Monday, May 31, 2010

Saints Nation: 5 Up and Coming Saints Players to Keep an Eye Out For in 2010

As we approach closer to training camp, below is 5 players we should keep an eye on as Saints fans. They may not be established yet, but they have shown enough promise that they may be poised for breakout seasons in 2010.

5. WR/PR Rod Harper: It's hard to say if Harper will make the roster again in 2010 or not because it's crowded at receiver, but Harper was impressive in beating out Adrian Arrington for a final roster spot at the beginning of last season. He was by far the most impressive punt returner on the roster, and it's not impossible he'll get more looks in 2010 there. While the Saints value Reggie's explosiveness on punt returns, his performance in 2009 was disastrous on punt returns. Not till the playoffs, where he ran one back for a touchdown against the Cardinals, did Bush has any success returning punts. Harper is explosive and extremely talented. He is also a blossoming receiver with big play ability and good hands. If he can stay healthy, he may contribute on a weekly basis during the regular season. 

4. LB Jonathan Casillas: Don't be surprised if this undrafted rookie free agent from a year ago beats out veteran Clint Ingram and current starter Jo-Lonn Dunbar for a starting spot at linebacker now that Scott Fujita is gone. In fill in roles last season he showed a lot of aggression, ability and promise. His weakness was over-pursuing plays at times, but that's something that can be improved with practice and coaching. He has the size, speed and technique to become a viable starter.

3. K Garrett Hartley: Some of you may already consider Hartley an established fixture, but his career is currently comprised of just two half seasons. The Saints picked him up half way through 2008, and he sat out the first four games of 2009 due to suspension before taking more time to regain his kicking role from John Carney. This will be Hartley's first chance to play through an entire season and cement himself as a reliable NFL kicker. Hartley didn't miss a kick in 13 tries in 2008, and he made huge kicks in the playoffs throughout the Saints' magical SuperBowl run. There's no question he has accuracy, leg strength, and the ability to make big kicks under pressure. Those three things can add up to a kicker having a very long, and very successful career. This will be the first time Hartley has a chance to build on his promising start for a full season.

2. HB Lynell Hamilton (pictured): The Saints' decision to pass on matching the Eagles' signing sheet offer to Mike Bell, despite the fact that they received no compensation, tells you all you need to hear about Hamilton. Clearly the Saints feel good about his performance, and how ready he is to step into the role Mike Bell had last year. Towards the end of the year, Hamilton was already starting get the short yardage reps ahead of Bell. Expect Hamilton to be second in the pecking order behind Pierre Thomas to get the bruising carries. Reggie Bush's role won't change with Bell gone, so my expectation is it'll just increase the load Hamilton has. He could be poised to have a big year, including many goal line carries, which could mean lots of touchdowns and some fantasy value.

1. DT Anthony Hargrove: Expect Hargrove's role to increase in 2010. He'll be lined up at DT on every single passing down, but don't be shocked if he lines up at end some on running downs as well. My prediction is that Hargrove will have upwards of 5 sacks on the season, and be a huge part of the Saints' success rushing the passer in 2010. I still think the Ellis-Ayodele combination is what we'll see on 1st and 10, but the Saints will want to give Hargrove more time on the field based on how well he played last year.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Saints Nation Fans Have Spoken: Jahri Evans is the Sean Payton Era's Best 4th Round Draft Pick

No surprise that Jahri Evans received 91% of the vote in the Saints Nation poll asking fans which player was the best 4th round pick in the Sean Payton era. It's pretty remarkable how far this product of Bloomsberg College has come, considering he just signed a massive extensive worth over $55 million. Thanks for your participation in the poll and please vote in the new Saints Nation poll on the right side of the site: Which player is the best 5th round draft pick of the Sean Payton era?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Saints Nation: Pierre Thomas and Saints Apparently Far Apart in Contract Negotiations

Reading THIS ARTICLE by Len Pasquarelli clued me in to the news for the first time that there are issues in the contract negotiations between the Saints and Pierre Thomas. There's no doubt that both sides want a long term deal done, but the Saints want to pay Thomas based more on what he's accomplished statistically thus far, whereas Thomas wants to be paid based on what he thinks he could become. If he's really asking for "money in the Steven Jackson range", which is 6 years and almost $45 million, I can see why there's slow progress. Don't get me wrong, Thomas is an awesome back and I would hate to lose him. I think he's a huge part of what the Saints do on offense. But $45 million over 6 years? As Pasquarelli points out, the Saints have already invested a mammoth contract in Jahri Evans, and they're looking at extending Drew Brees in the not too distant future. They have to be vigilant about how they spend their money and they can't spread it around too irresponsibly. This is the price you pay for being successful, and we've seen the Patriots go through it. Some promising young players leave because they want to get the big payday and weaker teams will oblige in paying their asking price. The Saints have too many good players to spend wastefully. The fact that Thomas is skipping OTAs after he said that he wouldn't suggests there's a real problem in negotiations. The article also informs us that Roman Harper is in the same boat. It looks like things are about to get more difficult this offseason for the Saints, and there's no guarantees PT Cruiser and Roman Harper will be with the Saints long term. I still think the Saints want to extend both players long term, but they'll either need to break the bank or the players will need to make some concessions. I'm not sure I see either happening but I'm hoping for the latter.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Saints Nation: Malcolm Jenkins Moved to Free Safety

