Jared Cook Jersey

Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is upset about losing veteran Jared Cook in free agency.

Per Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Gruden called it “sickening” to lose his starting tight end.

Cook finalized an agreement with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday, per the team’s official website.

Cook spent the past two seasons with the Raiders and was one of the few bright spots for them in 2018. He was named to his first Pro Bowl after setting career highs with 68 receptions, 896 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

Even though Cook’s agreement with the Saints wasn’t final until Tuesday, he seemed to be anticipating a departure from the Raiders last week.

The 10-year veteran posted a goodbye message to the Raiders and their fans on Instagram on Friday: “I appreciate the love and support always. Yal rock wit me tough. … To my fam in the Bay Love and thank you mucho! Save me a plate.”

Oakland has spent this offseason rebuilding its passing game by acquiring Antonio Brown from the Pittsburgh Steelers and signing Tyrell Williams.

The Raiders will have a chance to add a tight end in April’s NFL draft in Nashville, Tennessee, with three first-round picks. Darren Waller could also see an increased role after appearing in four games last season.

The New Orleans Saints and tight end Jared Cook agreed to terms on a contract, the team announced Tuesday.

Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Cook will make $15.5 million over two years with $8 million guaranteed in 2019.

Cook, a third-round pick of the Tennessee Titans in the 2009 NFL draft, was almost perennially viewed as a breakout candidate across the first eight years of his career, which included stops with the St. Louis Rams and Green Bay Packers in addition to his four seasons with the Titans.

Although the 31-year-old University of South Carolina product often failed to live up to expectations in those stops, he found a comfort zone with the Oakland Raiders over the past two seasons.

That includes his long-awaited breakout campaign in 2018 as he posted career-high totals in receptions (68), receiving yards (896) and touchdowns (six) while playing all 16 games.

Cook jokingly sidestepped a question in December about whether he’d like to stay with the Raiders with the potential of a big payday looming as an unrestricted free agent.

“Yeah, of course,” he told reporters. “I mean, who don’t want a job? You don’t want a job next year?”

In all, Cook has tallied 425 catches for 5,464 yards and 25 scores across 149 appearances.

Ultimately, he took the opportunity to cash in on his strong season with the Raiders. Now the pressure is on him to replicate that type of production within the Saints’ offense.
Cook should slot in as the team’s No. 3 target behind wide receivers Michael Thomas and Tre’Quan Smith. Running back Alvin Kamara is also a major pass-catching threat out of the backfield, which could limit his overall numbers.

On second thought, O.K., I guess that’s kind of stating the obvious. I should probably start this article with something more provocative. But you’ll have to forgive me. I really am just now starting to notice the cold. For me, this is a big deal. Usually, around this time of year, I’m somewhere warm.

Usually, right around now, I’m on vacation.

An NFL season lasts 17 weeks. Seventeen weeks. Depending on where you’re coming from, that can either sound like a very short or very long time. I’ve heard guys talk about it like it’s “only” 17 weeks. And then I’ve heard other guys talk about it like 17 weeks is forever. Throughout my career, I’ve always envied that first group — because I know what it means.

If the season is flying by for you, that means you’re winning.

My teams haven’t done a lot of winning in previous years in the league. I’ve had those seasons of six, seven, eight wins. You’re reading this, so you probably follow football — and as an NFL fan, you know what I’m talking about. Those 6–10 seasons when you’re trying to stay optimistic … and you’re giving it your all … but by around Week 12, when you’re sitting there, 4–8, and looking up at the top of the division like it’s on the moon … you know it’s over. No division chase. No wild-card chase. No playoffs. And really, once December hits, no meaningful football. And still, you give it your all, and you’re out there competing. Because it’s what you do. But, man, it’s tough. It’s tough not putting together a winning season after fighting with your teammates in the trenches all year.

Those are some brutal winters.

I’m a family man — my family means everything to me. And the only possible silver lining of missing the playoffs all of those years was that I knew I’d get to spend more time with my wife and my kids. So, right around the end of December, once my teams were out of contention, my wife and I would go ahead and start planning our vacation. Vacation — sounds great, right? But it was always bittersweet. It not only became an annual tradition, but also a kind of admission of failure. Making our vacation plans meant another season of not making the playoffs.

So when I became a free agent this past off-season, I was determined to find a team with a winning culture. And when it comes to a winning culture, well … for me, Green Bay has always been the pinnacle. You walk into the building and it’s championship banners. It’s Super Bowl banners. It’s trophies on trophies. The retired greats who line the walls — we’re talking, the guys who basically started the National Football League. Lambeau. Lombardi. Starr. All the way up to Favre. That level of tradition. You walk in, and you feel it right away: In Green Bay, it’s about Packers football — past and present.

It’s about upholding history.

And it’s about winning rings.

Jan 22 2017

Man … it gets cold in January.

On second thought, O.K., I guess that’s kind of stating the obvious. I should probably start this article with something more provocative. But you’ll have to forgive me. I really am just now starting to notice the cold. For me, this is a big deal. Usually, around this time of year, I’m somewhere warm.

Usually, right around now, I’m on vacation.

An NFL season lasts 17 weeks. Seventeen weeks. Depending on where you’re coming from, that can either sound like a very short or very long time. I’ve heard guys talk about it like it’s “only” 17 weeks. And then I’ve heard other guys talk about it like 17 weeks is forever. Throughout my career, I’ve always envied that first group — because I know what it means.

If the season is flying by for you, that means you’re winning.

usatsi_9725059William Glasheen/The Post-Crescent/USA TODAY Sports

My teams haven’t done a lot of winning in previous years in the league. I’ve had those seasons of six, seven, eight wins. You’re reading this, so you probably follow football — and as an NFL fan, you know what I’m talking about. Those 6–10 seasons when you’re trying to stay optimistic … and you’re giving it your all … but by around Week 12, when you’re sitting there, 4–8, and looking up at the top of the division like it’s on the moon … you know it’s over. No division chase. No wild-card chase. No playoffs. And really, once December hits, no meaningful football. And still, you give it your all, and you’re out there competing. Because it’s what you do. But, man, it’s tough. It’s tough not putting together a winning season after fighting with your teammates in the trenches all year.

Those are some brutal winters.

I’m a family man — my family means everything to me. And the only possible silver lining of missing the playoffs all of those years was that I knew I’d get to spend more time with my wife and my kids. So, right around the end of December, once my teams were out of contention, my wife and I would go ahead and start planning our vacation. Vacation — sounds great, right? But it was always bittersweet. It not only became an annual tradition, but also a kind of admission of failure. Making our vacation plans meant another season of not making the playoffs.

So when I became a free agent this past off-season, I was determined to find a team with a winning culture. And when it comes to a winning culture, well … for me, Green Bay has always been the pinnacle. You walk into the building and it’s championship banners. It’s Super Bowl banners. It’s trophies on trophies. The retired greats who line the walls — we’re talking, the guys who basically started the National Football League. Lambeau. Lombardi. Starr. All the way up to Favre. That level of tradition. You walk in, and you feel it right away: In Green Bay, it’s about Packers football — past and present.

It’s about upholding history.

And it’s about winning rings.

ap_171740637802L.G. Patterson/AP Images

When I was in St. Louis last year, playing in the NFC West, a lot of our flights would end up being to and from the West Coast. And with our schedule, plus the fact that Green Bay played a lot in prime time — it meant that anytime I would sit down to watch football, the Packers would be on TV. One of my teammates on the Rams was from Milwaukee and had a lot of love for the Packers. So he would always be there watching with me. And I just remember: the looks that we would give each other, every time that Aaron Rodgers made one of his patented plays.

You know the looks I’m talking about, because you’ve probably exchanged them with your own friends while watching the Packers. That look you give after Aaron uses his legs to avoid what seems like a sure-thing sack, makes two tacklers miss, and then hits his man — where only he can catch it — 30 yards downfield, in wide open space. That look you give after Aaron flicks his wrist and connects with his receiver for an easy touchdown, back shoulder, impossible timing, right on a dime.
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And then there is that last look that we would give each other, which you probably have to be in the NFL to recognize. In the league, you always want to be professional, and you never want to seem too hyped about another team’s player. But every now and then, Aaron would make a throw so perfect, and so out of this world, that we couldn’t help it. We’d watch the play unfold, then pause, then turn to each other, and then give each other what I can only describe as The Look. The look that says, Dude is a beast.

And then I signed with Green Bay in the offseason — and all of a sudden, I was right in the middle of it. It was real life.

The day I came on board, Aaron gave me a call.

“Hang in there this season,” he told me. “Because we’re about to have a lot of fun. We’re about to go on a ride. So just hang in there, and come along with us, and you’ll see.” Man — I’m telling you. After seven years in the NFL, I’ve had a lot of introductory phone calls with a lot of confident people. But Aaron’s was on another level. Dude was as cool as a fan.

But as high as my opinion was, from afar, of Green Bay’s winning culture, and of Aaron’s excellence, there was a part of me that was still prepared for anything. Especially with the way that so many of my NFL seasons have gone previously — I think I had just learned to be level-headed. In this business, when something seems too good to be true, it usually is.

But not with Aaron, and not with Green Bay.

The first thing you notice about Aaron, when you meet him in person, isn’t how smart he is. It’s how generous he is with how smart he is. He’ll give you these random quizzes — not in an adversarial way, but in a thoughtful, healthy-competitive, coaching-you-up way. Something like: O.K., on that route there, how does how you ran it differ from how we talked about it? Or: What’s the signal for killing the play? Or: On what down and distance are we expecting a certain defense to show a certain scheme? It’s always something.

And with Aaron, the thing is — he’ll make you feel like you are the most important guy in the room. Like the key to the Packers winning the Super Bowl, ultimately, will be your personal ability to keep up with him. It’s a type of leadership that is constantly asking you: I’m all in — are you all in? That is telling you: I’m keeping you on your toes, because I’m always on mine.

And just like Aaron exceeded my already high expectations in person, so did Green Bay. The fans there are … man, What can you even say? When I signed with the Packers, obviously I was looking forward to the first home game of the regular season. Lambeau Field … sold-out crowd roaring on full blast … hopefully getting to do a leap. Week 3 against Detroit — that’s when I figured I’d get the Full Lambeau Experience.

I had no idea how much sooner it would come.

