Benjamin Watson Jersey

Ben Watson, who spent 14 years in the NFL as a reliable pass-catching tight end, announced Thursday that he plans to retire from professional football at the age of 38, per Josh Katzenstein of the Times-Picayune.

Watson has played all 15 games this season with the New Orleans Saints, ranking third on the team with 33 catches to go with his 371 yards and two touchdowns.

A first-round draft pick of the New England Patriots in 2004, Watson’s career started on a rough note when a knee injury derailed his rookie campaign after just one game.

“That was devastating for me,” Watson said of the injury, per the Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker. “A lot of my identity was tied up in football and my performance, as it should be as a professional. But I was all over the place emotionally. I was a jerk to be around when I was hurt. I felt like I was worthless because I couldn’t do anything. And now having that perspective 14 years later, I have a better perspective on my value being not so tied up in football and my performance.”

Fortunately, that injury didn’t prove disastrous in the long run.

Watson rebounded and appeared in at least 12 games each of the next five seasons, and he finished his career in New England with 167 receptions for 2,102 yards and 20 touchdowns.

The University of Georgia product spent the next six years split evenly between the Cleveland Browns and New Orleans Saints, and his final season during his first stint in the Big Easy proved to be the most productive of his career.

Over 16 appearances in 2015, Watson hauled in 74 receptions on 110 targets for 825 yards and six scores.

Watson spent the next two years with the Ravens, but he never sniffed the field in 2016 after tearing his Achilles during the preseason. However, Watson rebounded with aplomb and proved solid with 522 receiving yards and four touchdowns in 2017.

He returned to the Saints this season, in what appears to be his final campaign in the NFL, rejoining a good friend in Drew Brees. The tight end caught Brees’ 500th touchdown pass earlier this year, which led to some high praise from the quarterback.

“One of the greatest things about the 500th touchdown pass, it was caught by one of my favorite teammates of all time,” Brees said of Watson, per Luke Johnson of the Times-Picayune. “I couldn’t think of a better guy to catch this touchdown than Ben Watson. He is a terrific veteran, and I look up to him.”

Ultimately, that kind of leadership will likely be what Watson is remembered for.

After reports surfaced Thursday morning about the New England Patriots hosting free agent tight end Ben Watson for a visit, the two sides have come to an agreement on a one-year deal worth $3 million, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Watson, 38, who had announced last season that he would retire but changed his mind in the offseason, fills perhaps the biggest need on the Patriots roster.

After reports surfaced Thursday morning about the New England Patriots hosting free agent tight end Ben Watson for a visit, the two sides have come to an agreement on a one-year deal worth $3 million, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Watson, 38, who had announced last season that he would retire but changed his mind in the offseason, fills perhaps the biggest need on the Patriots roster.
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Watson returns to New England, where he was drafted in 2004. He played six seasons in New England (2004-2009) and later spent time with the Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens.

He played in 71 games with the Patriots, making 47 starts and recording 2,102 yards on 167 receptions. He also scored 20 touchdowns.

Watson played his 2018 season with quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints where he had 35 receptions while playing in all 16 games (four starts). He also recorded 400 yards receiving with two touchdowns last year.

Watson has 5,885 receiving yards on 530 catches and 44 touchdowns in his career.

He will bolster a tight end group that lost Rob Gronkowski to retirement and has a depth chart of Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Stephen Anderson and Matt LaCosse.

Former New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson is ending his retirement to sign with the Patriots, according to The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Watson reportedly also considered the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers before signing with New England.

Watson, 38, announced that he was going to retire at the end of the 2018 season. He caught 35 passes for 400 yards and two touchdowns last season, playing in all 16 regular season games.

Watson was originally drafted by the Patriots in the first round of the 2004 draft, spending six seasons there.

The 14-year-veteran has also played for Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens as well as his two stints with Saints.

He won a championship with New England after the team’s victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, although he missed the game with a knee injury.

In his career, he has 530 receptions for 5,885 yards and 44 touchdowns.

The Buffalo Bills might not be done reshaping their depth chart at tight end.

According to a report Thursday from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the team has expressed at least some interest in tight end Benjamin Watson, who after flirting with retirement has decided to continue his playing career.

It’s possible that the Bills don’t get a chance to sign Watson, depending on what happens with his visit to New England — where he started his NFL career.

Watson, 38, has played 14 NFL seasons, making 530 catches for 5,885 yards and 44 touchdowns. Four of the past five seasons have been spent with the New Orleans Saints, with one year spent with the Baltimore Ravens in 2017. In addition to the Patriots, Watson has also played for the Cleveland Browns. He is widely respected around the NFL for his character, and would give the Bills a veteran leader at the position.

After releasing Charles Clay earlier this offseason, the Bills have added Tyler Kroft and converted offensive tackle Jake Fisher from the Bengals as free agents this offseason, and also drafted a pair of tight ends – Ole Miss’ Dawson Knox in the third round and Boston College’s Tommy Sweeney in the seventh.

Tight end Benjamin Watson only announced his retirement from the NFL at the end of December. Now, according to a tweet from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, he may be looking to come back to play if he is coming back to “the right situation.”

What the right situation would be for Benjamin Watson would probably hinge on a few factors but paramount would be the chances of the new team winning a Super Bowl. The 38-year old isn’t in a place to demand a big paycheck. While his 2018 was not awful, nobody is going to pay top money for a tight end who only produced 400 yards and two touchdowns in his last year.

There are a lot of obligatory articles floating around today from several cities asking the question if Benjamin Watson is the right fit for whatever team the article’s writer is writing for. There are pieces suggesting this place is better suited than that because of a list of reasons. Watson and his wife are expecting twins next week and maybe it’s money is a suggestion.

This story seems to cry out for one three word answer, New England Patriots. It doesn’t make sense in New Orleans. The team just snagged Jared Cook, the best free agent tight end on the 2019 market. They also just extended veteran tight end Josh Hill with a three-year, $8.85 million deal. That’s already a good bit of money invested in the position.

Then there are Garrett Griffin and Dan Arnold on the roster providing depth. This is also considered a likely draft for the team to bring in another rookie. New Orleans might be the least likely “right situation” in that regard.

New England, on the other hand, just lost Rob Gronkowski and have the NFL equivalent of pillows under sheets to look like tight ends when the guards come by at night for headcount currently on the roster.

There’s a lot of talk that they’ll be taking a tight end in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft next week, perhaps Iowa’s Noah Fant. What better situation than for Benjamin Watson to come back to the team that drafted him in 2004 to help coach and mentor Gronkowski’s replacement?

Reports are making it sound as if Watson has thought about it, decided he’s still got the fire in his belly and will see what offers come along now. It’s much more likely that he was approached by the Patriots with an opportunity and then decided he might still have the fire in his belly.

In answer to the burning question for Who Dats, no. It makes no sense at all. In answer to other questions, no. There probably wasn’t anything illegal about how this one was handled.

Austin Carr Jersey

Notre Dame’s Austin Carr owns the NCAA Tournament scoring record book. Just call him The Man and be done with it—especially considering Austin did not benefit from a three point line.