The big news coming out of OTAs (organized team activities) today, besides the scary news that Jeremy Shockey suffered a seizure, was that cornerback Malcolm Jenkins was getting the bulk of his reps at free safety. Luckily Shockey seems to be fine and they don't expect it's anything overly serious, so let us focus on the latter news instead. If you read the quotes from the article link, it sounds like Jenkins is not officially a free safety as much as he's being moved all over the place. What I take from the news is that the Saints will get creative about ways to get Jenkins on the field this year. I do think Jenkins is being groomed as Darren Sharper's eventual full time replacement, but while Sharper is still on the team starting, Jenkins will play nickel corner, strong safety and free safety depending on the defensive package the Saints implement on any given play. His role in the defensive backfield in the SuperBowl made it clear the Saints count on him as a reliable playmaker on the back end. Most of you will remember he responded by playing a fantastic game.

This news does make life more difficult for Chip Vaughn, Usama Young and Pierson Prioleau. Why? Well, it means the Saints have one more player that's in the mix at free safety that they can use. Based on Jenkins' skill and promise, I think he's immediately thrust ahead of all those players in the pecking order. It means the three players above are going to see the field less in passing downs, and they're going to have to impress more on special teams. Keep an eye on how those 3 players perform in camp and preseason, because at least one will likely be cut before the 53 man roster is finalized.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Saints Nation: Pierre Thomas and Jammal Brown Are No Shows at OTAs

The Saints still have four restricted free agents that do not have signed contracts with the team. While Lance Moore and Roman Harper haven't let that prevent them from coming to OTAs, Pierre Thomas and Jammal Brown have elected not to participate as they hold out for contracts. Before anyone panics, we all know that a long term extension is coming for Thomas. My guess is that his extension is Mickey Loomis' offseason priority at this point, so I expect something to get done in the not too distant future. I am a little surprised PT decided to skip these practices, though, because I was under the impression he wasn't going to put up much distraction while his contract was worked out. Perhaps they've come to a sticking point in negotiations and his agent advised him to change his approach to help things along? Long term deals for running backs are always the toughest to negotiate, because the back feels like they're a playmaking contributor that deserves a hefty sum, and the team fears investing too much long term in a position that is so vulnerable to injury. I think most running backs realize their durability is less assured than some positions, so that adds to the issue as they want to get paid while they're healthy.

As we've discussed ad nauseam about Jammal Brown, there's still no telling where that is going. With the Saints trusting Jermon Bushrod and Zach Strief, and with them drafting Charles Brown, they don't need to invest longterm in Jammal. Based on his latest injury he does not have much of a bargaining chip. I still think he could get traded, but you can't trade a player with no contract. I could speculate about how that situation will resolve itself, but the reality is neither I nor anyone else (possibly including the Saints' front office) have any idea.

Good to see Roman and Lance getting their practice in regardless of the lack of movement in their long term deals. I'm sure they'll get their deals locked down, too, soon enough.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Saints Nation: Top 15 Bubble Players to Make Final 53 Man Roster for New Orleans Saints

Below are the players I consider "bubble players", or players that are right in between being the last to make the squad and last to get cut. Here's 15 guys I believe will stick around till the very end and have their future as New Orleans Saints decided on the final day of cuts:

15. WR/PR Rod Harper: Harper was a surprise to make the 2009 roster thanks to his impressive explosiveness on punt returns. In fact, he likely cost Courtney Roby his opening day roster spot thanks to his special team prowess (Roby would later come back to the team in week 2). Harper also showed some impressive ability as a receiver, but he was placed on IR early in the season and never saw the field during the season. He'll have to bounce back from injury, and have an equally improbable run this camp/preseason to have a chance at landing another roster spot.

14. DE Jeff Charleston: The Saints went out and added both Alex Brown and Jimmy Wilkerson this offseason to add depth at defensive end, while subtracting Charles Grant. With Will Smith now less likely to serve a suspension, and Bobby McCray still on the roster, Charleston has an uphill battle to climb. Remember Anthony Hargrove can also play defensive end and the Saints like his versatility, so that also plays against Charleston's chances. Charleston had a lot of opportunities last year thanks to Charles Grant going down to injuries and Bobby McCray dealing with back issues all season, and he never impressed. He showed more promise in less reps in 2008, so he'll need to return to that form if he wants any chance to make the team.