The fans sold out Lambeau for a training-camp practice. A training-camp practice. It’s called Family Night, and it’s basically just a full-speed practice, right in the stadium. Sold out. Not an empty seat in the house. It was an unreal experience for me. In all of the places I’d played, I’d never seen anything like that before.

I’m sure that many people have heard about how great Lambeau is, and how great the fans are — and if they haven’t been there in person, they probably think it’s all some big old myth. But trust me: Our fans deserve every bit of their legend status. Packers fans … they’re insane. Packers culture … it’s insane. And I mean that in the best way possible.

A lot has been made out of Aaron’s comments after our Week 11 loss to the Redskins, and the winning streak that we’ve put together in the couple of months since. When it comes to Aaron’s “run the table” comment, it seems like everyone has an opinion. My opinion?

That was just Aaron being a leader.

Nick Easton Jersey

Free-agent offensive lineman Nick Easton is leaving the Vikings to sign with the New Orleans Saints.

Easton’s agent, Joe Linta, announced on Twitter on Sunday night that his client agreed to a four-year contract. A source said the deal is worth approximately $24 million.

A source told the Pioneer Press on Friday that the Vikings had extended a contract offer to Easton, who made $2.914 million last season. A source said Saturday that Easton would decide by Monday between the Vikings, the Saints and an unnamed team.

Easton started at left guard for the Vikings in 2017 before missing all of last season following neck surgery in August. He also plays center, which is where he likely will be with the Saints, who lost Pro Bowl center Max Unger on Saturday to retirement.

Unger’s departure cleared up about $7 million in salary-cap room for the Saints, giving them space to make a significant offer on Easton. The Vikings offered Easton a raise over last season but they have salary-cap issues and couldn’t compete with the offer from New Orleans. The Vikings have only about $6 million available under the cap.

Easton had been with the Vikings since being acquired in a trade from Denver in October 2015, his rookie season. He started five games for them at center in 2016 and started all 12 of the games he played in 2017 at left guard.

The Vikings now could turn their attention to guard Josh Kline, who was released last week by Tennessee. A source said Sunday they have interest in Kline and he could take a visit to Minnesota as soon as this week.

Kline played with New England from 2013-15 and was with the Titans the last three seasons. Kline, who made $2.5 million last season, started 46 of the games he played with Tennessee.

The only guard on Minnesota’s roster is Danny Isidora, who has started three games in his first two seasons. The Vikings last week released Mike Remmers, last season’s starter at right guard. Last year’s starter at left guard, Tom Compton, is a free agent.

Sometimes when you make a decision, it’s called a no-brainer when it was an easy call. When the Saints signed former Vikings guard and center Nick Easton late Sunday evening, Mar 17, that move is one we can comfortably call a brainer.

The jig is up on the whole super, double top-secret mission to pretend the retirement of Max Unger was a surprise to anybody on the Saints roster or in their front office. Unger has admitted now that he let everybody know what was happening over a month ago. As I noted at the time, Unger isn’t the type to make a spontaneous, life-changing move like that, nor is he inconsiderate enough to not alert his employer and friends.

And, as I also noted at the time Unger’s retirement was announced, the Saints already had somebody lined up to “interview” for the job. The fact that Nick Easton was in New Orleans, seemingly by teleporter he arrived so fast, and ready to interview means that the Saints had every bit the confidence that he was the move.

For some reason, many in the national media haven’t picked up on the fact that they were duped. When word first came out that the Saints would be interviewing Nick Easton he was talked about as a guard. Just yesterday I heard an ESPN talking head opine about whether Easton would handle the transition to center well.

Easton is a center. That’s the position he plays. He transitioned to guard for the 2017 Season and played well there. One season at guard. In high school at Hibriten in Lenoir, North Carolina, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Easton played center. During his college career at Harvard, Easton was twice voted First-team All-Ivy League (2013, 2014) playing at center. He went undrafted in 2015 and was picked up by the Baltimore Ravens.

Chalk Nick Easton up as a believer in love at first sight.

The free agent offensive lineman visited the New Orleans Saints last Thursday (March 14), a few days before veteran center Max Unger would announce his retirement, and immediately felt he was in the place he was supposed to be.

The city and the Saints facility made a mark. The team’s reputation for putting a solid offensive line on the field year after year preceded itself, as did the general history of offensive success. The coaching staff’s charisma and knowledge leapt out.

This would be a good place to call home for the next four years. “An awesome fit,” Easton said.
Wednesday (March 20), the Saints officially announced Easton’s signing. He is expected to slide into the position Unger occupied on the New Orleans offensive line for the last four seasons.

Though only six of his 17 career starts have come at center — with most of the other 11 coming at left guard for the Minnesota Vikings — Easton feels that is his most natural position. It is the position he played both in high school and at Harvard University.

With the Saints having established starters at the other four positions of the line, most of Easton’s conversations with the team have placed him at center.

“But I’ve got to get down there first, I’ve got to get a playbook in my hand and shake everybody’s hand first … before we talk about where exactly I’m going to fit in,” Easton said.

Easton has not played in an NFL game since December 2017, when his second season with the Vikings ended prematurely with a fractured ankle. A bulging disc in his neck forced him to spend the entirety of the 2018 season on injured reserve.

He said he has since recovered from the neck injury, having clearly passed a Saints physical to make the signing official. The goal throughout his process coming back from the injury was to be cleared before the start of free agency, and Easton said he hit that mark “head on” a few weeks before the signing period opened.

“I feel really good,” Easton said. “It was definitely a long road to recovery for that, but this game’s got a lot of highs and lows and it’s feeling good to come back up to the top now.”

Now that he is officially a member of the Saints, he is looking forward to establishing a relationship with quarterback Drew Brees, whom Easton called “a legend.” Easton already has a rapport with No. 2 Teddy Bridgewater, having snapped the ball to Bridgewater while they were teammates in Minnesota.

Easton is also eagerly anticipating getting to work with an offensive line that saw every member of the starting five either earn Pro Bowl or All-Pro honors last season.

“You see the guys and the production that they have, it’s pretty obvious that is a huge selling point for this team,” Easton said.

The official signing prompted a change to Easton’s Wikipedia page, which now lists him as a member of the Saints. That, by the way, is only mentioned as a way to get to one of the more colorful aspects of the page.

The last sentence of the “Early years” section of Easton’s Wikipedia page reads as follows: “Nearly all of Easton’s athletic success can be attributed to the mental toughness he was forced to develop after being dominated for many years in driveway basketball by elder brother, Jon Easton.”

Easton laughed at the reference when it was brought on in a teleconference Wednesday. That addition was made by his brother at least as long ago as August 2017, when it was referenced in a Minneapolis Star-Tribune article.

The Harvard graduate used it as a cautionary tale for any scholars who may use the site as a reference.

“Let that be a lesson to all the teachers and everybody else out there, the students who are writing papers, that Wikipedia may not be a credible source,” Easton said. “… (Jon Easton) actually told me at Thanksgiving this year that it’s been in there so long that I don’t think you can edit it out if you wanted to. It’s there to stay.”

Thomas Morstead Jersey

As the New Orleans Saints offense continues to thrash opponents, embarrassing opposing coaches and defensive coordinators, you may not find anyone on either sideline more tense than Thomas Morstead.

While Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram and Michael Thomas dance to “Choppa Style” on the sidelines, Morstead, the Saints’ punter since 2009, paces back and forth, practices place-kick holds, all with his helmet on in a constant state of purposeful paranoia. For Morstead, the Saints’ best New Orleans offensive performances typically mean the most stressful days.

“I’m paranoid,” he said after the Saints 48-7 home win over the Philadelphia Eagles. “The less I punt, the more I try to do because there’s no flow to my game. When I’m not playing much, honestly, it’s hard to keep the sword sharp when you’re constantly being tested.”

As Drew Brees and Michael Thomas march on with their historically successful campaigns, Morstead’s contribution — or lack of it — has begun to stand out in the record books itself.

Through 10 games, the 2009 fifth-round pick out of SMU has punted just 21 times. Against the Redskins in Week 5 and the Bengals in Week 10, Morstead wasn’t forced to launch a single kick. Instead, he jogged on to hold 16 field goals or extra points for kicker Wil Lutz.

Signing a five-year contract extension in the offseason worth close to $20 million, including incentives, Morstead has ended up playing less and having a front-row seat to one of the best offensive shows in recent memory.

It may sound like one of the best gigs in the league. But Morstead doesn’t take the task lightly.

Some players waltz into the stadium on Sunday, dressed to the nines, oozing swagger while their Spotify playlist spits out edge-boosting lyrics. Others may listen to the oldest classical music you can find to calm their nerves and lower their blood pressure.

Morstead fits in a separate category all his own, preferring a distinct anxious mental state that has him constantly on edge, like a teenager walking into final exams immediately after a hasty cram session.

“I try keeping my heart rate high,” he said. “The perfect analogy is being on the edge of a cliff without falling over. That type of anxiety or nervous energy, I want to keep that throughout the whole game.

“I want to be edgy the whole game. I’ve never tried to relax on game day. I don’t like that feeling; that’s why I never take my helmet off on the sideline. I always want to be doing something. I want to stay locked in and slightly uncomfortable the whole game.”

If you omit holding for kicks, Morstead has been doing less between the lines than nearly every punter in NFL history. The NFL record for fewest punts by a team in a season is 23, held by the 1982 San Diego Chargers. With 21 punts through 10 games, the second-place mark of 31 punts by the 1982 Cincinnati Bengals is certainly within reach.

Bear in mind that 1982 was a strike-shortened year, when the regular season lasted just nine games.

Previously, Morstead’s low for punts in a season came in 2011 during Brees’ historic season, when he set the then-record for yards passing (5,476) while tossing 46 touchdowns. The Saints punter remarked Sunday at the similarities between the two years — but on paper, 2018 is even rarer than normal.

Still, Morstead is averaging 46.3 yards per punt and just 4.6 yards per return, the second-best net punting average of his career.

Like any NFL star, eye-popping numbers don’t come without strife. Uniquely, Morstead’s struggles come while his teammates celebrate.

“Like anybody, if you sit on your butt for too long, you start to get used to that environment,” he said. “I’m probably doing more now on the sidelines than I normally would, but it’s hard to keep your confidence high when you don’t have an opportunity to demonstrate your ability.