“With that short three-point line in college, that’s a lay-up. I would have loved to have played with that line,” said Carr. A remarkable thirty-eight years have passed with sharpshooters taking aim at his records. The closest anyone has come since then is David Robinson’s 50 points against Michigan in 1987.

When Saints receiver Austin Carr was a freshman at Northwestern, he got his cheek swabbed to join the Be The Match bone marrow registry. Wildcats kicker Jeff Budzien told his teammates that Be The Match, the largest bone marrow registry in the world, was coming to campus for a donor drive, and Carr figured, why not? Some 20 Northwestern football players registered that day in January 2013.

Two-and-a-half years later, in November 2015, Carr’s phone rang with an unknown number. It was Be The Match, informing him that he’d been selected as a potential match. A month later it was official. He was a match to donate peripheral blood stem cells. “I was shocked initially,” Carr says. “And then very soon after, I prayed. Just to ask, what should I do?”

Be The Match wanted to begin the procedure immediately, because Carr’s recipient needed the transfusion as soon as possible. But the Wildcats had a New Year’s Day bowl game, and Carr wanted to be in top shape for it. After a few phone calls, Be The Match decided to wait to begin the procedure, which allowed Carr to play in the Outback Bowl. “I was able to remain committed to the team and also give blood and commit myself to helping save someone’s life,” he says.

A few weeks after the Wildcats’ Outback Bowl loss to Tennessee, Carr began the procedure to donate his blood stem cells. To prepare for donation, Carr took a drug called Filgrastim, which boosts the number of blood-forming cells in the bloodstream, for five days before the procedure. The first day on Filgrastim was normal, but he soon felt a bone soreness all over his body and had to stop working out. “I got bursts of pain in my hips that were crippling,” he says. “It was a very distinct and new kind of pain.”

The five-hour procedure of donating blood stem cells is similar to blood dialysis, where blood is removed through a needle in one arm and passed through a machine that sifts out the valuable blood-forming cells. The leftover blood is then returned to the donor through the other arm.

Immediately after Carr’s procedure, his blood stem cells were flown from a clinic in Rosemont, Ill., to a hospital in Kansas City, where Roy Coe, 59, waited for his transfusion.

Coe, a retired locomotive engineer for Union-Pacific railroad, had spent three years battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type blood cancer. He went through eight rounds of chemotherapy to treat it, and then found out his cancer had become mantle cell lymphoma, which meant he would need a blood stem cell transplant. Coe spent six months awaiting a donor for his transfusion.

The necessity of the transfusion became clear the summer before he received Carr’s blood stem cells, when Coe and his girlfriend, Linda Baur, tried to take a short vacation after the fourth of July. They drove a couple hours east to Jefferson City, Mo., and Coe suddenly felt very sick. “I thought I was going to die,” he says. “I wasn’t able to go to bed because the pain was keeping me up.” The couple jumped back in the car to return to their hospital in Kansas City, but Coe couldn’t even make it that far. They had to stop halfway back, at a hospital in Lexington, Mo., because Coe was in so much pain from a cell that had swelled up. “The swelling of that one cell brought a little more urgency to it,” Coe says.

The 2016 transplant procedure was a success, and Coe spent the year-and-a-half transitioning back to a normal life until this past summer, when he found out that he had bladder cancer. “When you are fighting cancer, you feed it in one area and it tends to pop up in another,” Coe says. The doctors caught this issue early. Coe will go in for one more exploratory scope, to make sure that cancer is gone.

In the months following the successful transplant, both Coe and Carr knew very little about each other and wondered what the other person might be like. “My biggest desire was just to put flesh to him, a face to the name, flesh to the bone,” Carr says.

On Wednsday night of Super Bowl week, Carr and Coe met each other for the first time, at the Host Committee’s Business Connect gala. Be The Match, based in Minneapolis, facilitated the meeting and also provided Coe with two tickets to the Super Bowl.

“Austin is not normally too emotional, and right before they met, he said, ‘I might cry,’ ” says Austin’s wife, Erica Carr.

The two men, one a professional football player, and one a retired train engineer, shook hands when they were first introduced. “But we both knew that the initial greeting, that a handshake just wasn’t going to be enough,” Coe says.

“That’s true,” Austin says with a laugh. “Sorry if I squeezed you too tight.”

Carr’s college roommate, Matt Micucci, a kicker on the team, also joined the registry that day during their freshman year. About three months ago he was matched and called on to donate. Two Northwestern roommates and football players went on to save lives, an unusual coincidence when compared to Be The Match’s statistic that just one in every 430 registry members go on to become donors.

Carr envisions a future in which all NFL players are members of the Be The Match registry. A partnership between the two would be helpful to maintaining a diverse registry, since the majority of NFL players are African-American. The likelihood of finding a matched, available donor depends on ethnic background. Currently, African-Americans have a 23% chance of finding a matched, available donor. White patients have a 77% chance. Amy Alegi, VP of marketing and communications for Be The Match, says the non-profit is focusing on recruiting more African-Americans to join the registry.

Now that they’ve finally met each other, Coe and Carr will have a lifelong connection.

“As ugly as the world can get, there are still beautiful things in it and beautiful people in it,” Coe says. “I’m not the overly religious type, but I am quite spiritual. I do hear the message that Jesus gave, which is to take care of each other as best as we can.”

“Like Roy said, we teach our kids the Golden Rule, and that was something that I learned in kindergarten,” says Carr. “Treat others as you want to be treated. I’m a Christian, and treat your neighbor as yourself is a core biblical belief.”

Coe has been a Chiefs fan his entire life, but he says he’ll now pay more attention to New Orleans, the team his donor plays for. After all, he’s got a second shot at life, thanks to his personal saint.

Ted Ginn Jr. is set to make his return to action.

The wide receiver is active for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which puts him on pace to play for the first time since Week 4 against the New York Giants.

Wide receivers Simmie Cobbs and Austin Carr are inactive this week.

New Orleans will also have offensive tackle Terron Armstead active, which comes at an advantageous time with backup offensive tackle Jermod Bushrod out due to a hamstring injury. Armstead missed the last five games due to a pectoral injury.

Linebacker Manti Te’o, defensive lineman Mitchell Loewen, tight end Dan Arnold and defensive end Trey Hendrickson are also inactive.

Austin Carr was a former walk-on at Northwestern University, where he earned a scholarship and eventually became a starting wide receiver in his junior year. Two years later, he signed with the New England Patriots after going undrafted in 2017.

After shining in the 2017 preseason with the Patriots, Carr was waived in the final cuts on Sept. 2. A day later, he was claimed off waivers by the New Orleans Saints, where he has remained.

In 2018, he played in 14 games, caught nine passes and also had his first two NFL touchdown receptions against Philadelphia and on Thanksgiving against Atlanta.