13. LB Troy Evans: As always, Evans will make this team if he can prove his value on special teams. Evans also made it clear last year that he's a complete liability on defense in two spot starts. He's a proven commodity on special teams, so to me that's the only way he's making the team. He's got to prove once again that his abilities there are too good to pass up.

12. CB Leigh Torrence: Torrence, like Evans, will have his best shot at making the team by proving his worth on special teams. Drafting Patrick Robinson in the 1st round, as well as the return of Darren Sharper (which means Malcolm Jenkins stays at corner for now) has all of a sudden made for a very crowded, very good, and very young cornerback rotation. I'm not sure if Torrence factors in the equation there anymore, especially given his average play in spot duty last season. There is no question he's one of the best Saints on special teams, but that will dictate odds.

11. C Nick Leckey: Leckey was a backup most of last season to Jonathan Goodwin, and he's an experienced veteran that the Saints trust. The Saints drafted Matt Tennant of Boston College in this year's draft, however, and Leckey will face stiff competition from a promising youngster. I think the Saints hope, in a perfect world, that Tennant outperforms Leckey so they can trust him longterm with the backup center responsibility.

10. WR Adrian Arrington: The infatuation and buzz that most Saints fans have with this player is starting to wear off. He's shown promise, but has two flop seasons to show for it. After spending 2008 on IR the entire season, Arrington didn't make the final roster in 2009 and was shipped to the practice squad, before getting a late season call up. Ultimately, Arrington is never going to pass Colston, Henderson, Meachem and Lance Moore on the depth chart. I think Courtney Roby at kick returner is a lock, too, so Arrington's odds are based on whether or not the Saints keep 5 or 6 receivers. If they keep six, he has to prove that he's their 5th best (because Roby, while not better, will make the team). Right now that spot belongs to him, but it's no given he can stay healthy, and it's no given he'll outperform guys like Rod Harper that are playing hard behind him. An injury to one of the top guys helps his chances immensely, but he's going to need an impressive and injury free camp/preseason to pull this off.

9. S Chip Vaughn: I like this guy, but it's an uphill battle when you're only season with the Saints as a rookie in 2009 was spent on IR in it's entirety. We pretty much have no idea how good this guy is. Here's what we do know: the Saints will probably keep 5 safeties, and Roman Harper and Darren Sharper are locks. That leaves Chris Reis, Pierson Prioleau, Usama Young and Vaughn to battle for 3 spots. Vaughn will need to be healthy, and prove he's more valuable on special teams than at least one of those three players. No easy feat, but Reis, Young and Prioleau are all excellent special teamers.

8. LB Stanley Arnoux: Like Vaughn, he spent all of 2009 on IR. Tough way to spend your rookie season to be sure. Arnoux is coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon, though, so his injury was a major one. It's going to be tougher for him to come back than most of the others listed above. The Saints invested a relatively high draft pick in him last year, but Sean Payton has shown in his time with the Saints that he's never afraid to cut a player the Saints have invested in in favor of a better performer. Guys like Colston, Pierre Thomas and Lance Moore, to name a few, have become roster staples because Payton is committed to playing the best. Arnoux is going to have to show his abilities and prove he's recovered from that serious injury. 

7. FB Jason McKie: McKie is a solid player that under normal circumstances should be a lock, but the Saints have historically only carried one fullback on the roster. Assuming he's recovered from his knee injury, which is no given, Heath Evans is the unquestioned starter at fullback. That said, McKie's hopes of making the team are contingent on either Evans not being 100% or the team making a change in philosophy. I actually think both are possible. Evans sustained a major injury that's tough to come back from, and I'm sure the Saints will want to gradually ease him into the fold. Also worth considering is that Mike Karney in 2008 and Evans in 2009 sustained injuries as the lone fullback on the roster, leaving the Saints depleted at the position in consecutive years. The Saints went scrambling on the open market to find replacements, and never really found anything suitable. Past history has burned the Saints, so they may be looking at keeping two fullbacks this year to start the season to leave themselves less vulnerable to the same problem. David Thomas filled in ok last year, but let's be serious, fullback is not his position.

6. S Pierson Prioleau: Given the fact that he's 32 and a 12 year veteran, I think Payton would ideally like to see Chip Vaughn perform well and steal a roster spot away from Prioleau. That said, we also know that Prioleau is a favorite of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, as he's played for him on three different teams. Prioleau is no lock, but he's a steady rotation defender and a great special teamer. He's been around the league long enough that he knows what he needs to do to make the team.

5. S Chris Reis: Reis is not only a standout special teamer, he emerged as the primary backup to Roman Harper at strong safety last season. That was a little surprising, but Reis performed fairly well when he played. I think Reis' standing with the team is currently more secure than Prioleau's and Vaughn's, because he's #2 at strong safety and a better special teamer than both, but we'll have to see if that remains the case.  