“It’s been a challenge, but it’s been a lot of fun. I’m paid to be ready to punt, whether it’s zero, one or 10 times. But I have to be ready.”

It’s a bit strange that the NFL would administer a test after a video like this, it’s not like the punter is throwing around heavy weight in a gym, or even looking particularly shredded.

Hopefully he doesn’t receive anymore “random” drug tests during the year after he pins a few punts inside the 20.

Beads, stuffed animals, pralines, bags of potato chips, things that blink — you never know what you can catch during a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans. But you can be sure New Orleans Saints punter Thomas Morstead wasn’t expecting the bright yellow throw made to look like an NFL penalty flag, which he caught along the Uptown parade route on Sunday (Feb. 24).

And Morstead had just one word for it when he shared an image of the throw on his Twitter page: “Finally…”

Morstead and the rest of the New Orleans Saints — as well as their fans — were mystified when in the NFC Championship this year NFL referees infamously missed a pass interference call that likely would have propelled the team on to the Super Bowl in Atlanta. But the call never came, and the Los Angeles Rams took the trip instead.

Naturally, New Orleanians haven’t exactly taken the loss in stride. Instead, a “boycott” second-line and festival, among other events, were scheduled on Super Bowl Sunday to keep locals from bothering to watch the big game. As TV ratings show, it worked, and local viewership plummeted.

There was a time before the 2009 season when Thomas Morstead started booming punts down the field when he should have been just in warm-up mode. Practice hadn’t begun, but the then-rookie wanted to show something to incumbent journeyman Glenn Pakulak.

“We just started banging balls back and forth for about 20 minutes trying to one-up each other,” Morstead said in a Times-Picayune story published in June 2009. “So it’s been a fun competition, but I probably shouldn’t do that regularly.”

Morstead came to the New Orleans Saints 10 years ago without any assurances of a job. He had plenty to prove. The Saints swapped two draft picks to move up two spots so they could select Morstead in the fifth round at No. 164 overall. Coach Sean Payton described the selection of the punter as fulfilling “a position on our grease board at the end of the season that was a need.”

The selection came with some skepticism from the public. According to Times-Picayune archives, the Saints faced “overwhelming reaction on message boards and chat rooms,” with many fans perhaps remembering the ill-fated selection of punter Russell Erxleben at No. 11 overall exactly three decades earlier. The trade also left the Saints with only four selections that year, which caused fans of a team coming off an 8-8 season to question the selection of a specialist such as Morstead.

The Saints selected Morstead when they did because they felt certain he would not have lasted into the sixth round, much less another couple spots in the draft. To get Morstead, the Saints sent the Eagles a seventh-round pick in that year’s draft and a fifth-round pick in the next year’s draft.

Morstead was one of three punters selected that year. The Bengals selected Kevin Huber 16 spots ahead of Morstead, and he, like Morstead, is still with the team that selected him. Then, with the No. 222 overall pick the Saints sent to the Eagles, the Colts acquired that pick and used it to select Pat McAfee, twice a Pro Bowl selection before his retirement after eight seasons in Indianapolis.

The draft back then was a Saturday-Sunday event held at Radio City Music Hall in New York, one year before the league made the first round a primetime Thursday event. Four years after that, the NFL put the draft in Chicago. The draft this year is in Nashville and begins Thursday (April 25).

In the nine drafts since the Morstead pick in 2009, 17 other punters have gone to 16 teams. Among those 17 punters, four were selected at a spot higher than where Morstead went in 2009: Zoltan Mesko of Michigan to the Patriots at No. 150 in 2010, Bryan Anger of Cal to the Jaguars at No. 70 in 2011, Jeff Locke of UCLA to the Vikings at No. 155 in 2013 and Michael Dickson of Texas to the Seahawks at No. 149 in 2018.

Dickson is the only punter since Morstead for whom a team traded up to select. The Seahawks moved up seven spots in a deal that sent the Broncos the fifth- and a seventh-round picks they used to select Wisconsin tight end Troy Fumagalli and Arkansas running back David Williams.

When Morstead arrived, the Southern Methodist University product described himself as “a hang-time type of guy,” which showed in his impressive 5.56-second hang time of a punt during a Pro Day workout at the college.

“For me,” said Morstead, “the idea is getting where you can do this on a consistent basis. For any punter, that’s the name of the game. It’s not the yardage, not how far your punts travel. It’s how many yards the other team returns them.”

He noted Ray Guy as his punting idol. As Times-Picayune columnist Peter Finney noted just weeks after Morstead arrived, Guy once booted a punt in the Superdome high enough so that the ball hit against one of the center-hung replay boards that are no longer there, about 180 feet above the turf.

Morstead referenced Frank Gansz, a former special teams coach in the NFL and for Morstead at SMU, when saying it was more important for him to hit his “B” punts consistently than it was to fluctuate between his “A,” “B” and “C” punts.

“The biggest thing is if Thomas misses a punt, we’re still getting hang time above 4.0 (seconds),” Payton said in August 2009 — that’s when the team released Pakulak and made Morstead their guy. “So sometimes it’s not the hits, it’s the misses. I think he has done a good job early of being consistent.”

“Everybody asks me if I’m relaxed now,” Morstead said when he won the job. “It’s nice to know they are giving me a vote of confidence by saying, ‘Hey, you’re our guy,’ but I’m competing against the rest of the guys in the league, and I’m competing against 100 other guys who are trying to get in the league. NFL teams are always looking for a better guy at every position, so I know it’s no time to relax.”

Some of the greatest praise for Morstead in recent seasons came from Bill Belichick in 2017. The Patriots coach said how he prepared his team for the strong-legged Morstead by pointing the Jugs so that the ball goes 55 to 70 yards downfield and lands a yard from the sideline.

“Not many guys … can punt the ball like him,” Belichick said. “Again, it’s not just his distance but it’s his placement, accuracy. I mean, his plus-50 punts are like from the minus-40. He’s just different because of his strength and power and control.”

Morstead has provided a rare level of stability in a league where teams frequently change punters. The Buccaneers, for comparison, have used seven punters since Morstead joined the Saints. Morstead also has been durable, as he’s been active in all but two games in his career — both in 2015 — because of a hamstring injury.

Morstead ranks third in career punting average. Based on his offseason social media posts that show video of his workouts, the 33-year-old does not plan to end his playing career anytime soon.

He also has endeared himself to the community. What You Give Will Grow, a charity started by Morstead and his wife, Lauren, has raised more than $2.5 million for children’s charities.

His rookie season ended with him kicking the successful onside kick that started the second half of the Saints’ Super Bowl win. He’ll begin his 11th season this year. When the fifth round begins this week, keep in mind the lasting value that can be found when the proper selection is made, even at that stage in the selection process.

Terron Armstead Jersey

If you want to take a twirl with Terron Armstead or Ryan Ramczyk, Armczyk as the tabloids are calling them, you’ll have to get your name on their dance card. They’re busy with minicamp and getting their names all over Pro Football Focus’ Twitter feed these days. The attraction is starting to draw some jealous side glances. The Falcons were so jelly that the drafted two offensive linemen in the 2019 NFL Draft just to try to keep up.

Armstead and/or Ramczyk have become the focus for a number of articles in the past year. Terron Armstead has been a known quantity for a longer period of time. The tackle was originally drafted by the Saints in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He turned a lot of heads at the NFL Scouting Combine that year by running a 4.71 40-yard dash, having a vertical jump of 34.5-inches and doing 31 reps of 225-pounds on the bench press. At 6-foot-4 and 305-pounds, he’s easily the most athletic offensive lineman the NFL has ever seen.

What’s getting the actual buzz going around these two, though, has been the arrival of Ryan Ramczyk. Ramczyk was selected with the 32nd overall pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He represents the pick the Saints got from the Brandin Cooks trade with New England.

Ramczyk got thrown into the fire right out of the gate when his predecessor, Zach Strief, went down with an injury at the beginning of the 2017 Season. Ironically, it was in a game against the Patriots. But Ramczyk manned up and got it done like a six-year Pro Bowler. That got him noticed and started a little buzz.

Perhaps anticipating a sophomore slump from Ramczyk, many waited to see what would happen to the duo in his second season. While Terron Armstead dealt with a shoulder injury that cost him four weeks, Ramczyk has yet to miss a snap.

For 2017-18, Terron Armstead has posted overall scores of 76.5 and 87.4 (subscription required for link). Ramczyk has put up an 81.2 and 81.3. But you get the feeling that something better than an 81.4 might be next on the agenda for the former Wisconsin Badger.

Pro Football Focus released an article on Sunday, Jun 10, discussing the big event up for Ryan Ramczyk in the not too distant future. The piece from Mark Chichester discusses what will happen when a good tackle comes up for his next contract in light of the money that is currently being paid to even mid-tier tackles in a market starved for them (see Oakland and Trent Brown).

Being a first-round pick, the Saints will be able to pick up a fifth-year option on Ramczyk in 2021 and then he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2022 barring an extension. So we’re looking ahead a little bit but it’s a valid point and reflective of bigger payroll concerns ahead for the Saints, especially with Tuesday’s new deal with defensive end Cameron Jordan.

Terron Armstead was the focus of another article last week from Pro Football Focus’ Mike Johnson. The piece, titled “The NFL’s balanced offensive linemen by PFF Grade from 2018” and released on Jun 7, calls out the best players in the NFL at each position across the offensive line who excel simultaneously at pass and run blocking. Terron Armstead was named the best in the game in that regard at left tackle, edging out the Rams’ Andrew Whitworth.

Putting a finer point on it, in another ranking from PFF for last season, “Top 25 offensive linemen of the 2018 NFL season” from Michael Renner, Armstead (89.4) came in at number one and Ramczyk (83.4) at number six.

It’s still not completely released but, “PFF50: The NFL’s 50 best players entering the 2019 season” already has Ramczyk in at number 45. That’s out of all position groups. As of the release of this article they were only up to number 21 and you can bet Armstead will be in the top 20.