In November 2015, after registering with Be The Match two and a half years earlier, Carr was notified that he may be a potential match to donate peripheral blood stem cells. Through a five-hour procedure, he was able to donate his stem cells via a blood transfusion, which ultimately saved the life of the recipient, a retired locomotive engineer for the Union-Pacific railroad who had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

On this episode of the podcast, we hear how Carr made it from walk-on receiver at Northwestern to catching touchdowns from Drew Brees. He also shares how his faith has played a role in his journey, including the life-altering decision he made to donate stem cells and save the life of a retired locomotive engineer.

agoNew Orleans Saints undrafted wide receiver Austin Carr is expected to work out of the slot in Week 1 against the Buccaneers. Despite only playing in one career game with no catches, he has impressed quarterback Drew Brees enough and gained his trust.

Eli Apple Jersey

After a wild-card round that was truly wild, with three visiting teams advancing, the divisional round of the NFL playoffs offered no surprises.

The top four seeds all advanced, setting up a pair of compelling title games. In the AFC championship, the Chiefs and Patriots will face off in a rematch of New England’s memorable 43-40 victory earlier this season. In the NFC, the Rams get another shot at the Saints in New Orleans, after having lost there in November, 45-35.

The quarterback matchups offer a nice symmetry, with one young star facing a veteran, soon-to-be Hall of Famer: Patrick Mahomes versus Tom Brady, and Jared Goff versus Drew Brees.

There are lots of interesting subplots in this season’s NFL championship round. Let’s take a look at the factors in each matchup that will determine who advances to the Super Bowl.

This year’s AFC title runs through Kansas City, not Foxborough. Brady is 28-10 as a playoff quarterback, the greatest record ever. But he’s not used to being on the road in January. He has a 3-4 record on the road in the playoffs, and believe it or not, he hasn’t won a road playoff game since 2006.

Brady is in his eighth consecutive AFC championship game. During that stretch, he’s played a title game on the road only twice, losing to the Denver Broncos in the 2013 and 2016 seasons.

On the road, Brady is almost human. In home playoff games, his touchdown-to-interception ratio is an incredible 46-to-18. In those seven road playoff games, it’s 8-to-8. In this matchup, Brady’s challenge is trying to minimize the Chiefs’ pass rush trio of Justin Houston, Dee Ford and Chris Jones. It won’t be easy, as Andrew Luck found out Saturday in the Colts’ loss to Kansas City.

One of the stories of the Patriots’ win over the Chargers was their success on the ground, led by rookie running back Sony Michel’s 100-yard game and three touchdowns. But equally important was their running backs’ role in the passing game, as Brady targeted them on 19 of his 44 attempts. James White caught 15 passes, tying a playoff record.

That will matter again against the Chiefs, who gave up a league-high six passing touchdowns to running backs this season and are vulnerable at the linebacker position.

“You can’t get one-dimensional in these types of games,” Brady said of the team’s balance after the win over the Chargers. “It’s too tough against too many good teams. You can get to this point and there’s very little margin of error and you’re going to have to be good in all phases. Running it, throwing it, kicking it, playing defense. Everything. We’ll have to do it again.”

Mahomes followed his 50-touchdown season with a great performance against the Indianapolis Colts, completing 27 of 41 passes for 278 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown pass, but he did everything else, including running for a score.

Mahomes has the look of a quarterback destined to win multiple Super Bowl rings. He’s a gunslinger in the mold of Brett Favre. He’s a great running quarterback in the mold of Russell Wilson. He has the smarts of Drew Brees. And in this game, Mahomes is at home, where he ended his team’s six-game home playoff losing streak that dated back to 1994.

The Chiefs’ offense also has gotten a boost from the return from injury of wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who caught six passes for 62 yards against the Colts, and the emergence of running back Damien Williams, who rushed for 129 yards on 25 carries. Williams has gone from third-down back to a starring role following Kareem Hunt’s release and Spencer Ware’s injury, and he and Watkins have returned this offense to a unit that can put up 30-plus points per game.

Saints Coach Sean Payton doesn’t get enough credit for regularly putting together great offensive lines, and they are loaded again this year, with Pro Bowlers Max Unger and Terron Armstead and Pro Bowl alternate guards Larry Warford and Andrus Peat.

But the Rams have also been great up front this season, and the blocking of their offensive line was one of the keys to their 30-22 win over Dallas on Saturday. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth admitted after the victory that the line didn’t perform well in the playoffs last year.

“I thought last year we didn’t execute,” Whitworth said. “It was probably our worst game we played all season from the execution standpoint. This year that was in Chicago. I think in some ways it’s benefited us to get that game out of the way.”

L.A.’s line is talented. Whitworth and guard Rodger Saffold were first alternates to the Pro Bowl. Rob Havenstein is one of the better, higher-paid right tackles. John Sullivan is smart and solid at center.

That group paved the way for a stellar game from running back C.J. Anderson, who might have been the best story of the divisional round. He rushed for 123 yards on 23 carries, allowing the Rams to ease back Todd Gurley in his return from a knee injury. Gurley still chipped in with 115 yards on 16 carries.

Anderson earned the respect of Peyton Manning when the two played together in Denver not just for his running ability, but for his pass protection. That’s big for the Rams, as well, and L.A. will need to run the ball and control the clock to beat the Saints on the road next week.

The soon-to-be 40-year-old quarterback is 6-0 at home in the playoffs for New Orleans, having thrown 14 touchdowns to two interceptions and never posted a passer rating below 96.2. That’s why it wasn’t surprising to see Brees rally the Saints after their slow start versus Philadelphia.

Rams Coach Sean McVay says his team has learned a lot since that November loss in New Orleans, but no matter what adjustments they make, beating Brees in the Superdome is no easy task.

The midseason trade for the struggling former first-round cornerback of the Giants has flown under the radar a bit, but it has had a big impact on the Saints’ pass coverage. Apple’s ability to play man coverage has allowed the New Orleans defense to play less zone, and that will matter against the Rams.

Down the stretch, most teams have tried to double cover-one of the Rams’ top two receivers – either Brandin Cooks or Robert Woods – and also commit an extra defender to stopping Gurley. New Orleans has a true shutdown corner in second-year pro Marshon Lattimore, who was one of the stars of Sunday’s win for his shadow coverage of Alshon Jeffery and his two critical interceptions, and it is able to use him in that role due to the presence of Apple, who doesn’t need to be in zone coverage to be effective.

The loss of Cooper Kupp to a knee injury looms large for the Rams in this one, as they don’t have a third wide receiver to truly test the defense. With the Saints matched up in man coverage Sunday, that will free them to be creative in drawing up schemes to stop the Rams.

— The biggest story of the offseason will be whether the Pittsburgh Steelers trade star wide receiver Antonio Brown. There is no doubt that there is plenty of interest in a trade, and the early word is he could end up in the AFC West.

Teams selecting at the top of the draft all need wide receiver help, but a top-5 pick is too much to spend on Brown, given the level of defensive talent in this draft. The team to watch, though, could be the Raiders, who could use the No. 4 overall pick on a defensive lineman and then consider dealing one or both of their remaining first-rounders (acquired in trades with the Bears and Cowboys) to bring in Brown.

It creates an interesting debate, especially after they traded wide receiver Amari Cooper to Dallas this year. Brown is older than Cooper, but arguably is the best receiver in the league. Coach Jon Gruden has always said great things about Brown’s skills. The other AFC West team to watch in the Brown trade market is the Broncos, who have a need at wide receiver.