4. DT DeMario Pressley (pictured): I'm surprised Pressley didn't get more reps last year because he played well when he was in, but the drafting of Al Woods complicates things for Pressley. Last year's starters Remi Ayodele and Sedrick Ellis are locks, and you figure Hargrove and Al Woods are locks too. It's hard to imagine the Saints keeping 5 defensive tackles on the roster, and there is no way the Saints are letting Hargrove or Woods go. Pressley will have to outperform Ayodele, who's a much more efficient run stopper, to make the team. An injury ahead of him would also increase his chances.

3. LB Marvin Mitchell: Mitchell saw the field a decent amount last year when Gregg Williams decided to employ a 3-4 defense and played pretty well. Mitchell is the primary backup to Jonathan Vilma at middle linebacker and I don't really see that changing unless Stanley Arnoux comes in and blows the staff's socks off. That scenario is possible, but also pretty unlikely.

2. S Usama Young: Young was the primary backup at free safety last year, and it seemed like he handled himself pretty well. He did record an interception when he came in in a spot start for Darren Sharper. He also was burned badly on a touchdown pass in the SuperBowl. I think Young's roster spot is pretty safe, but I'm not really certain how the move from corner to safety is going for him. Not only are Prioleau and Vaughn vying for his playing time, but a possible move from Malcolm Jenkins to free safety somewhere down the line could really threaten his roster spot. That may be this year, or it may be two years from now. Usama Young is one of the most reliable special teamers with the team, though, so that alone should keep him safe.

1. CB Randall Gay: Gay didn't have a great year last year, and all of a sudden the Saints have an influx of young talent at corner. What a difference a couple of years makes. With Jabari Greer, Tracy Porter and Malcolm Jenkins all currently ahead of Gay in the pecking order at corner, Gay becomes a rather old and expensive player to be the #4 guy in the rotation. Gay isn't a standout special teamer, either, and typically the further down on the depth chart you are, the more important it is you contribute on special teams. Don't forget the Saints drafted Patrick Robinson, too, in the first round. Still, the Saints will likely keep 5 corners, at least, and it's an uncapped year. I think Gay is pretty safe this season, but he makes a lot of money to be that far down on the depth chart. That's going to come back to bite him eventually. I'm sure the Saints will want at least another year of development from Robinson and Jenkins before they cut the cord. Gay is still a physical and tough player that plays the slot pretty well. I don't see the Saints going with Leigh Torrence over Randall Gay, but it's possible.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Saints Nation: Joe Horn in Saints' Hall of Fame

It was just a matter of time before Joe Horn was added to the Saints Hall of Fame. Today the Saints will announce he is a member of the 2010 class.

Check out some of the accolades he compiled during his time as a receiver for the Saints:

Most all time receiving TDs in Saints history with 50.
Most all time receiving yards in a season with 1399 (he also holds the 2nd, 3rd and 4th most all time).
Tied with Colston for most receiving TDs in a season all time with 11.
2nd most all time for receptions in a season with 94 (done twice, Colston with 98).

2nd most all time for receptions in a career with Saints with 523 (Eric Martin with  532)
2nd most all time for receiving yard in a career with Saints with 7622 (Eric Martin with 7854)

Along with Eric Martin, Joe "Hollywood" Horn is a top two receiver in Saints history without question. Horn was also a member of the team in 2000 that gave the Saints their first playoff victory in team history. The outspoken receiver is probably most known, though, for his cell phone touchdown celebration (pictured) on National TV. That game was a memorable one for Horn's play on the field too. It was his best game, as he caught 9 passes for 133 yards and 4 touchdowns, in a 45-7 beat down of the Giants. He also had 180 yards receiving in a game against the 49ers in 2000, and a 13 catch, 150 yard and a touchdown performance against the Panthers in 2001. Horn played 102 games for the Saints and was the go to playmaker for most of them. He made the Pro Bowl 4 times in 6 seasons with the Saints. The only black mark on Horn's history with the Saints was his departure from the team in 2007, which led to him signing with the arch rival Falcons. Still,I think it's fair to say that's mostly forgiven at this point.

Thanks for the memories #87, glad to see you in the Saints' hall where you belong!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Saints Nation: Saints Reportedly Add Fullback Jason McKie to Roster

ESPN Chicago has reported word that the Saints have signed recently released Bear fullback Jason McKie (link). McKie was originally an undrafted player out of Temple that has been in the league 9 years. He was the starting fullback for the Bears up until his released this offseason.