The two will be getting a lot of attention this season even as the glare of the analysts’ spotlights will be on likely either Nick Easton or rookie Erik McCoy replacing Max Unger at center. With the left and right edges sealed, you can bet defensive coordinators on the Saints schedule in 2019 will be focusing on the center of that line as well.
You hate to throw this out there, it would be a bold move if not the wisest for the team’s future, but maybe if the Falcons draft three offensive linemen in the first round next year, they’ll get some coverage. I mean, they have to do something, don’t they? I’m baby?

Injuries have been a part of Terron Armstead’s story with the New Orleans Saints for so long that a few pockets of the fan base seem to have forgotten why the gifted left tackle is so important in the first place.

When Armstead was playing hurt, he was still one of the better left tackles in NFL.

But when he’s healthy, Armstead can be close to unbeatable. Feeling healthy for the first time since the opening weeks of the 2015 season, Armstead has swallowed rushers like Cleveland’s Myles Garrett and Tampa Bay’s Jason Pierre-Paul.

“We’ve been really impressed with the consistency of his play,” Saints offensive line coach Dan Roushar said. “We feel like he’s gone up against some very quality rushers very early, so he’s been tested.”

Armstead has passed with flying colors.

Garrett has 4½ sacks; Pierre-Paul has four. They are fifth and tied for sixth among NFL pass rushers this season.

Against the Saints, neither player could solve Armstead. Put together, the pairing combined for just one tackle and one quarterback hit in 113 snaps against the Saints — an indication of just how dominant Armstead has been. Four games into the season, Armstead has allowed just five pressures on the quarterback overall.

What’s scary is that Armstead says he could have been even better in the opening quarter of the season.

“I’ve done some things well,” Armstead said. “At this early part of (the) season, I’ve got some things that I’d definitely want to do better and will do better. I’ll put in the work to do better.”

Armstead is always trying to get better — but over the past couple of seasons, he’s been forced to spend almost as much time simply fighting to get on the field. Beset by hip, knee and chest injuries, Armstead played in 13 games in 2015, just seven in 2016 and 10 last year, starting the 2017 season late because of a torn labrum in his shoulder.

After all of that time away, Armstead is happy to be back.

“It’s been great just being out there with the guys, really,” Armstead said. “Suiting up with the guys every week, practice and games, talking, trying to problem-solve different things that come during a game.”

Focusing on football is hard to do when a player is trying to manage his pain.

At times, Armstead warmed up on the sidelines hours before the game, looking for all the world like a man who could barely move.
Then he’d come out and play every snap, gritting through the pain and compensating for his injury with every set in pass protection and every step out in the open field. For most of the past three years, Armstead has had problems with his left hip and knee, and he adjusted his set accordingly.

When he opened training camp healthy this year, Roushar had Armstead working hard on getting the left side of his body on the defender.

A technician who understands line play better than most and is constantly refining his technique, Armstead has absorbed the lessons and put them to use.

“Fundamentally, we feel like he’s been in really good position,” Roushar said. “He’s square; he’s been using his left side as well as his right side consistently; and in watching that, you can kind of go back and evaluate his performance, and he’s gotten edged a couple of times, but he’s been able to counter and finish. I think he’s done a heck of a job to date.”

New Orleans Saints left tackle Terron Armstead is reportedly expected to miss three-to-four weeks with a pectoral injury, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Armstead left Sunday’s 51-14 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium and was replaced by veteran Jermon Bushrod.

Bushrod is expected to start in Armstead’s place when the Saints host the Philadelphia Eagles at the Superdome on Sunday.

Injuries have been a major issue throughout Armstead’s NFL career, as he has yet to appear in more than 14 games in a single season.

He missed six games with a torn labrum last campaign and nine contests with knee and quad injuries in 2016.

The Saints selected Armstead in the third round of the 2013 draft out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and he became a full-time starter by 2014. Armstead has appeared in 59 regular-season games during his five-plus years in the NFL and made 55 starts. He has also started four playoff games.

The 34-year-old Bushrod is in the midst of his 12th NFL season and his first back with the Saints after a five-year hiatus. New Orleans selected the Towson product in the fourth round of the 2007 draft, and he went on to become a two-time Pro Bowler (2011-12) and one-time champion (Super Bowl XLIV).

From 2009 to 2012, Bushrod missed just one game and started all but two for the Saints. He spent the next three seasons with the Chicago Bears before playing for the Miami Dolphins in 2016 and 2017.

Bushrod is a veteran presence as a swing tackle, and he should be a quality blindside protector for quarterback Drew Brees until Armstead is able to return.

The Saints can afford to be cautious with Armstead since they have the second-best record in the NFC at 8-1 and lead the Carolina Panthers by two games for the NFC South lead.

Josh Hill Jersey

BLACKFOOT — From an undrafted free agent to an impact tight end with the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, former Blackfoot Bronco Josh Hill plays hungry on the gridiron.

Off the field, the Blackfoot native is just as impactful.

Hill did his part to help hungry families throughout Southeast Idaho on Monday by hosting an autograph signing food drive event for the Community Dinner Table food bank in Blackfoot.

“A lot of professional athletes create organizations or charities to reach out into their civic communities and we are given a lot,” Hill said. “It’s important that we give back to the communities we grew up in any way we can.”

Hosted on the same football field that Hill played on when the Blackfoot Broncos won the 4A state football championship in 2007, the event accumulated approximately 1,000 pounds of food items, according to Jackie Young, board president of the Community Dinner Table.

Hill told the Journal on Wednesday that he plans to match the donation and is expected to deliver the food to the Community Dinner Table pantry on Friday.

“My wife and I were just talking about ways to give back and how we could get involved in the community during the short time we were in town,” Hill said. “We decided it would be great to meet some of the kids in the community while also helping out the food bank.”

A graduate of Idaho State University, Hill grew up in Blackfoot. As a New Orleans Saint, he has caught more than 60 career passes and scored 10 touchdowns in five seasons.

According to Young, Jane Hill, who is Hill’s mother, works for First American Title Company in Blackfoot and is very familiar with the Community Dinner Table. Young said that Jane and her colleagues supplied food bank clients with pet food for their animals once a month for nearly a year.

“Josh’s mom called me and told me how excited they were to do this event,” Young said. “Josh was so gracious and the whole experience was just fantastic. It’s inspiring to see a fellow community member reach out to support us.”

The Community Dinner Table is a non-profit organization comprised of faith groups and friends working together to reduce hunger throughout Bingham County. The food bank’s more encompassing mission includes reducing hunger in Bingham County by providing wholesome food to those in need, as well as developing and implementing solutions to the underlying causes of hunger through collaboration, education and advocacy.

Further, the Community Dinner Table focuses on creating an environment for older residents in need of social interaction by making safe and wholesome dinner environments available. It also promotes creative and productive teamwork between all faith groups in the county to increase the availability of resources and to build stronger and more meaningful interfaith relationships.

“We are a 100 percent non-profit organization that receives no federal or local government funding,” Young said. “We give out about 200 to 250 food boxes a week, which is about 300,000 pounds of food annually. So these type of donation events are critical to our success.”

A Boy Scouts of America troop is expected to help unload the donated food from Hill on Friday, Young added.

Though Hill has called New Orleans home for the last five years, Blackfoot will always be the place his roots are seeded, he said. And with events like the food drive on Monday, Hill said it’s a rewarding experience to hear youth members from the community he grew up in explain how much of a role model he is in their lives.

“Blackfoot will always be my home,” Hill said. “There were a few kids who said they hope to achieve the same things that I have and that I showed them it was possible to make it from a small town. That’s the stuff that really sticks with me.”

Josh Hill, a super talented Alta Motors MX rider up until Alta’s recent, untimely demise, has a ton of videos all over the internet showcasing his mad dirtbike skills, and this one is a bit different: it’s in a skate park. He’s got it posted on his Instagram page, and you should go watch it here.

Whatever you call them, “stoppies” or “front wheelies” or “twelve-o-clocks,” they’re hard to do until you get the hang of them. This guy dances on the front wheel of his electric dirtbike and makes it look effortless, surfing the rim of a cast concrete bowl made for skateboards, not motorized two-wheelers. It’s pretty obvious they’ve closed the park for him, or he went on a day that he knew there would be nobody there. Crashing into a skate boarder with a dirt bike wouldn’t end well for either one, but the skate boarder would probably get the worse end of the deal.

While many riders are lamenting the influx of electric motors into our sport, I would hazard an argument that the very quiet electric bikes will make the general (non-riding) populace like us… or, at least, not hate us, as much as those noisy dirt bikes that the neighbors can’t tell from a chainsaw.

Sure, the electric dirt bike makes some really, really weird noises, but they won’t carry and you can probably get away with some extremely dodgy shenanigans without a hollowed-out exhaust giving you away to the people who think you shouldn’t be doing whatever you’re doing, wherever you’re doing it. This isn’t us condoning this behavior, I’m just pointing out that noise gets you noticed by bystanders when there’s nothing else making any noise, for good or for ill.

We’ve been debating the concept of the electric bike for a while here at RideApart. Is it the future of two wheeled escapades, or the end of motorcycling as we know it? The verdict is still out, but there are a certainly a few furious riders who are out there to prove the virtues of electricity over the humble and road-worn internal combustion engine.

The video above features the talented motocross rider Josh Hill demonstrating the limits of an electric bike. along with standard jumps and stunts, Mr Hill also used the customized tailgate of a Nissan V8 Titan pickup truck to ride over another bike (still held in the back of the Nissan pickup.) a move that is certainly not for the faint-hearted, but which looks exceedingly impressive onscreen!

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the video is the silence of the electric motor. Usually one would expect the blaring, high pitched tones of a two stroke single, or at the very least, the rasping sounds of a four stroke. the absence of any engine sound, combined with the crazy performance of the unnamed E-bike, shows that, if nothing else, electric motorcycles do at least have the power and performance to match, and possibly beat, traditional internal combustion engine power motocross vehicles at their own game. (KTM, eat your heart out!)

Of course, Electric motocross and off road bikes are a gap in the market that manufactures are certainly looking at addressing. Last month, Honda announced a surprising new CR Electric prototype. KTM, in 2017, announced the E-XC Electric Offroader, and even Yamaha has been looking to cash in on the electric bike phenomenon, with the minimal trials focused TY-E, which we covered here.

New Orleans Saints tight end Josh Hill will miss the remainder of Sunday’s NFC Championship Game after being diagnosed with a concussion, the team announced.