— Even though the Indianapolis Colts have the cap room to sign running back Le’Veon Bell, it still looks as though the New York Jets are the leading candidate to land him. The Jets have the cap room, and new head coach Adam Gase would like to call plays around Bell’s running ability.

Malcom Brown Jersey

The New Orleans Saints will reportedly sign defensive tackle Malcom Brown to a three-year deal worth $15 million, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Brown spent the past four years with the New England Patriots after being drafted in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft. He appeared in 60 regular-season games during this stretch, starting 51 of them.

The negative grade likely came from his limited impact in the pass rush. Brown had at least 2.5 sacks and five quarterback hits in each of his first three seasons but didn’t get a single sack in 2018, totaling just one quarterback hit.

Still, he was a key player throughout the year for New England, starting in the Super Bowl LIII win over the Los Angeles Rams. It was his second championship in his young career.

Considering he is still just 25 years old, he should continue to improve and potentially gain more consistency going forward.

This will be big for the Saints, who could potentially line Brown up either next to Sheldon Rankins or in place of him after he suffered an Achilles injury last season.

The Saints had the No. 3 offense in the NFL but just the No. 14 defense in 2018, so an improvement on that side of the ball could help bring the team closer to elite status as the squad tries to contend for a championship.

New England Patriots defensive tackle Malcom Brown will be a free agent next offseason after the team declined his fifth-year option for 2019 on Wednesday, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.

Brown has been a core part of the defense since the Patriots drafted him in the first round in 2015, starting 37 games over the past three seasons. He has played 45 regular-season contests overall, totaling 8.5 sacks and an average of 49 tackles each year.

While it’s often difficult to post eye-popping stats as an interior lineman, the 24-year-old has excelled against the run and has helped the Patriots remain elite defensively.

The squad has ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in points allowed in each of the past three years, including in 2016, when the unit was No. 1 in the league on the way to a Super Bowl title.

After leading all defensive tackles on the roster with 50.66 percent of snaps last season, per Pro Football Reference, it’s clear his role on the team is secure for 2018.

Despite his success, the Patriots haven’t been afraid to let go of key defensive players, including Malcolm Butler, Jamie Collins and Chandler Jones, in recent years. Brown appears to be the next in a line of regulars to leave before getting a raise.

Defensive tackle Malcom Brown is the latest free agent to leave the Patriots, signing a three-year, $15 million contract with the Saints, according to a league source.

Brown had a good sense as free agency approached that there was likely to be more money available if he left New England. The Patriots drafted the 6-2, 320-pounder in the first round in 2015, but declined to pick up his fifth-year option last offseason. Brown was still a big piece of the defensive line, playing 44 percent of the defensive snaps, mostly as a space eater on first and second downs.

Brown does have some pass-rushing ability for a big guy, with 8.5 sacks over his four seasons in the NFL, and may get better production in a different scheme.

His departure isn’t a surprise, but leaves the Patriots with work to do on their defensive line with Danny Shelton still a free agent. Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler are the top defensive tackles currently on the roster, with Ufomba Kamalu, Frank Herron, and David Parry filling out New England’s depth.

The Patriots did have former Chiefs defensive lineman Allen Bailey in for a visit Thursday as they explore options to round out the group that just lost Brown.

Slotted as the next Vince Wilfork, fourth-year defensive tackle Malcom Brown has had an up and down career with the New England Patriots. A two-time Super Bowl champion, he now enters NFL free agency with a chance to cash in.

It is highly unlikely the 6-foot-2, 320-pound Texas product cashes in with the Patriots.

As a player who has done everything the coaches have asked him to do, Brown has had his moments of success, but for the most part has been a disappointment. With a defensive tackle depth chart of Lawrence Guy, Danny Shelton and Adam Butler, Brown really had his chance to shine in a contract season.

He really didn’t hurt himself, but he didn’t stand out either as an impact defensive lineman clogging up on the middle. With 39 combined tackles and no sacks, Malcom Brown actually saw his production decline from the 2017 season in which he combined for 49 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

But, as we know, sometimes the numbers don’t say everything.

When asked about Brown’s impact on the team back in December, teammate Patrick Chung called him the most underrated players on defense.

Another Patriots free agent has found a new home.

Defensive tackle Malcom Brown, a four-year starter in New England, will sign with the Saints, according to The NFL Network.

A return to the Patriots was always unlikely. According to a source, the Pats had not discussed re-signing Brown as of early March.

The team did not exercise the fifth-year option on Brown’s contract prior to the 2018 season.

A first-round pick in 2015, Brown started 51 games for the Patriots. He missed only four games due to injury.

While New England’s linebackers and secondary remain intact, the team will experience significant turnover along the defensive line. Trey Flowers signed a monster deal with the Lions. Brown is heading to the Saints. And Danny Shelton remains a free agent.

The Patriots added veteran defensive end Michael Bennett in a trade with the Seahawks. They’ll need to make additional moves on the interior defensive line in the coming days.

ATLANTA — Before Malcom Brown’s successful run at Texas and subsequent leap to the NFL, his immaturity as a freshman at Brenham High School almost cost him his career before it even began.

Brown, a defensive tackle on the football field, was a multi-sport athlete possessing unusual speed for his near 300-pound frame. But the football coaches at Brenham decided his lack of focus and commitment issues outweighed his varsity potential. Less than one year into his promising high school football career, Brown was dismissed from the team by his coaches.

“Malcom came in as a freshman and was good enough to be on the varsity team athletically, but not maturity wise,” former Brenham head coach Glen West said. “We actually dismissed him as a freshman and just said, ‘Till you grow up, you can’t be a part of this.’”

Timothy Cole, a former Texas linebacker and Brown’s teammate at Brenham, has known Brown since the age of 6. Through their close relationship, Cole knew Brown wouldn’t lose focus despite the setback.

“When you’re on varsity as a freshman, you’re not gonna be super mature,” Cole said. “I think it was just one of those things where he realized, ‘I guess I’m doing something that’s probably bigger than me. This is a big opportunity for me to get out of Brenham and make something of myself.’”

But making something of himself required a season of waiting. After watching his former teammates reach the fourth round of the state playoffs in his absence, he went back to his coach, hoping to regain his spot on the team.

While West and his staff weren’t initially convinced, Brown was granted a return to the team, in part because of a good word from an unexpected supporter. Margaret Agnew, Brown’s Spanish teacher, noticed his willingness to improve in the classroom during tutoring sessions and defended the budding football star to the coaches.

“She (Agnew) came to us after she was working with him,” West said. “(She) said, ‘The kid has a lot of talent, is really, really smart and I think he’s someone that has a future.’”

Brown recorded 43 tackles and 11 sacks in his sophomore season, but there was still one more thing he needed to figure out. Brown lived 27 miles away from Brenham, making things more challenging for him and his coaches. That’s when the Agnew family stepped in.

“He lived with them for two years, and I would say that was definitely the biggest event that happened in his life,” West said. “It really changed the trajectory to where he is today.”