I think the question on everyone's mind is "what does this mean for Heath Evans?". Before anyone gets too worried, McKie is 30 years old and he's primarily a run blocker. He doesn't have the athleticism or versatility that Evans brings to the fullback position. He's a decent player, but a bit of a one trick pony. Evans is still recovering from knee surgery, so the signing could mean that he is still not 100% recovered and ready to go. I'm sure this will figure itself out in camp, so we'll just have to wait, but I'm going to throw out the idea that it's possible the Saints may consider keeping two fullbacks on their roster this year. The last two years the Saints have had their starting fullback on injured reserve (Evans and Mike Karney the year before) and they were left scrambling the waiver wire to find a replacement because they only carried one fullback on the roster. It's not impossible both players could end up making the Saints' final roster if the Saints decide they need an insurance policy at fullback this year. As decent as David Thomas was filling in, we all know fullback is not his natural position. I wouldn't necessarily read anything into Heath Evans' future, or recovery process, based on this pickup. I consider it just an insurance policy for the time being, but McKie will be allowed to compete like any other player in camp.

Thanks to my source for all things Bears, JLAW, I got the scoop on McKie from a Bears fan's perspective. "He's not bad. He's a good blocker and a good guy that stays out of trouble. A team leader type". Sounds like he fits the high character type player the Saints always look for to a T.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Saints Nation Fans Have Spoken: Jimmy Graham Is the Sean Payton Era's Best 3rd Round Pick

Jimmy Graham got a big vote of confidence from the Saints Nation fans, who voted him as the best 3rd round pick of the Sean Payton era. Surprisingly, Sean Payton has only drafted 3 3rd round picks in his 5 year history with the Saints. Perhaps that's an insight into how he values that round and stage of the draft. With one of those picks, Andy Alleman, no longer on the team, the only real choices were the promising new tight end Graham, or special team ace and defensive backfield reserve Usama Young. A little surprising that Graham took 57% of the vote, since Young has been a productive role player and Graham has yet to see the field, but I think it speaks to how excited fans are about the athleticism and promise Graham has. Thanks for your participation and please vote in the new Saints Nation poll on the right side of the site: Which 4th round draft choice is the best of the Sean Payton era?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Saints Nation: No Suspension for Will Smith After All?

I'm officially tired of hearing and writing about the StarCaps case. Just when I think there's going to be some resolution, good or bad, a new development happens to delay things. I wish Smith would either just serve his suspension and get it over with, or get off the hook immediately. As it stands, yet another appeal in the case stands to delay the outcome. I read THIS on which suggests Smith may be "eligible for the entire 2010 season". This comes after I posted earlier this month that Smith would be suspended for the first four games, based on a Jeff Duncan tweet. It sounds great to me if this works out in the Saints' favor, but let it be known that I'm done reading, hearing, writing or talking about this until there's a final resolution. No more speculation, as the StarCaps has gotten beyond ridiculous.

I will say if Smith HAS to miss 4 games, I'd rather it be earlier in the season rather than later, but hopefully that suspension will never come to fruition. Who even knows at this point?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Saints Nation: I'm Glad Sean Payton Shot Down Russell to Saints Talk

Most of you know by now that I'm a big LSU fan. During his time at LSU, I thought Russell was a similar player to what he's been labeled as in the NFL. Overweight, lazy, severely limited in the intangibles departed, and supremely talented. He's so talented, in fact, that he's fooled many into looking past the warning signs. I know Russell had a lot of success at LSU, but his stint with the Raiders is further proof that NFL rookie contracts are ridiculous. I've always hoped he would play well, as a former Tiger, but there's no way I would ever want him on the Saints. In my opinion, the guy is not salvageable. Some people suggested he'd be a great fit for the Saints as a backup, learning under the tutelage of Drew Brees and Sean Payton. The theory is that if anyone get cultivate his talent, it's the Saints. Well, I for one am glad Payton shot that theory down fast enough so that we don't have to discuss it.

Russell's character, pure and simple, does not fit with the Saints' philosophy. If the guy can't get motivated for what, at the time, was the biggest rookie contract in NFL history, how is he going to get motivated by the NFL minimum? Let's face it, that's all a team is going to risk on the guy at this point. If I was Russell, I would ride on into the sunset and retire. Unless he needs more money, somehow. Then, sure, play on a team stupid enough to hand you $300,000 a year to hold a clipboard. Otherwise, what's the point? The guy doesn't really care about playing football, and he's never going to put in the work to be that good. He's gotten by his whole career leading up to the pros playing on his talent alone and it's finally caught up to him. Even if he had a change of heart, who's going to invest in him again and believe in him? He's already demonstrated he has no leadership skills. Sometimes falling in love with a physical specimen is a very dangerous game to play. Just ask Jim Haslett about the time he went out and got TeBucky Jones. A fast safety with size and hitting ability that had no idea how to play football, wrap up on a tackle or catch a football. What a liability he was for the Saints' defense, and at a hefty price. The Saints have gotten to a point where they're an elite team that sports character players with tremendous ability. Pet projects are not something they need to be wasting their time on, because the negatives of adding Russell by far outweigh any positive. You know how far Russell's stock has dropped when I say I'd rather give Chase Daniel a chance. And yes, you heard me correctly. Given the choice between the two, at this point, and at the same price, I'd pick Daniel. You can't teach work ethic and Russell has none. I wish him the best but I believe he is an utter waste of time and I'm glad the Saints feel the same way.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Saints Nation: Clint Ingram Is Newest Saints Addition

It's official, Clint Ingram has signed a one year deal and is the newest member of the New Orleans Saints. He'll help fill the void left by departed linebacker Scott Fujita. Man, it really bums me out that we lost Fujita. How did we let that happen?