Hill had one reception for 24 yards prior to exiting the game. On the catch, he absorbed what appeared to be a helmet-to-helmet hit by Los Angeles Rams linebacker Cory Littleton.

New Orleans was already thin at tight end. Benjamin Watson missed practice Wednesday and Thursday and was limited Friday with an illness. Prior to Sunday’s game, the Saints confirmed Watson was inactive.

Hill only had a peripheral role in the team’s passing game in the regular season, catching 16 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown.

Now, New Orleans is forced to rely on Dan Arnold and Garrett Griffin, the latter of whom has one total reception in two years. Griffin did, however, haul in a five-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to put the Saints ahead 13-0 in the first quarter Sunday.

Brees shouldn’t miss a beat with Hill unavailable.

Michael Hoomanawanui Jersey

Veteran tight end Michael Hoomanawanui’s season is already over as a player.

Hoomanawanui suffered an injury during training camp, and the Saints placed him on injured reserve during the initial league-mandated roster reduction to 53 players, so he cannot return during the season.

But Hoomanawanui is still highly involved with the tight ends. Hoomanawanui is working with assistant coach Dan Campbell and the rest of the tight ends as an extra assistant.

“It’s a way to stay engaged,” Hoomanawanui said. “It’s kind of a unique situation.”

A veteran of eight seasons in the NFL, Hoomanawanui has started the season on injured reserve twice in the past three years, but the Saints have a recent history of giving veterans a chance to dip their foot in the coaching game.

Fullback John Kuhn spent time with the coaches, both on the field and in the film room, last season after tearing his bicep.

“Coaching is something that never would have crossed my mind,” Hoomanawanui said. “it’s a good way to get a look at it.”

Veteran tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, who played 468 snaps as the Saints’ best blocking, in-line tight end last year, is finally healthy after sitting out most of the first week of training camp on the non-football injury list.

Hoomanawanui was on his way back from an offseason neck injury.

“Just wanted to double and triple-check some things,” Hoomanawanui said. “Any time you’re working with that area of the body, it’s pretty important. Can’t go out and get a new neck. You can have surgery and all that, but for the most part, you only get one of them.”

Hoomanawanui has 17 catches and four touchdowns in his time with the Saints, and he rejoins a tight end picture that looks a little different. Coby Fleener is out, veteran Benjamin Watson is back and the Saints have a pair of promising youngsters in Deon Yelder and Dan Arnold.

Now, Hoomanawanui can start figuring out where he fits in that new picture.

“Sitting out at any time is hard, but it was what was best for me, working with the trainers and getting my situation right,” Hoomanawanui said. “All that’s in the past. I’m ready to move forward.”

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Mark Ingram gave the Saints much more than the first-down run they needed to wind down the clock on the Jets.

His determined burst across the line of scrimmage thrust him into New York’s defensive backfield with too much speed and vigor for anyone to catch him — a fitting finish to one of his better days in a memorable season.

Ingram ran for two touchdowns and gained 151 yards from scrimmage , capped by his late 50-yard TD run, and New Orleans overcame three turnovers to defeat the reeling Jets 31-19 on Sunday.

“Getting the ball into his hands is obviously what we want to do,” Saints center Max Unger said of Ingram, who has eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing…

For the second year in a row, the New Orleans Saints have had a veteran player and former Super Bowl champion assist the coaching staff while on injured reserve.

However, before comparing what tight end Michael Hoomanawanui has done this season to what fullback John Kuhn did for the Saints in 2017, it’s important to break down his injury, because it’s one of the most alarming ailments a player could suffer.

Hoomanawanui has been in the concussion protocol since Aug. 3. The brain injury he suffered in training camp was at least the fifth of his nine-year NFL career, and the scariest thing for Hoomanawanui is he honestly doesn’t know how many he has suffered.

“I feel normal as of the last month or so,” he said last week. “It’s been a long process, and it’s slowly getting better, and that’s all I can ask for at this point.”

The 30-year-old tight end, who’s set to become a free agent in March, said he hasn’t yet decided how he’ll approach his future. He’s still hoping to clear the final hurdles of the NFL’s concussion protocol, but during this unfortunate situation, he has found a way to help the Saints this season.

A week before the 2018 season began, the Saints placed Hoomanawanui on injured reserve, and that’s when coach Sean Payton approached him about assisting the coaching staff, which Kuhn did in 2017 after suffering a torn biceps early in the season.

“When he first asked me what I thought about coaching, I told him, I’m like, ‘There’s no way,’” Hoomanawanui said. “‘There’s no way. I see the time you guys put in and the sleepless nights, and I’m not looking for that when I’m done.’

“When I’m done, I want to be done, but you never say never.”

Right place, right time. That’s the goal for all of us, but especially those who play a sport. Know where to go and get there efficiently.

Michael Hoomanawanui always seemed to be there. You remember that about him as a tight end and defensive end at Central Catholic High School.

It made sense. He grew up in the game, with his father, Isy, having played at Illinois State and served as a Saints’ assistant coach.

Young Michael was a water boy/ball boy in the early sightings, tagging along to practices and helping on the sidelines on game nights. Even then, when the coaches screamed “Water!” or “Ball!” he seemed to have it in hand or know where to get it.

“As early as I can remember when Isy was coaching, Michael would come,” said Bobby Moews, Hoomanawanui’s head coach at Central. “He’s been around it (football) his whole life really.”

Later, in a Central uniform, Hoomanawanui rarely appeared out of position. He chased down quarterbacks and running backs, typically anticipating where they were headed. On offense, he blocked when called upon and caught passes like no one we’d seen in The Pantagraph sports department.

At 6-foot-4, he was a big target. He ran good routes, got himself open despite being the focal point of enemy defenses. Beyond that, he caught everything near him, on multiple occasions while leaping with one hand extended toward the night sky.

Was it “right place, right time?” Yes, or close enough.

We bring this up because Hoomanawanui’s instincts and intellect for the game seemed as essential to his success as his size and athleticism. He seemed to think like a coach and now, he is one.

Sort of.

A concussion suffered in August put Hoomanawanui on injured reserve all season with the New Orleans Saints. He has had multiple ones in his nine-year NFL career as a tight end and will become a free agent in March. At 30, his future as a player is uncertain.

However, during what might have been a lost season, Hoomanawanui has served as an unofficial assistant tight ends coach. Saints head coach Sean Payton suggested the role shortly after Hoomanawanui was injured and recently told Josh Katzenstein of The Times-Picayune that Hoomanawanui has been experiencing the long hours and late nights of NFL coaching.

“We’ve had him up in the offensive meetings, and, man, he’s hanging in there,” Payton told Katzenstein. “There’s some dark circles under his eyes right now, but he’s still standing.

“I love what Mike brings. He’s a throwback player. He’s tough. I think he’s well-respected. I know he is in the locker room. He’s one of those guys you want around.”

That may be news elsewhere. Here, it merely confirms that Hoomanawanui has not changed since he was running water out to a Central Catholic huddle or catching last-second touchdown passes.

His feel for the game has stayed true, serving him well at the University of Illinois and with the Rams, Patriots and Saints in the NFL.

“He always knew where he was supposed to be and knew his assignments,” Moews said. “He knew what he was doing and was expecting everybody else to do the same. He was one of those guys you would think would be a good coach someday.

“I think that’s helped him keep a job in the NFL. He knows what the idea and the thought of the play is and what’s supposed to happen. They (coaches) can know they can count on him on the field. I’m sure Coach Payton probably saw that in him.”

Hoomanawanui was traded to New Orleans in 2015 after winning a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots. His plan was to be on the field this year for the Saints’ championship quest, but his impact has come largely in the shadows, mentoring young tight ends.

There has been talk about how 40-year-old Saints quarterback Drew Brees has a chance to win a second Super Bowl and add to his Hall of Fame resume. Hoomanawanui isn’t on a Hall of Fame track, but a second Super Bowl ring would be a fitting reward for all that he has invested in football.

It’s enough to make you a Saints fan Sunday when New Orleans plays host to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game.

Hoomanawanui may not desire to make coaching a long-term pursuit, but with his background, knowledge and personality, he is well-equipped for the job. If nothing else, this season has exposed him to the possibility.

Could be he is in the right place, right time.

Again.

Wil Lutz Jersey

Kicker Wil Lutz was one of the best kickers in the NFL in 2018, and his timing couldn’t have been much better.

Lutz was a restricted free agent this year, and after his marvelous season, he earned a five-year deal from the New Orleans Saints on Wednesday.

The Saints announced the move on Wednesday morning when Lutz signed his new contract, which his agent John Perla Jr. claims will be a record deal for a kicker.

It’s unclear if the record will be the most total cash, guarantees or average annual value, but it’s safe to assume Lutz’s contract will pay him in excess of $4 million per year and potentially as much as $5 million per year. Currently, 49ers kicker Robbie Gould is the highest paid kicker per year at $4.97 million on the franchise tag for 2019, but the highest contract value is $20 million for five years for Titans kicker Ryan Succop.

Details of the contract will eventually emerge, but either way, Lutz has done well to earn this deal.

Lutz, 24, went undrafted out of Georgia State in 2016. He began his career with the Baltimore Ravens, but they cut him after the preseason that year because they already top-notch kicker Justin Tucker.

The Saints spent the 2016 offseason seeking a kicker. Kai Forbath and Connor Barth competed for the job in training camp and the preseason, but the Saints cut them both before the regular season. Then, Lutz came to New Orleans for a workout, and the Saints signed him five days before Week 1.

Lutz performed admirably as a rookie, making 28 of 34 field goals (82.4 percent) and 49 of 50 extra points. He improved in 2017, making 31 of 36 field goals (86.1 percent) and 47 of 50 extra points.

Then, in 2018, Lutz took another step forward to become one of the best kickers in the league, making 28 of 30 field goals (93.3 percent) and 52 of 53 extra points. Lutz’s field-goal percentage ranked sixth in the NFL last season and was the best in Saints history for a kicker who played in more than eight games. He also made 26 consecutive field goals, breaking Morten Andersen’s franchise record of 25.

Because Lutz was a restricted free agent, the Saints could have ensured that he stay in New Orleans for 2019 by giving him the second-round tender, a one-year deal worth $3.1 million that would have forced another team to send New Orleans a second-round pick in order to sign the kicker. Instead, the Saints rewarded Lutz with a long-term deal and will have a young, promising kicker around for years to come.