Brown began staying with the Agnew family after football games since Margaret’s husband, Craig, served as the team’s defensive coordinator. Eventually, Brown decided to move in, making his overnight stays permanent.

“That kept me focused, kept me out of trouble,” Brown said. “I was always in the house doing something. I was always around family, just the atmosphere and everything.”

Nine years later, Brown played on a much bigger stage than Brenham High. On Sunday night, he capped off his fourth NFL season with the New England Patriots by helping them achieve the ultimate goal in professional football: winning the
Super Bowl.

The 13-3 victory is one of many in a long line of championships for the Patriots and also Brown’s second career Super Bowl victory. The game was characterized by defensive dominance, with the opposing Los Angeles Rams offense held to just three points — something that’s only been achieved one other time in the Super Bowl’s 53-year history.

“It feels great,” Brown said. “I’m on top of the world right now, we’re world champs and it’s just time to live it up right now.”

Kaden Elliss Jersey

SALT LAKE CITY — Kaden Elliss followed in his father’s footsteps into football, and now he’s following his father’s path into the top league in the sport.

Elliss, the former Judge Memorial High standout and son of Luther Elliss, was selected by the New Orleans Saints in the seventh round of the 2019 NFL draft Saturday. He was the 244th overall pick.

Luther Elliss was a former Utah Ute who was selected by the Detroit Lions in the 1995 NFL draft. His son’s path went through Idaho, where Kaden Elliss was a star linebacker for the Vandals.

“Elliss was a hard-working small-school defender who created a lot of disruption. He projects as a situational pass rusher at the next level and comes with a special-teams mentality,” Draft Analyst’s Tony Pauline wrote.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pounder was a quarterback a Judge Memorial, though he played a significant role on Idaho’s defense the past four seasons. Playing both inside and outside linebacker at Idaho, as well as the “Buck” pass rusher as a senior, he finished his college career with 278 tackles, 17 sacks, 47 tackles for loss and 13 pass deflections.

He was also a takeaway force, with five career interceptions, six forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

Measurables: 4.65-second 40-yard dash, 34.5-inch vertical jump, 102-inch broad jump, 4.13-second short shuttle, 6.63-second 3-cone drill and 20 reps on bench press participating in Idaho and Utah Pro Days, according to The Athletic’s Dane Brugler

Scouting Elliss: “Elliss needs to find a permanent home on defense, but he is a high-effort athlete with football smarts and toughness to fill up the stat sheet, projecting as an immediate contributor on special teams,” wrote The Athletic’s Dane Brugler.

The New Orleans Saints have selected former Idaho linebacker Kaden Elliss with the No. 244 overall selection in the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

This is the final pick for the Saints until the NFL Draft begins again in 2020.

Over his four seasons at school, Elliss had 220 combined tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss, nine sacks, four interceptions, six pass breakups, and three forced fumbles as a collegian.

He joins a linebacker rotation that was last season regarded as among the most productive in the NFL, with Demario Davis, Alex Anzalone, and A.J. Klein projected as starters.

On Friday, the Saints announced their first draft pick in a trade with the Miami Dolphins to move up to 48th overall from No. 62, selecting Texas A&M center Erik McCoy.

From there, the club acquired Florida defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson with the No. 105 overall pick in the fourth round, followed by Rutgers safety Saquan Hampton at 177th overall.

Then, the Saints announced that they picked former Notre Dame tight end Alize Mack with the No. 231 overall pick in the seventh round as a prospect to develop behind Jared Cook.

Saints head coach Sean Payton said the team’s process of going into the draft is as simple as it gets: come away with the best player available, irrespective of position.

“Just hopefully, for us, good football players that we have the right vision for regardless of position,” Payton said. “Look, we’re going to be looking to see who gives us sub rush ability, whether it’s at the end or tackle position defensively.”

The Saints believe a few positions stick out in this year’s class.

“We were talking about our views on it and I think there are some pass rushers in this draft, probably more than what we ordinarily experience,” Loomis said. “I think the tight end group’s pretty deep. Quarterbacks, I think is a deep group. I think those three, but there’s other positions you can find wide receivers, I think in this class as well. I think in general we feel like it’s (a) pretty deep draft.”

Loomis said the thinking behind the Saints’ draft will be the same even though the team didn’t make a pick in the first round.

“The process was exactly the same,” he said. “I think maybe when we finally got to the meetings, we probably spent a little less time talking about those guys at very top of the draft, but the process is exactly the same. Our guys evaluated every player. We talked about every player that is draftable for us and that hasn’t changed.”

The Saints believe you can never get enough information on a player.

“I think all information is good and we’re collecting information right up to the moment we pick and I hear that a lot, ‘overanalyze,’” he said, “but I’m of the thought that you can’t analyze enough, you’ve got to collect all the information you can get and make your best decision and I think we do a good job of that. I think our scouts and our coaches do a great job of that actually.”

Alize Mack Jersey

With the 231st pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Saints selected tight end Alizé Mack from Notre Dame.

From, Mack came to the Irish with great expectations after starring at Las Vegas powerhouse Bishop Gorman, which had won six straight state high school titles as well as the mythical national championship in one of the seasons he was there. He started five games as a true freshman at Notre Dame, catching 13 passes for 190 yards (14.6 average) in 13 games played. Mack was academically ineligible in 2016 and did not play. He practiced with the team that fall, and then worked through the summer to become eligible in 2017. He started six games as a junior, grabbing 19 passes for 166 yards (8.7 average) and a touchdown on a team that lacked consistency in the passing game. Mack started 12 games in 2018 for the College Football Playoff participants, receiving 36 passes for 360 yards (10.0 per) and three scores.

Alize Mack came to the New Orleans Saints by way of their first draft pick in the seventh round this year, and the former Notre Dame tight end says he was overjoyed to hear the news.

“It’s a dream come true,” Mack said. “I am going to take full responsibility and full advantage of this opportunity and I can’t wait. I can’t wait. I am so happy. I am so thankful.

“I just want to thank the Saints organization, Coach Payton, and the rest of the organization for taking a chance on me. They definitely will not regret it. A hundred percent.”

The Las Vegas native says he enjoyed his trip to New Orleans to meet the Saints and see not only their facilities, but the city itself.

“I loved it. It felt like home honestly,” Mack said.

“Just walking around the facility and being around the coaches. Being able to watch film with Coach (Dan) Campbell and just to talk with Coach (Sean) Payton. I loved it.

“Just being able to see the city. It just felt like home. It is an entirely different offense and what they bring to the table and just Drew Brees, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

“One of the greatest quarterbacks in the league, if not the best. What an honor to be able to have an opportunity to be on the same team as him along with the rest of the weapons they have got. I am just at a loss of words right now.”

Mack says the Saints offense will benefit from his versatility at the position.

“A weapon,” he said. “You’re going to get a guy who can do it all. A guy who can line up in line, but a guy who can line up on the outside and be a mismatch problem vertically down the field.

“A guy who can be a huge red zone threat. More so than that, you’re going to get a dude who will come to work every single day. Regardless of what’s going on, I’m going to come in every single day ready to go and ready to compete, no doubt.”