Anyway, Ingram will compete for a starting spot with Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Jonathan Casillas. The good news is Gregg Williams coached Ingram back in 2008 in Jacksonville, so he obviously likes him and he should be familiar with the defense. That should give him a leg up in his transition with the Saints. I expect him to compete for a starting spot, though I'm hopeful our up and coming young backers will outperform him. Either way he provides nice depth.

Saints Nation: Chance to Win 2 Saints Season Tickets in Raffle

A family is raffling off 2 plaza level season tickets, with the proceeds going to their church's mission trip.

The details are:

2 Saints Season Tickets (plaza level)
$25 per chance
only 500 chances sold
All money to support mission work

Go HERE to check out the site and enter the raffle. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Saints Nation: Saints Are Close to Signing Linebacker Clint Ingram

Per NFL reporter Jason LaCanfora's twitter page: "Free agent LB Clint Ingram mulling offer from New Orleans. Could well end up with the world champs." Ingram was a restricted free agent for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He had originally received a small qualifying offer from the Jags, but the team later rescinded their offer making him an unrestricted free agent free to sign with anyone. Ingram has been a somewhat productive and decent player, and at just 27 years of age it's a little surprising he hasn't received much interest. The Saints' offer is apparently in the $1.2 million neighborhood, so it's clear they're lowballing him and hoping to get him at a reduced rate. They used this same philosophy with Darren Sharper last year and it turns out very well, but by no means is Ingram on that level. Ingram's best season came in his rookie year when he tallied 71 tackles, 1.5 sacks and an interception. Last year, his 4th season in the NFL, he posted 52 tackles. Ingram played in 13 games last year, starting 12. He'll compete for a chance to start with the Saints should he sign.

I hope the Saints get this guy. They're very young and inexperienced at linebacker after Jonathan Vilma and Scott Shanle. I'm not saying this guy will come in and make a huge impact, and I'm not even sure he'll crack the starting lineup, but the Saints need a veteran that can come in and compete. The more the Saints can push Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Jonathan Casillas' progression, the better. Especially at the price they're trying to get Ingram, a failed experiment would have been worth it. The flip side is they get him at a very affordable rate and get tremendous value out of it. Fingers crossed he becomes a member of the Black and Gold soon.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Saints Nation Fans Have Spoken: Tracy Porter Is the Sean Payton Era's Best 2nd Round Pick

After his performance in the SuperBowl, how could Tracy Porter not win this poll? Saints Nation fans picked him as the best 2nd round pick of the Sean Payton era by a landslide with 94% of the vote, leaving table scraps for Roman Harper and Charles Brown. Thanks for your participation in the poll, and please vote in the new Saints Nation poll on the right side of the site: Who is the best 3rd round draft pick of the Saints in the Sean Payton era?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Saints Nation: Former Saints Norman Hand Dies at the Age of 37

Former Saint Norman Hand has passed away at the young age of 37. He collapsed in his home in Walterboro, SC and died shortly after (STORY). While Hand battled weight issues throughout his NFL career and after his playing days, he was best known for his standout run stopping ability. Hand also had a very outgoing personality that quickly made him a fan favorite in New Orleans. His best year with the Saints was his first year with the team in 2000 when the team won their first ever playoff game in franchise history. Hand was nicknamed "Big Wiggle" for his wiggle dance celebration following the numerous big plays he made.

Besides Deuce, "Big Wiggle" was one of my favorite Saints of the Haslett era. He never shied away from showing off his big friendly smile and he was always kind and gracious the times I saw him in interviews or interacting with fans. In his prime he could push the pile like few dominant defensive tackles. He played with the Saints from 2000 to 2002. RIP Big Wiggle, we will miss you.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Saints Nation: Civil Suit Withdrawn, Saints Going to Arbitration

THIS ARTICLE confirms that the suit made against the Saints in the Vicodin scandal is headed to arbitration. This news isn't really good or bad, because an arbitration will settle the money amount Santini is owed in this case. Instead of a jury ruling it will be a judge behind closed chambers. Ultimately the Saints stand to possibly lose money, which is what they risked in the lawsuit all the same. The bigger fear down the road is the possible federal charges facing Joe Vitt, Mickey Loomis, and possibly Sean Payton. Add to that the possible sanctions the NFL might impose on the team. As fans, those are the things we should be most concerned about.


Rodney Leisle released, and sign receiversLarry Beavers and Andy Tanner.

