and 4.72 speed and plan to turn him into a outside linebacker.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (5)
--DT Sedrick Ellis, a top-10 draft pick in 2008, hasn't shown much in the past three seasons and may want money than the Saints are willing to pay.
--WR Devery Henderson has seen his role diminished and likely won't be back with Joseph Morgan developing into Brees' new deep threat.
--CB Elbert Mack was released several times during the season, but had some moments in the nickel and may or may not be re-signed.
--T William Robinson was a fill-in because of injuries last season, but could be re-signed.
--LB Scott Shanle, a six-year starter, was a healthy inactive for much of the second half of the season and likely won't be offered a new deal.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
--S Rafael Bush: Potential ERFA; $555,000/1 yr.
--C Brian de la Puente: RFAa tendered at $2.023M with second-round pick as compensation; $2.023M/1 yr.
--LS Justin Drescher: Not tendered as RFA; 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Junior Galette: Potential RFA; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--TE Michael Higgins: Potential ERFA: $555,000/1 yr.
--LB Ramon Humber: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--LB Will Herring: FA, had been released by Saints; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--G Eric Olsen: Potential ERFA; $555,000/1 yr.
--WR Courtney Roby: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--LB Victor Butler: UFA Cowboys; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--DE Kenyon Coleman: UFA Cowboys; terms unknown.
--S Jim Leonhard: UFA Broncos; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--CB Keenan Lewis: UFA Steelers; $26M/5 yrs, $6M SB/$11M guaranteed.
--QB Luke McCown: UFA Falcons; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DE Jay Richardson: FA: $715,000/1 yr.
--T Jason Smith: FA Jets; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--QB Seneca Wallace: FA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--TE Benjamin Watson: UFA Browns; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--T Jermon Bushrod: UFA Bears; $36M/5 yrs, $11M SB/$17.715M guaranteed.
--LB Jonathan Casillas: UFA Buccaneers; $3M/1 yr.
--QB Chase Daniel: UFA Chiefs; $10M/3 yrs, $3M SB/$4.8M guaranteed.
--RB Chris Ivory: RFA tendered at $2.023M with second-round pick as compensation; $2.023M/1 yr, then traded to New Orleans.
--DE Turk McBride: UFA Bears; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--CB Johnny Patrick (released)
--TE David Thomas (released)