Mack says he anticipates working with Jared Cook, who the Saints signed this year.

“I know that you guys just got Cook from the Raiders,” he said.

“He’s a big time baller, a vet. A dude that I definitely look forward to talking to, getting to know, and being able to pick his brain. Just to be able to learn behind him, along with the rest of the guys out there on that offense. To learn how I can come in and make an immediate impact to be able to help the team in any way, shape, or form.”

The New Orleans Saints used one of their final picks in the 2019 NFL Draft to add Notre Dame tight end prospect Alize Mack, and the 6-foot-4, 250 pounder wants them to know that he’s grateful for the chance to compete for a spot on their roster.

“I’m going to take full responsibility and full advantage of this opportunity, and I can’t wait,” Mack explained in a conference call with local media following his selection. He reflected on an official pre-draft visit he took to New Orleans, touring team facilities and meeting privately with coaches. “It felt like home as soon as I came down there.”

When asked what the Saints are getting with him, he replied, “A weapon. You’re going to get a guy who can do it all, a guy who can line up in-line, a guy who can line up on the outside and be a mismatch problem vertically down the field, a guy who can be a huge red zone threat.”

The numbers back up his words. Per Pro Football Focus charting, Mack lined up all over the formation for Notre Dame. Check out his splits from his 2018 season:

51.1% of snaps inline
30.6% of snaps in the slot
16.7% of snaps in the backfield
1.5% of snaps at wide receiver

That’s a perfect fit for what the Saints ask out of their tight ends, using them as mismatch weapons to set opponents up to fail. If Mack can succeed in those roles and continue to develop (he caught just 36 passes last year for 360 yards, three of them in the endzone) he can become a real threat in due time.

Few tight ends were as prized coming out of high school in 2014 than Alize Mack. Rated the top player at the position nationally by ESPN and 247Sports, the Las Vegas native won four state titles during his career at Bishop Gorman. It included a resounding 70-28 demolition of Reed in his final game with the school before heading off to college. Seven Pac-12 programs offered him a scholarship but he ended up picking Notre Dame as his school of choice in January 2015.

Mack saw action in all 13 games and even made one start as a true freshman. But his impact was muted as he made just 13 catches for 190 yards and didn’t score a single touchdown. A year later, he ran into academic issues and was ruled ineligible for the entirety of the season. He didn’t miss much on the field as the Irish stumbled to a 4-8 campaign.

After regaining academic eligibility, Mack returned to the field in 2017 and made six starts. Though he registered his first touchdown grab against Miami on November 11th, once again his production was rather ordinary as he managed just 166 yards receiving. He enjoyed a bit of a bump during his senior season in South Bend. He started every game and his 360 yards and three touchdown catches led all Notre Dame tight ends. The highlight of the season was his two-touchdown effort in a 42-13 win over Florida State.

Saquan Hampton Jersey

With the 177th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Saints selected defensive back Saquan Hampton from Rutgers University.

Check out the full biography on Saquan Hampton:

COLLEGE CAREER – An extremely-productive, four-year letterman at Rutgers who became a contributor as a freshman and started his final three seasons for the Scarlet Knights. Departed with career totals of 177 tackles (120 solo), seven stops behind the line of scrimmage, five interceptions, 24 pass defenses and one fumble recovery.

2018 – Started all 12 games at free safety…Named honorable mention All Big Ten by the coaches and media…Earned Homer Hazel Award as the team’s most valuable player…Tied for the Big Ten lead and ranked 12th nationally with 1.3 passes defended per game…Led the Scarlet Knights with 13 passes defensed and three interceptions…Totaled 65 tackles with three for a loss…Had a team‐high 36 tackles in pass coverage…Also recovered a fumble…Picked up three solo tackles, two pass breakups and an interception in final collegiate game at Michigan State (11/24)…Recorded six tackles, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery on Senior Day against No. 16 Penn State (11/17)…Matched career-high and led the game with 11 tackles versus No. 4 Michigan (11/10), adding one pass deflected in coverage…Defended four passes with two interceptions and two pass breakups at Wisconsin (11/3), adding 10 tackles with one for a loss…Posted five tackles with one for a loss and broke up two passes against Northwestern (10/20)…Knocked away a pass and recorded four tackles versus Illinois (10/6)…Added five stops against Indiana (9/29) …Broke up four passes versus Buffalo (9/22) …Had six tackles at Kansas (9/15)…Recorded seven solo stops at No. 4 Ohio State (9/8)…Started the season opener against Texas State (9/1) and recorded a tackle …Voted a team captain.

2017 – Played in eight games with seven starts at free safety…Totaled 38 tackles and three pass breakups on the season…Recorded nine tackles versus No. 16 Michigan State (11/25)…Added five stops at Indiana (11/18)…Returned to action at No. 14 Penn State (11/11) and made one tackle…Broke up a pass and made a tackle on the first defensive series versus No. 11 Ohio State (9/30) …Totaled 10 stops in the Big Ten opener at Nebraska (9/23)…Collected eight tackles versus Eastern Michigan (9/9), adding one punt return for four yards…Started the season opener against No. 8 Washington (9/1) at free safety and totaled four tackles and two pass breakups.

2016 – Started seven games at free safety…Totaled 46 tackles with three for loss and one interception…Picked up eight stops in finale at Maryland (11/26)…Made game‐high 11 tackles and knocked away a pass against No. 9 Penn State (11/19)…Intercepted a pass with a 30‐yard return and collected six tackles with one for a loss versus Indiana (11/5)…Picked up eight tackles at Minnesota (10/22)…Missed five games due to injury…Started the opener at No. 14 Washington (9/3) and made two tackles with one for loss.

2015 – Played in 12 games with one start at safety…Also a contributor on special teams…Totaled 28 tackles, one interception and two pass breakups for the season…Tied for the team lead with nine stops in first career start against Maryland (11/28)…Broke up one pass and made two tackles in the victory at Army (11/21)…Recorded his first career interception vs. Nebraska (11/14)…Made six tackles at No. 16 Michigan (11/7)…Had three stops at Wisconsin (10/31)…Recorded a tackle on kickoff coverage at Penn State (9/19)…Logged a solo tackle versus Washington State (9/12)…Made collegiate debut in the win over Norfolk State (9/5) and tied team lead with four tackles…Earned the Douglas A. Smith Award, which is given to the most improved defensive player during spring practice.

2014 – Did not see game action…Redshirted.

PERSONAL – Played football at Nottingham (Hamilton, N.J.)…Totaled 17 tackles, four interceptions, averaged more than 38 yards per kickoff return and averaged 13 yards per punt return as a senior…Scored a touchdown off a punt return, kick return and interception…Additionally recorded 12 carries for 160 yards and a score and five receptions for 73 yards on offense…Team reached Central Jersey, Group IV semifinals…Named First Team All‐Group IV, first-team All‐South Jersey and first-team All‐Colonial Valley Conference…Earned Frank “Mammy” Piscopo Memorial Award, given to the area’s Player of the Year by the 12th Man Touchdown Club Dinner…Helped team win Central Jersey Group III championship as a junior, going 11‐1…A consensus three‐star recruit…Rated as the 23rd‐best prospect by Rivals…Played multiple positions in high school in addition to special teams…Attended Rutgers football camp…Labor and employment relations major.