Marques Colston and Reggie Bush traveled divergent paths to the New Orleans Saints, arriving in the 2006 NFL Draft with vastly different pedigrees and expectations.

The Heisman Trophy winner out of traditional West Coast superpower Southern Cal, Bush was one of the most celebrated and decorated players in college football history and the Saints gleefully selected him with the second overall pick in that year’s NFL Draft.

Colston, meanwhile, was a complete unknown out of Hofstra, a tiny FCS school with such a meager football profile it disbanded the program in 2009. When the Saints called Colston’s name with the fourth-to-last pick in the 255-player draft, even hard-core fans were wondering “Who Dat?”

Despite their disparate paths, Bush and Colston each enjoyed spectacularly successful careers in New Orleans and left the Saints as Super Bowl champions and beloved heroes.

And 13 years after they arrived as bookend members of the famed 2006 draft class, the pair of offensive playmakers will enter the Saints Hall of Fame together this fall as members of the Hall’s Class of 2019.

“I’m just truly humbled to be on this stage and to be a part of this Hall of Fame with so many other great players,” Colston said before an overflow crowd at the Saints training facility that included, among others, Saints owner Gayle Benson and assistant coaches Pete Carmichael and Curtis Johnson. “When you come into the league as a seventh-round pick something like this isn’t really on your radar.”

Former Gov. Kathleen Blanco joined the star-studded class as the recipient of the Joe Gemelli Fleur de Lis Award for her off-field contributions to the club, spearheading the post-Katrina renovation of the Superdome.

The induction ceremony for the Class of 2019 will take place during the weekend of Oct. 25-27, when the Saints play host to the Arizona Cardinals at the Superdome.

“This is extraordinary,” said Blanco, who is battling ocular melanoma, a rare form of incurable eye cancer. “I’m very proud to feel like I’m a family member of the Saints now.”

Colston and Bush were the bookend selections of Coach Sean Payton’s first draft class and formed the core of the club’s eventual Super Bowl championship team in 2009. The eight-man class featured six players that would enjoy 10-plus-year careers in the NFL: Bush; Colston; Roman Harper; Jahri Evans; Rob Ninkovich; and Zach Strief.

“That draft class became so necessary to achieve what we wanted to achieve,” Payton said. “They were the pillars essentially to what we were going to build.”

In 10 seasons with the Saints, Colston set club records for career receptions (711), yards (9,759) and touchdowns (72). His 28 100-yard receiving games are tied for first in club history. All 72 of his touchdowns came on passes from Drew Brees, making the duo the sixth-most prolific combination in scoring pass plays in NFL history.

“He had excellent hands,” Payton said of Colston. “The consistency. The professionalism. You knew exactly what you were going to get from him every day.”

Bush, meanwhile, was one of the most dynamic big-play threats in franchise history. During his five seasons with the Saints from 2006 to 2010, he recorded 4,982 all-purpose yards and scored 33 touchdowns. He rushed for 2,090 yards and 17 touchdowns and caught 294 passes for 2,142 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also returned five punts for touchdowns, including an 83-yarder to seal a 45-14 win against Arizona in the 2009 NFC divisional playoffs.

“That Super Bowl season was just an amazing run and an amazing time for the city,” Bush said. “New Orleans is home away from home for me. I couldn’t be happier to go into the Saints Hall of Fame with Colston.”

Blanco, 78, served as the state’s first and only female governor from 2004 to 2008. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, she lobbied the state legislature to approve funding for repairs to the stadium and helped fast-track the construction process, allowing the team to return to its home stadium for the 2006 season. The lobby of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was named in her honor during a Jan. 13 ceremony before the Saints’ NFC divisional playoff game against Philadelphia.

In 2011, Blanco was diagnosed with eye cancer that recently spread to her liver. She received hospice care in her Lafayette home in April but has felt well enough in recent weeks to start traveling again.

“This is a highlight of my life, the last thing that I would ever have imagined,” Blanco said. “This is quite a memory marker for us, for me and my family. I do have a lot of challenges ahead of me, but I’m going to plan to be here in October.”

Ken Crawley Jersey

Saints CB Ken Crawley has signed his original round restricted free agent tender, as veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer tweets. We learned last week that Crawley would be signing the tender, as he had not garnered any interest from rival clubs.

The lack of interest is not surprising, even though a team that signed Crawley to an offer sheet would not have needed to send any draft compensation to the Saints (since Crawley entered the league as an undrafted free agent). Crawley was demoted from his starting role prior to New Orleans’ Week 3 matchup last year, and although he was reinstated as a starter for the next three contests, he wound up appearing in only ten games and did not return to the starting lineup.

That was quite a contrast from his 2017 campaign, when he started all 13 games that he appeared in. But in 2018, Crawley finished as a bottom-three cornerback, per Pro Football Focus‘ advanced metrics, and although he is now under contract for 2019, his $2.025M salary is not guaranteed, so he could be cut without any cap repercussions.

For his career, Crawley has 128 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble, and 31 passes defensed.

A lot has gone right for the Saints this year — but not everything. When the Sean on the Shelf turns in his report, it won’t be just his opponents he tells Santa about. It’ll be his own team, too — along with a few others.

One of the most important positions on any Sean Payton Saints roster is the second cornerback spot. When the Saints have good play from the position, they tend to win a lot of games. When they don’t, they tend to finish the season 7-9. In 2017, Ken Crawley competently handled CB2 for a surprisingly resurgent Saints defense. In 2018, he struggled and lost his starting spot, necessitating the trade for former New York Giant Eli Apple to replace him.

Specifically the injury bug that has gotten to the Saints’ wide receivers. Ted Ginn and Cameron Meredith were supposed to be major contributors to the passing game, but both ended up on injured reserve. The Saints signed former Dallas Cowboys star Dez Bryant to help patch up the spot, but he promptly tore an Achilles’ tendon in practice, and joined the list.

In 2011, Brees broke the single-season passing yardage record and scored more touchdowns during a more explosive season than the one Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had, but MVP voters favored Rodgers’ league-leading efficiency and gave him the award.

In 2018, it’s Brees who leads the NFL in passing efficiency. However, don’t be surprised if many voters favor the yards and touchdowns of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, flipping the logic of 2011 on its head and costing Brees yet another MVP award he has done enough to win.

So ask Santa for a Brees MVP stocking stuffer (or for him to deliver lumps of coal to the MVP voters who deserve them).

The third-year defensive tackle has rocketed to the top of the nice list this year by putting everything together and becoming the sort of explosive interior pass rushing presence New Orleans has lacked since the departure of Saints Hall of Famer La’Roi Glover in 2002.

These are the types of plays the Kansas City Chiefs hoped Tyreek Hill would make when they used a fifth-round draft pick on him earlier this year.

Midway through the second quarter of Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints, Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith took a deep shot down the sideline to Hill. While Saints defensive back Ken Crawley did everything he could to break up the pass, the rookie wideout made a great play to haul it in and put points on the scoreboard.

The 38-yard touchdown and Cairo Santos’ extra point gave the Chiefs a 21-7 lead seven minutes before halftime en route to a 27-21 win.

This was Hill’s only catch of the day (he added 23 rushing yards on two carries), but it was one for the highlight reels.

New Orleans Saints cornerback Ken Crawley intends to sign his restricted free agent tender when the team reports for the offseason workout program next Monday, according to a league source.

The Saints offered Crawley the original-round tender last month before free agency began, a one-year deal worth about $2 million that gave the team right of first refusal if another team signed him to an offer sheet.

The NFL’s deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets is Friday (April 19). To this point, Crawley has yet to receive another offer, and the expectation is that he won’t before the deadline.

Like all good defensive backs, Marcus Williams has been trained to have a short memory.

The message has been drilled into his head over the years. Forget the last play. Move on to the next one.

Unfortunately, for Williams, his last play was a doozy. His ill-timed missed tackle on Stefon Diggs’ 61-yard touchdown catch in the NFC Divisional playoffs authored the Minnesota Miracle and spawned a litany of cold-hearted memes and gifs on social media.

The play meant sudden death to the Saints’ 2017 season and vaulted Williams into the halls of infamy with other players who have suffered the unfortunate fate of committing miscues at critical moments in big games.

In an attempt to turn a negative into a positive, Williams used the play as motivational fuel throughout the offseason. In March, he posted a workout video on social media with the caption “Turning my nightmare into my motivation!!!” He also posted motivational notes in his Metairie apartment, including one that read “Never let it happen again.”

“Every day, my motivation is my family, providing for them and doing all I can to be successful in my life,” Williams said Friday (July 27), a green towel draped over his sweat-soaked head. “Doing all I can be to be the best safety I can be, just doing everything on the practice field and in the film room… That’s what motivates me, just being the best motivates me.”

Friday was Williams’ first media session of training camp and reporters predictably peppered him with questions about the play. Each time he politely deflected the queries with some form of a That’s in the past answer.

By the sixth time, he’d had enough: “The play is over with. It’s a new year. … I’m moving on.”

Friday’s media session wasn’t the first time Williams has been asked about the play and it won’t be the last, especially as national reporters arrive in town.

And the Saints are doing everything they can to rally around the 21-year-old free safety and support him through the adversity.

“To be honest, we don’t really talk about it no more,” cornerback Ken Crawley said. “It was just a play. … I know his focus right now is just we leave that in the past. We’re focused on something else this year.”

Easier said than done, of course.

Scott Shanle started 94 games for the Saints from 2006 to 2012 and was a key member of the Super Bowl XLIV championship team. But he still thinks about the play he didn’t make in the 2011 NFC Divisional Playoffs at San Francisco.

Shanle just missed batting down Alex Smith’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis in the waning seconds, capped a desperate, last-minute, game-winning 85-yard touchdown drive.

“I can still feel the air of the ball whistling past my hand,” Shanle said. “It was the perfect pass against that defense, the only time all year that I can remember someone completing a pass against us in that defense.”

For many Saints fans, the 36-32 loss was the most heartbreaking setback in club history. The Saints entered the game having won nine consecutive games and rallied from a 17-0 deficit to twice take leads in the fourth quarter.