Interview with Thomas Morstead on CSC

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Saints Nation: Former Employee Geoff Santini Speaks Out in Vicodin Case

We received over the past couple of days some details of Santini's allegations against the Saints. posted THIS STORY which includes the public comments Geoff Santini (the former employee accusing the Saints of criminal activity) has made about the case. More than anything, I just hate to see this case get this kind of national attention. The fact that it was on ESPN's front news page for the better part of 36 hours is not the kind of attention we want our team getting. As much as the organization is dismissing the merits of the case, it's a public black eye and it's lending itself to this kind of public attention is embarrassing. We all know that pain pills get passed around in professional sports locker rooms like candy, but the crimes the Saints are being accused of are serious. Between stealing narcotics, which Santini claims Joe Vitt and Sean Payton are both guilty of, and covering up a felony, which Santini blames Mickey Loomis of doing, this is not pretty. I keep hoping this is resolved quickly and quietly, but it's not looking good.

In other news, THIS STORY confirms the Saints have signed former 3rd round draft choice receiver Roy Hall. Hall is 26, big and fast, so what's not to like in the receiver? Well, he gets hurt all the time. He's got promise if he can stay healthy, but that's been the major if for this guy's entire career. He'll come into camp and compete, likely ending up as a camp body unless he can really turn some heads.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Saints Nation: Team's Priority is Currently on Extending Their Stars

With the free agency period and the NFL draft wrapped up, the Saints are currently turning their attention to their own restricted free agents. The 7 year contract the Saints just agreed to with guard Jahri Evans was the precursor to what we can expect to see over the coming weeks in Saints news. The current remaining players that the Saints have exclusive negotiating rights with, but no current contract, are Pierre Thomas (pictured), Roman Harper, Lance Moore and Jammal Brown. There's still a big question mark surrounding Jammal Brown's future with the team, but it's safe to say the other three are in the team's future plans. As quiet as those players have been, it's safe to assume both sides have agreed to keep things on the down low while agents and the Saints' brass attempt to work out the negotiating terms of these extensions. These players are all a big part of the Saints' present AND future, so the sooner these deals can get struck the better. Getting the Jahri Evans deal done was a step in the right direction towards getting this behind us. Stayed tuned...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Saints Nation: Saints Add 2 New Rookie Free Agents

Auburn receiver Montez Billings (pictured) and Kentucky linebacker Sam Maxwell are the newest additions to the Saints' roster. Can you say camp body? Billings didn't play last season for apparent academic reasons, so I don't see how he'll be able to make the team with the crowd ahead of him. Maxwell did have 6 interceptions last year for Kentucky as a linebacker, and a some of the guys ahead of him (Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Jonathan Casillas) were undrafted free agents... so you never know.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Saints Nation Fans Have Spoken: Reggie Bush Is the Sean Payton Era's Best 1st Round Pick

Saints Nation fans picked Reggie Bush as the best 1st round pick in the Sean Payton era. 46% of you went with Reggie, so he ended up winning by a fairly wide margin. Second place was tight with Sedrick Ellis getting 26% of the vote, and Robert Meachem receiving 24%. Thanks for your participation, and please vote in the new Saints Nation poll: Who is the best 2nd round pick of the Sean Payton era? The poll can be found on the right side bar.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Saints Nation: Jimmy Graham Could Make Most Meaningful Immediate Impact

With rookie mini camps underway this weekend, rookie Jimmy Graham is getting lots of talk. The Times-Picayune wrote about him turning heads and making the biggest statement early on in the workouts. Graham played basketball for 4 years at Miami before he used one last year of eligibility to play football with the Hurricanes. At 6'6", he sports a huge frame and uncanny athleticism. I'm going to go ahead and make the prediction now that Graham will have the biggest impact as a rookie on the Saints.

If you look at the Saints' picks this year, Patrick Robinson and Charles Brown will likely be eased into their NFL careers. Barring injuries, I don't really see either playing much in their first season. Robinson will get reps on special teams, but neither player will likely crack the starting lineup. I think Al Woods likely has the best chance to start of any rookie on the Saints, but I also think it's more likely he'll platoon in a defensive tackle rotation on running downs. As for Jimmy Graham, if he's even half as good of a receiver as people are suggesting he might be, Sean Payton will find a way to get him on the field. While there's little chance he'll pass Jeremy Shockey and David Thomas on the depth chart, we all know how much Sean Payton loves to rotate players and shift lineups. I think Graham will be a great fit as a red zone target. In addition, Shockey has struggled to stay healthy with any sort of consistency in his seasons as a Saint. Should something happen to him, I wouldn't be surprised to see Graham get on the field very often. I could see him ending the year with about 30 receptions and 5 touchdowns, if he does all the little things the coaches ask of him. You know Brees loves a big target with sure hands. Just ask Marques Colston or Antonio Gates.