On the final day of the 2019 NFL draft, former Rutgers safety Saquan Hampton was selected by the New Orleans Saints with the 177th overall pick. He was the first RU player selected this year after two were chosen last year (Kemoko Turay and Sebastian Joseph). Saquan arrived on the banks as a three-star safety out of Hamilton North. He started parts of four seasons, but didn’t realize his full potential until his 5th year as a redshirt senior in 2018. He was a one man wrecking crew late in the season after something must have clicked, or perhaps he was finally healthy for the first time.

The potential the coaches saw in him peaked at the right time. Hampton (6’1, 206 lb.) improved his stock at the NFL combine with a 4.48 40 time and other solid numbers. At Rutgers Pro Day he performed a 36.5” vertical (would have been 6th at the combine among safeties), 6.98 3 cone (would have been 6th), 4.28 20 yard shuttle, and 11.47 60 yard shuttle (would have been 4th).

Enjoy the moment Rutgers fans, NFL mini camps begin May 3.
Look for more updates on Rutgers players signing contracts to continue their football careers over the next few days.

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson Jersey

Florida Gators safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson was selected by the New Orleans Saints with the No. 105 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft during Saturday’s fourth round.

He slid to Day 3 of the draft despite being projected as a possible top-50 selection.

Gardner-Johnson lived up to expectations at Florida after arriving in Gainesville as a highly touted 4-star prospect as part of the 2016 recruiting class.

The 21-year-old Cocoa High School (Florida) product emerged as a starter for the Gators during his freshman campaign and remained a fixture in the team’s defensive backfield for each of the past two seasons, though his role changed at times.

Along with safety, Gardner-Johnson also saw playing time as a slot corner, which helped bolster his draft stock. Tyrann Mathieu, who signed a three-year, $42 million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs as a free agent in March, has illustrated the value of versatility throughout his six-year NFL career.

“I’m the most versatile DB in this draft. That’s how I feel,” Gardner-Johnson told reporters at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine in March.

“It’s big because you can put me anywhere. I’m not limited to one position,” he added. “I can be used in base, in nickel. In the nickel, I can cover down in the slot, be in against the post, come off the hash and that half of the field. I can do anything coaches put me at no matter where I go.”

The Saints obviously hope he develops into a perennial Pro Bowl performer, but it’s always important to consider the potential downside. In this case, his versatility limits the bust potential of the pick since he’s likely to carve out a niche for himself, even if he doesn’t become a top-tier safety.

Gardner-Johnson should make his initial impact as the team’s slot corner as a rookie in New Orleans with Marcus Williams and Vonn Bell locked in as the starters at safety.

The last time the Saints dipped a hand into the Swamp in Gainesville to acquire new talent was in 2017 when they took linebacker Alex Anzalone with the 76th selection in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Garner-Johnson could be next in line.

The most recent role played by the junior out of Cocoa, Florida, in 2018, was as nickel back under first-year defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. And as is sometimes the case with players at this level you’ll see Gardner-Johnson listed in places as either safety, nickelback or cornerback.

Make no mistake about it. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson can play all three. And would perfectly suit what the Saints need in Dennis Allen’s defense in 2019.

As a safety, Gardner-Johnson can play nickel along with strong safety Vonn Bell and free safety Marcus Williams. At an even 6-foot-0 and 207-pounds, Gardner-Johnson is a little slight for any extended time on the field at strong safety, but he can work in where Patrick Robinson and P.J. Williams were working in 2018.

With the Saints having let go of strong safety Kurt Coleman last week, the way has been cleared to use Von Bell exclusively as the Saints starting strong safety.

Gardner-Johnson has the speed and range to go sideline to sideline in coverage having started out his collegiate career at cornerback before being transitioned to safety in his junior campaign.

He took to the change in assignment well, finishing out his junior season with 71 total tackles, nine tackles for loss, three sacks and four interceptions.

Whether being groomed to follow up at nickel behind Patrick Robinson or playing alongside Vonn Bell at the line with the safeties, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson has the ability to take his game to whatever level at whatever position in the secondary is required of him.

Projected by some to be a first-round talent, the Saint might need to have some luck on their side for him to fall to late in the second. But this is a top heavy draft and safety isn’t that huge a need for many other teams going into the 2019 Season.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is leaving school early and entering the NFL draft.

Gardner-Johnson announced his decision Monday night on Twitter. The junior plans to play in Florida’s bowl game.

Gardner-Johnson says he based his decision on wanting to maximize his value in the NFL draft.

He says “along with this decision, I want Gator Nation to know that I am 100 PERCENT COMMITTED to my team and this program as we look to finish the season strong at our bowl game next month.”

Gardner-Johnson has been one of Florida’s most improved players in 2018, posting 66 tackles, including nine for a loss. He also has three sacks and two interceptions.

The 11th-ranked Gators (9-3) are expected to have several players leave early, including defensive end Jachai Polite, linebacker Vosean Joseph and offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor.

Erik McCoy Jersey

Erik McCoy admits he didn’t get to watch Max Unger much.

But he knows all about the reputation of the former New Orleans Saints center, a three-time Pro Bowler who retired in March.

“I know he’s a heckuva player and he’s definitely a guy I’d like to model my game after,” McCoy said.

Now the Saints will look to McCoy to fill Unger’s giant shoes.

The Saints traded up Friday night and took McCoy, who starred at Texas A&M, with the 48th overall pick of the NFL draft.

“I burst into tears. This is a moment I’ve been waiting for my whole life,” McCoy said shortly after he was drafted.


Rod Walker
Rod Walker

Erik McCoy admits he didn’t get to watch Max Unger much.

But he knows all about the reputation of the former New Orleans Saints center, a three-time Pro Bowler who retired in March.

“I know he’s a heckuva player and he’s definitely a guy I’d like to model my game after,” McCoy said.

Now the Saints will look to McCoy to fill Unger’s giant shoes.
Erik McCoy allowed just ONE sack at Texas A&M: That and more to know about Saints draft pick
Erik McCoy allowed just ONE sack at Texas A&M: That and more to know about Saints draft pick

The Saints traded up Friday night and took McCoy, who starred at Texas A&M, with the 48th overall pick of the NFL draft.

“I burst into tears. This is a moment I’ve been waiting for my whole life,” McCoy said shortly after he was drafted.

McCoy watched the draft in his hometown of Lufkin, Texas, with about 50 familiy members.

He started 39 games for the Aggies. He played center in 37 of those games and played guard in the other two.

According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed just one sack in more than 1,500 snaps.

“He’s tough; he’s durable,” said coach Sean Payton, who expects McCoy to be a center.
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McCoy was the Saints’ first pick in this year’s draft because they didn’t have a first-round selection Thursday, having packaged it last season to move up and take defensive end Marcus Davenport.

Payton said he was hoping to get McCoy when he made his way to the Saints’ practice facility Friday.