“I was near the end of my career, and my angst and regret as I sat in my locker that day was, ‘Man, I don’t know if I’m ever going to get another chance like this,'” Shanle said. “I knew what that loss meant. I will go to my grave believing that we would have gone on to win Super Bowl. We were the best team in the league that year.”

As an analyst for Cox Sports, Shanle was in Minneapolis last January and witnessed the Minnesota Miracle in person. The shock of the extraordinary finish conjured flashbacks to 2011.

“Unfortunately, people will always bring that play up,” Shanle said of the Minnesota Miracle, which won an ESPY award for the moment of the 2017 year. “For Marcus’ sake, I hope he can move past it mentally and not let it define his career because he’s a great young player. He has a chance to make a bunch of more plays and put it behind him.”

Williams seems intent on doing just that – on and off the field. During Friday’s practice, he made a perfectly-timed break-up of a Drew Brees pass during team drills and was mobbed by his teammates after the play. It was the kind of play he routinely made throughout a stellar rookie season in which he started 15 games and ranked among the team leader in tackles (71), interceptions (four) and passes defenses (seven).

“I know what type of player he is,” defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said. “I know what type of work he puts in and know how much film he watches and I know what kind of teammate he is when we’re out there together on Sundays.

“Guys have been in his corner, telling him, ‘Listen, it’s one play. We’re going to need you to make a lot of plays for us this year so put it behind you and attack each day.’ And that’s what he’s done.”

Williams’ reluctance to discuss the play is understandable.

One play should not define a career. But often it does. Steve Gleason made countless big plays in his eight-year tenure with the Saints, but history remembers him for just one: the block.

And the reality is the playoff stage exacerbated Williams’ infamous moment. Fair or not, the stakes of the postseason have a way of supersizing fame or infamy. Just as it lionized Malcolm Butler, Ray Allen and Kirk Gibson, it condemned Chris Webber, Jackie Smith and Bill Buckner.

The good news for Williams is his whole career lies ahead of him. As a second-year player, he will have many more opportunities to re-write the narrative. How he reacts the next time the ball is in the air and he’s hawking it in center field, is up to him.

“The thing about Marcus is he’s the ultimate warrior,” Saints secondary coach Aaron Glenn said. “He’s going to work no matter what. The thing that’s also good about him is he’s quick to forget bad plays and goes on to the next thing. I know everyone talks about the Minnesota play, but you know what? After it happened, he was down in the dumps, but he forgot about it and he’s gone on to this year ready to play.”

Saints CB Ken Crawley has signed his original round RFA tender, as veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer tweets. We learned last week that Crawley would be signing the tender, as he had not garnered any interest from rival clubs.

The lack of interest is not surprising, even though a team that signed Crawley to an offer sheet would not have needed to send any draft compensation to the Saints (since Crawley entered the league as an undrafted free agent). Crawley was demoted from his starting role prior to New Orleans’ Week 3 matchup last year, and although he was reinstated as a starter for the next three contests, he wound up appearing in only ten games and did not return to the starting lineup.

Craig Robertson Jersey

It was December 2011, eight months after he went undrafted, and his hopeful NFL career began to look like a pipe dream. Despite having three straight seasons with 90-plus tackles at North Texas, Robertson didn’t have any invitations to try out for a team for most of his rookie year.

“The only team that called me was Jacksonville,” he said. “They called me to make sure they had the right number. That’s funny. I still laugh at that.”

Without a chance to play pro football, Robertson continued pursuing a graduate degree he started while playing at North Texas. He also worked as a health and wellness coach at a Verizon headquarters in Irving, Texas.

And he started playing Australian rules football and joined the Dallas Magpies, a Division 2 team in the United States Australian Football League. A star in football, baseball and basketball growing up, Robertson picked up the game quickly and contributed to the Magpies’ national championship in 2011.

Robertson’s athleticism was so obvious in the sport that a friend told him he could go to Australia and make $400,000 if he made a team. He even found an agent for his potential new career, but before he booked his flight across the world, his NFL agent called him.

The Cleveland Browns wanted to try him out.

“They called me, and I was like, I’ll just go just to say I went,” Robertson said. “In my mind, I was already going to Australia.”

On December 19, 2011, the Browns signed Robertson to the practice squad. He was so shocked that he didn’t immediately shake the hand of the scout who made him the offer.

“When we went through that process that you go through at the end of the season, our scouting department thought that he might have a future,” former Browns head coach Pat Shurmur said. “So, we brought him in, worked him out, and I guess the rest is somewhat history.”

Now in his first year with the New Orleans Saints, Robertson has a career-high 108 tackles with one game remaining, and he’ll finish the season as the team’s leading tackler, just another example of how much teams missed on him in the draft process.

Opportunity to win

Coming out of Stafford High, about 20 miles from Houston, Robertson played several positions — quarterback, wide receiver, running back, tight end, linebacker, safety, punter and kicker. For recruiting, he drew the title of athlete, but he knew linebacker would be his best chance to make it to the NFL, something only one person from his high school had ever done, former New York Giants defensive end Adrian Awasom.

Robertson chose North Texas because the Mean Green had a recent string of success, winning the Sun Belt Conference title every season from 2001-04. By the time Robertson arrived in 2006, though, things had changed.

As a redshirt freshman, he watched the team go 3-9, and a second consecutive losing season led to the firing of coach Darrell Dickey.

Robertson started the next four years, but the team didn’t fare any better and coach Todd Dodge was fired before the end of Robertson’s senior season. In five years, Robertson’s teams compiled a record of 11-49.

Then, after waiting for his opportunity, Robertson found himself with one of the most moribund franchises in the NFL. The Browns team he joined late in 2011 finished 4-12. Once he started playing from 2012-15, Cleveland went 5-11, 4-12, 7-9 and 3-13, respectively.

“I haven’t won in 10 years,” he said. “That’s how I think of it.”

The last time Robertson played in an American football playoff game was as a junior in high school. Losing in college helped prepare him for what happened in Cleveland, but he was ready for a fresh start.

As a free agent this offseason, Robertson received offers from several teams, but he spurned all the teams interested in a one-year deal. A few teams offered him longer contracts, and he chose the Saints because he wanted the best chance to win.

“I wanted to go to a place with a quarterback,” he said, alluding to Drew Brees. “When you have a quarterback, you got an opportunity to win. So, that was probably one of the main reasons for me coming here. Plus, it was close to home, so it was an easy decision.”

Another factor in Robertson’s decision was something his former teammate D’Qwell Jackson mentioned to him back in 2014. When Jackson signed with the Indianapolis Colts, he told Robertson how different it is to play for a team with banners in the practice facility, and that was one of the first things Robertson noticed in New Orleans.

The Saints (7-8) won’t be in the playoffs this year, but a win Sunday over the Atlanta Falcons would secure Robertson’s first non-losing season in a long time. And his presence has been a key reason the unit improved from 31st last season.

“He’s got all the makeup, all the intangibles that you look for and I’m glad we have him,” said coach Sean Payton, who was on the same flight from Dallas to New Orleans when Robertson came for his visit in March.

Former Browns linebacker coach Bill Davis, who recently became a defensive coach at Ohio State, said Jon Sandusky deserves all the credit for giving Robertson a chance. Now an area scout with the Saints, Sandusky kept suggesting Cleveland give him a chance, and Robertson later proved the scout’s instinct to be correct.

“I didn’t know anything about him until he was dropped in my lap as a practice squad player,” Davis said.

During Robertson’s few weeks on the practice squad, Davis said his speed was apparent even if he was just running with the scout team. The Browns signed him to a reserve/future contract in January 2012, and he went on to make the 53-man roster because of his quick-twitch ability as well as versatility to play special teams and all of the linebacker spots in Cleveland’s 3-4 scheme.

And Robertson’s non-athletic features made him an instant favorite in the locker room with the Browns.

“He’s actually honestly one of my favorite rookies of all time that I was ever around,” said former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita, who was with Cleveland from 2010-12.

Davis, a coach for more than 25 years, called Robertson one of his favorite players, too, because he was intelligent, prepared, grateful for his opportunity and had a chip on his shoulder.

“When a rookie — especially an undrafted one — comes in humble, hard working and focused, it’s a breath of fresh air and you just gravitate toward him,” Davis said.

After the winding road to the NFL, it didn’t take Robertson long to become a fixture on the defense. He only started three games in 2012 — what people from the Browns consider his rookie year — but he finished with 93 tackles. Then, he started 14 games in 2013, 11 in 2014 and nine in 2015.

When Robertson signed with the Saints in March, he was still an unknown to many people in New Orleans — including some players and coaches. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen doesn’t recall studying him in 2011 when Allen was coaching the Denver Broncos’ defense. Robertson wasn’t really on Allen’s radar until the personnel department suggested the player to coaches during free agency.

Luckily, Saints secondary coach Aaron Glenn was on the Browns’ staff from 2014-15, so Robertson had a couple people in New Orleans pushing for him, along with Sandusky.

“Obviously having A.G. here in the building that was with him in Cleveland gave us a little bit of inside information,” Allen said, “just not about the player you’re looking at on tape, but more about the individual and really his makeup and his love for the game of football. And those are the things in my mind that really make a difference in the player is really, how much does this guy really love football? Is he a football junkie? Because those guys can usually succeed in whatever role it is that you give them.”

The Saints gave Robertson a three-year, $5 million, and the initial vision was for him to be a core special teams contributor and a backup on defense. But, when Robertson seemingly batted a pass in every training camp practice and consistently covered tight end Coby Fleener like a glove, it was clear the linebacker could handle a bigger role.

All he needed was an opportunity, and it came when weak-side linebacker Dannell Ellerbe suffered a quad injury before the final preseason game.

“He did a magnificent job filling in my spot,” Ellerbe said. “He did such a great job that we had to keep him on the field.”

Robertson opened the season on the weak side, but since Week 4, he’s played middle linebacker, replacing veteran James Laurinaitis initially due to injury and then because of performance.

“I think he’s performed really well,” Allen said. “I think he’s grown as the season has gone on, and we’ve put more responsibility on his plate as far as being the signal caller for our defense. I think you really see him grow in that regard, and, again, a lot of that’s based on the fact that, look, he’s a football junkie. He loves the game, so the more information he just eats that up. That’s been really good for us.”