“In the process, he stood out,” Payton said. “You see his strength on tape each game you watch. We really had a high grade on him. He played a high level of competition, and you see the consistency. There were just a lot of things to like.”

They traded up from the No. 62 pick to the No. 48 pick and gave up one of their sixth-round picks this year and a second-round pick next year.

“We felt strongly he wouldn’t make it to (No.) 62,” Payton said.

The Saints also gained a fourth-round pick this year.

McCoy is one of two centers the Saints have added in the offseason. They signed center Nick Easton in free agency.

“Both of them are smart guys that we feel like have that flexibility,” Payton said.

The Saints have now drafted 14 offensive linemen since Payton took over in 2006. They struck out on one of their two offensive linemen from last year. Rick Leonard, whom the Saints drafted out of Florida State in the fourth round, never panned out and was cut in October.

He has been on three different rosters since then.

The Saints added to a unit that was one of the team’s greatest strengths last season.

The Saints averaged 126.6 yards rushing per game, ranking sixth in the league. The team gave up just 20 sacks all season. That was the second-fewest total in the NFL, trailing only the Indianapolis Colts, who gave up just 18 sacks.

McCoy, whose family grew up Dallas Cowboys fans, looks forward to joining the Saints.

“Drew Brees is the best quarterback in the NFL,” he saod. “They have a great running back duo. A very good offensive line. Terron Armstead, I look up to him a lot. It’s a winning organization.”

The Saints are hoping McCoy will be as productive as their previous three second-round picks.

They drafted safety Marcus Williams out of Utah in the second round two seasons ago.

The year before that, they landed Ohio State receiver Michael Thomas and safety Vonn Bell. Williams and Bell both start as safety, while Thomas, in just three seasons, has already made a strong case as perhaps the best receiver in franchise history.

The Saints have to hope McCoy is a dependable player, in part because they didn’t have any picks in Thursday’s first round.

Payton said Tuesday that he thinks the team can land some solid players in the later rounds as well. The team drafted LSU offensive lineman Will Clapp in the seventh round last year, and Clapp ended up making the roster.

“Fortunately we have been able to find good players, not just in the early rounds, but in the later rounds,” Payton said. “Hopefully we can do the same this year.”

McCoy said he first started bonding with the Saints at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, in January. Then Saints offensive line coach Dan Roushar attended his pro day in College Station.

“I can just tell right now he’s a hell of a coach,” McCoy said. “I can tell he’s going to push me, push me a lot, mentally and physically. That’s something I feel like every rookie needs coming into the NFL. I’m just really excited to get to work with the organization and coach Roushar, in particular.”

Josh LeRibeus Jersey

At a position of undervalued importance, Josh LeRibeus could be one of the more undervalued prospects. A victim of the academic rigors of Southern Methodist University, LeRibeus played the 2010 season on the practice squad as a result of classroom struggles the previous year.

Had the 6’2″ 311-pound guard enjoyed the opportunity to build on his honorable-mention All-Conference sophomore season, he could have entered the draft with a substantially higher ranking.

Still, LeRibeus displayed tremendous heart as he shed weight and returned for a successful senior campaign at guard for the Mustangs. In three years as a starter, LeRibeus consistently earned his position on the field and his newfound dedication earned his teammates’ respect in the 2010-11 offseason.

Shedding 70 pounds before last season demonstrated that LeRibeus not only possesses the internal fortitude to recognize his mistakes (as opposed to blaming teachers, coaches or teammates), but also the intensity and discipline to follow through.

With concerns about his athleticism circling, LeRibeus’ dedication to fitness not only helped him fulfill his personal goal of regaining his position on the Mustang offensive line, it also solidified his position as a quality offensive guard prospect in the 2012 draft class.

Strengths: Physical strength, determination and discipline. LeRibeus could immediately contribute at guard. Additionally, should LeRibeus struggle upon arrival, the SMU Mustang has demonstrated his character in the face of adversity and certainly would go down swinging.

Weaknesses: Scouts still question LeRibeus’ ability to engage in space, and while his comeback displayed incredible commitment and discipline, one must double-check on any student who missed a season for off-field issues—even if they’re as affable as LeRibeus.

That said, LeRibeus has the raw ability to develop into a starter or capable backup at guard, especially if he continues to approach his football career with the same dedication he showed as a senior at SMU. While his weight-room strength is above-average at 29 bench press repetitions, LeRibeus’ on-field strength makes him a potentially very nice “value” pick.

Pick Analysis:

Considering the Redskins gave up the kitchen sink to get RG3 on their roster, it’s only logical they try to add some pieces to protect their investment. Sure, LeRibeus has some work to do and has to prove doubters wrong on his maturity, but his upside was obviously enough to make Washington bite.

The New Orleans Saints offense is facing tough sledding against the Baltimore Ravens, and it got tougher when left guard Josh LeRibeus exited the game with a lower leg injury. LeRibeus was only even playing after the starter, Andrus Peat, was ruled out with a head injury suffered in practice earlier this week.Weirdly, this happened minutes after the Ravens lost their own left guard, who was already filling in for the injured starter. Bradley Bozeman, a rookie out of Alabama, went down after hurting his ankle. Alex Lewis, who hadn’t missed a snap until the end of last week’s game, wasn’t cleared to play with a neck injury.

In LeRibeus’ place came second-year reserve Cameron Tom. Tom started for several years at Southern Mississippi and was well-regarded by his coaches, but mostly played center. He doesn’t have much experience at left guard, so starting him against one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL is a dicey situation.

Offensive lineman Chaz Green had not found a job since the Cowboys cut him coming out of the preseason. But the former third-round pick finally got his second chance as the Saints signed him Wednesday, according to multiple reports.

He will take the place of veteran backup offensive lineman Josh LeRibeus, who the Saints placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury. LeRibeus started three games this season in place of injured left guard Andrus Peat, who returned to practice Wednesday after missing last week’s game with a concussion.

Green played in 18 games for the Cowboys after entering the NFL, with injuries and poor play keeping him on the sideline for most of his career in Dallas.

Green started the first three games at left guard last year before Jonathan Cooper replaced him. He then started at left tackle in place of Tyron Smith against the Falcons but got benched after allowing four sacks to Adrian Clayborn.

The Saints also re-signed guard Landon Turner to the practice squad after cutting quarterback J.T. Barrett.

The Saints offense found some life in the second half of Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers, but the first half of that game and the entire Week 13 loss to the Cowboys were low points for a team that’s scored at least 30 points in nine games this season.

The unit may be getting a couple of players back from injured reserve in the near future. Head coach Sean Payton said on Monday that wide receiver Ted Ginn and offensive lineman Josh LeRibeus could be activated from injured reserve.

“Both [Ginn] and LeRiebeus have progressed, I would say, on schedule,” Payton said, via “So each week we’ll look at that, we’ll talk about it during the beginning of the week, get an update from our medical team. But I’m encouraged with how both of those guys are doing.”

Ginn had knee surgery in October and is eligible to play now. He had 12 catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns in four games. LeRibeus started three of the six games he played before hurting his ankle. He’ll become eligible to play again in Week 16.