Obviously, it’s easier for NFL teams to find someone playing at a bigger school than North Texas, but there were other factors that delayed his opportunity.

First, the Mean Green’s pro day in 2011 was the same day as Texas A&M’s as well as some other big programs around the country, and Robertson said the only NFL person at the North Texas workout was a representative from the Dallas Cowboys.

“They ran the pro day like they had to hurry up and get somewhere,” he said.

A few days after Robertson’s pro day, the 2011 NFL lockout began, so even if teams wanted to sign him as an undrafted free agent, they would’ve had to wait until late July.

So, Robertson carried on with his life. He worked. He studied. He played a different kind of football.

And eventually, he came to New Orleans where he feels like a rookie all over again because he’s refreshed in the new environment.

“I’m thrilled for him,” said Saints defensive end Paul Kruger, Robertson’s teammate in Cleveland from 2013-15. “And it’s not a surprise. I think there’s been a long time where he’s kind of been anxious to show what he can do, and now that he’s in a position where he can (do) that, I just couldn’t be more excited for him.”

For the Saints, Robertson has shown off the all-around skill set he displayed in college. As a freshman, he had five interceptions playing in space before moving to the middle to become a tackling machine, leading the team as a junior and senior.

In addition to his 108 tackles this season, Robertson has contributed six tackles for loss, five quarterback hits, one sack, one interception, four passes defensed and two fumble recoveries.

Robertson’s dream of a winning season is out of reach for this year, but he’s found a way to win off the field thanks to his 2-year-old daughter, Lexi.

“For me, mostly it’s being a dad really,” he said. “When you look at sports and all that stuff, yeah, trophies and stuff live forever. But my greatest trophy right now is my daughter and my soon-to-be son. That’s what I look forward to. When I leave here, I can (use) as much energy as possible, but when I go home, it’s like I’m refreshed and everything starts over.

“My daughter doesn’t care what I did earlier today. She wants to play with me now, and I’m like, phew, ready to play. Let’s go.”

Robertson watches Australian football on TV sometimes, watching for any players he met while he played. And even though he’s in the NFL now, he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of going to Australia at some point.

“We’ll see how we feel when I’m done,” he said. “I don’t plan on being done anytime soon, so who knows?”

Tyeler Davison Jersey

Saints free agent defensive tackle Tyeler Davison is taking a visit to his team’s biggest rival.

Davison is visiting with the Atlanta Falcons, a source confirmed to The Advocate on Monday afternoon.

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network first reported the news.

Davison played in 14 games, starting in 12 last season. He recorded 23 tackles, including two tackles for loss. He also had three quarterback hurries and a pair of sacks.

The Saints selected Davison in the fifth round of the 2015 draft out of Fresno State.

The possible loss of Davison has been a big part of the Saints’ thought process in free agency. It’s a big reason the team signed Malcom Brown , who spent the past four seasons with the New England Patriots. The team also signed Mario Edwards Jr., who can play both defensive tackle and end. Edwards spent last season with the New York Giants.
“We just had to address the defensive line position,” Sean Payton said at the NFL owners’ meetings in March. “Part of that was, Tyeler is a free agent and Sheldon (Rankins) is going to be up against the timeline when we start the year. Put that with Tyeler and it was a must-position. We signed a couple of players there. We just felt like if the season were to start as we came out of last year, Sheldon’s unhealthy, Tyeler’s a free agent and you really had our young player (Stallworth) and Onyemata.”Rankins will miss the first part of the season after suffering a torn Achilles in the playoffs. Onyemata’s status for the start of the season is unknown after he was cited for allegedly having marijuana delivered to his home.

The loss of Davison would be the second key piece of the defensive line. Defensive end Alex Okafor signed a 3-year deal worth $18 million with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Tyeler Davison is staying in the NFC South, but it won’t be with the New Orleans Saints.

The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Saturday afternoon that Davison signed a one-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans’ biggest rival. Davison reportedly visited with the Falcons earlier this week on Monday.
Davison played for the Saints for four seasons, serving as a starter for the past three. In 2018, Davison played in 14 games, starting in 12. He recorded 23 tackles, including two tackles for loss. He also had three quarterback hurries and a pair of sacks.

The Saints selected Davison in the fifth round of the 2015 draft out of Fresno State.
The possible loss of Davison has been a big part of the Saints’ thought process in free agency. It’s a big reason the team signed Malcom Brown, who spent the past four seasons with the New England Patriots. The team also signed Mario Edwards Jr., who can play defensive tackle and end. Edwards spent last season with the New York Giants.

“We just had to address the defensive line position,” Sean Payton said at the NFL owners meetings in March. “Part of that was, Tyeler is a free agent and Sheldon (Rankins) is going to be up against the timeline when we start the year. Put that with Tyeler and it was a must-position. We signed a couple of players there. We just felt like if the season were to start as we came out of last year, Sheldon’s unhealthy, Tyeler’s a free agent and you really had our young player (Stallworth) and Onyemata.”

Rankins will miss the first part of the season after suffering a torn Achilles in the playoffs. Onyemata’s status for the start of the season is unknown after he was cited for allegedly having marijuana delivered to his home.

The loss of Davison would be the second key piece of the defensive line. Defensive end Alex Okafor signed a three-year deal worth $18 million with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Tyeler Davison was the starting nose tackle for the New Orleans Saints for most of the past three seasons, but there’s a chance he’ll soon be joining their top rival.

The Atlanta Falcons are hosting Davison on a free-agent visit Monday (April 8), according to a league source. NFL Network first reported the visit, which is the first known visit for Davison since free agency began on March 13.

The 26-year-old Davison started 12 games for the Saints in 2018 and had 23 tackles, two sacks, one pass defensed and one forced fumble. Although he was technically the starter, Davison played the third-most snaps among the team’s defensive tackles as his 41 percent ranked behind Sheldon Rankins (62 percent) and David Onyemata (60 percent).
Still, Davison has ample experience and could help a team, particularly as a run defender. In four seasons with the Saints, the former fifth-round pick played 61 games with 48 starts and posted 95 tackles.The Saints signed former Patriots nose tackle Malcom Brown early in free agency as an attempt to upgrade the position. It’s unclear if there’s any interest in bringing Davison back for a lesser role, but he certainly deserves to be on an NFL roster somewhere.

Defensive tackle Tyeler Davison has signed a 1-year deal with the Saints biggest rival, the Atlanta Falcons. The Saints drafted him in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL draft.

He was a three-year starter for the Black and Gold. He racked up 95 total tackles and 3.5 sacks in four seasons.

He told Sharief Ishaq he appreciated his time with the Saints, city and fan base. He jokingly said “I hope everyone in Nola doesn’t hate me now.”

One of the strongest defensive tackles in the 2015 class, Tyeler Davison passes the eyeball test in a big way. Davison shows advanced and usage and will fight for positioning in tight spaces, and he uses his long arms and huge hands to get positioning. Davison works well through double-teams and has the quickness and strength to perform a countermove against blockers. He is a high rep player who rarely left the field and played both end and tackle for Fresno State. He’s strong enough to play nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme.

Davison’s straight-line speed is good, but his lateral quickness and agility don’t wow. His hand usage is a plus, but too often he gets caught standing up hand-fighting and doesn’t work through blockers. He can get caught up trying to win with power far too often and needs to learn to use his quickness.

A former New Orleans Saints starter may be going turncloak. Per a report from Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, free agent nose tackle Tyeler Davison is visiting the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta has been running thin along the defensive line and could use the help.

The Saints upgraded from Davison early in free agency, signing former New England Patriots starter Malcom Brown to a three-year, $15 million contract. Davison started for the Saints at nose tackle since late in his rookie 2015 season, providing competent but unspectacular play. The Saints drafted Davison in the fifth round of that year’s draft — the Patriots picked Brown late in the first round of the same year.

For Davison, Atlanta offers a clear path to another starting gig. Their franchise tagged star defensive tackle Grady Jarrett will own one spot as the pass-rushing three technique, but Davison’s only real competition for the other spot is second-year player Deadrin Senat. Senat was a third-round draft pick in 2018 who appeared sparingly over 15 games, starting just twice. If Davison does sign with the Falcons, he could expect to (at worst) split reps with Senat while lining up at the one technique.

It wouldn’t be great to see Davison cross enemy lines to join the Saints’ division rival, but he’s gotta eat. This is the first reported interest Davison has received in free agency after nearly a month of allowed contact between teams and players.

April 8 (UPI) — Former New Orleans Saints defensive lineman Tyeler Davison could join an NFC South rival in the upcoming season.

Sources told the NFL Network that the Falcons are bringing in Davison for a visit.

It’s the first reported visit for Davison since the Saints let him enter free agency this off-season. New Orleans added former New England Patriots first-round pick Malcom Brown to replace Davison.

Davison spent the last four seasons with the Saints and was a key member of the team’s defensive line rotation. The 6-foot-2, 309-pound defensive tackle appeared in 61 games (48 starts) in the past four campaigns.

The Saints originally drafted Davison in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft out of Fresno State. He has recorded 95 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and four passes defensed in his four seasons. He spent most of the past three seasons as a starter alongside Sheldon Rankins.

The Falcons have a need on the defensive line. Atlanta interior lineman Grady Jarrett, who was franchise tagged this off-season, is working toward a long-term agreement with the club.

April 8 (UPI) — Former New Orleans Saints defensive lineman Tyeler Davison could join an NFC South rival in the upcoming season.

Sources told the NFL Network that the Falcons are bringing in Davison for a visit.

It’s the first reported visit for Davison since the Saints let him enter free agency this off-season. New Orleans added former New England Patriots first-round pick Malcom Brown to replace Davison.

Davison spent the last four seasons with the Saints and was a key member of the team’s defensive line rotation. The 6-foot-2, 309-pound defensive tackle appeared in 61 games (48 starts) in the past four campaigns.

The Saints originally drafted Davison in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft out of Fresno State. He has recorded 95 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and four passes defensed in his four seasons. He spent most of the past three seasons as a starter alongside Sheldon Rankins.

The Falcons have a need on the defensive line. Atlanta interior lineman Grady Jarrett, who was franchise tagged this off-season, is working toward a long-term agreement with the club.
Jack Crawford and Deadrin Senat are other members of the Falcons’ current defensive tackle rotation, while Terrell McClain remains a free agent.