This isn't as bold of a prediction as you might think. While there's no denying that Graham is raw in his football skills, the guy is big, he can run and he can catch. Those are qualities you can't teach, and he'll be a new weapon in an offense that's already unstoppable. What we've learned watching Brees for this long is it doesn't matter if you're a 10 year veteran or an undrafted rookie... he doesn't play favorites. If you're open, you're getting the football. Keep an eye on this kid...

Friday, May 7, 2010

Saints Nation: Getting to know Al Woods

Saints' draftee and LSU Tiger Al Woods spent some time as a resident blogger on Canal Street Chronicles this week, and made several separate installments on the Saints blog. Very interesting reads that I recommend taking the time to check out. Al seems like a diehard Saints fan and a great guy. Looking forward to seeing him on the field.

Draft Days: Too Nervous to Watch (Part 1)

Draft Days: And Then the Phone Rang (Part 2)

Draft Days: I've Always Been with the Saints (Part 3)

Video of Al Woods Receiving the Saints' Call (Part 4)


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Saints Nation: Will Smith To Be Suspended First Four Games of 2010 Season

Will the StarCaps saga ever end? Jeff Duncan pointed my attention this morning to THIS ARTICLE via his twitter account. It sounds like the Saints' top pass rusher and Pro Bowl defensive end Will Smith will miss the first four games of the 2010 season. That ruling affects Charles Grant, too, and since he's a free agent it may make it tougher on him to find a new team. Deuce McAllister is also in the mix, but since he's retired it's a moot point. Since the NFL elected to postpone suspending Smith until this case ruling in Minnesota was resolved, it now looks like the suspension is inevitable barring appeal.

What's frustrating about this is Smith was supposed to serve these 4 games in 2008. Then it was the beginning of the 2009 season. Now it's next season. He's still facing what I think is unfair punishment for something that is now dragging over 2 years. The good news is the Saints signed Jimmy Wilkerson and Alex Brown in the offseason, who are two proven veterans at the same position. Add Bobby McCray, Jeff Charleston and possibly Anthony Hargrove to the mix (Hargrove's primary position is defensive tackle, but he can play end) and the Saints should be able to absorb the loss of Smith for four weeks. In fact, with the additions of Brown and Wilkerson, the Saints are arguably as deep as they've ever been at defensive end. Sure, they've lost Charles Grant, but his production since the signing of his absurd contract was unimpressive. And they'd be starring at a four game suspension for him too if he was still on the ball club. It makes you wonder if the Saints knew this was coming, and prepared accordingly. At this point I think I'm just hopeful Smith serves his suspension and gets this over with. It's time to put StarCaps behind us.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Saints Nation: Saints Make Jahri Evans the Richest Guard in NFL History

Jahri Evans will be a Saint for quite some time to come. The superstar guard signed a 7 year, $56.7 million deal to finalize his restricted free agent status this offseason. The deal makes him the highest paid offensive guard in NFL history. As far as I'm concerned the guy deserves every penny because he's been a stud the last three years and has clearly demonstrated he's the best player on arguably the best offensive line in the league. Last year Evans was finally elected to his first Pro Bowl, though his performances in his first two seasons were good enough to deserve the same. Congrats to #73, looking forward to seeing you in black and gold for many season to come!

Now that he's locked up, we're just waiting on Pierre Thomas, Lance Moore and Roman Harper to follow suit with long term extensions. Jammal Brown is also a restricted free agent yet to sign a contract, so it remains to be seen what will be done with him as well. Trade rumors on draft day were heard, and based on his injury history a long term extension seems less likely.

Saints Nation: P.J. Hill Back with Saints

P.J. Hill came extremely close to making the team last season over Lynell Hamilton, and he's back in Saints camp for another year. Hill lead the Saints in rushing last preseason and he'll compete for a chance to earn the third and fourth running back spot on the team's roster. Based on his promise a year ago, I wouldn't be against him making the team. Welcome back!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Saints Nation Quote of the Week

"I don't see what the big deal is, Vicodin is just a stronger version of Tylenol" - Anonymous Saints fan on some forum

Haha! WOW. Try a weaker version of heroin.

Saints Nation: The Current Unofficial New Orleans Saints' Depth Chart

Based on the re-signing of Darren Sharper, the roster looks at least temporarily complete. I've decided to list the depth chart as I currently see it. This includes the restricted free agents that are exclusive Saints' property though they've yet to sign a contract:

QB: Drew Brees, Chase Daniel, Sean Canfield
HB: Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush, Lynell Hamilton, Christian Ducre, Chris Ivory, Carlos Brown
FB: Heath Evans, Marcus Mailei, Zak Keasey
WR: Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore, Adrian Arrington, Courtney Roby, Rod Harper, Matt Simon, Chris Bell
TE: Jeremy Shockey, David Thomas, Tory Humphrey, Tyler Lorenzen, Jimmy Graham
T: Jammal Brown, Jon Stinchcomb, Jermon Bushrod, Zach Strief, Charles Brown, Jermey Parnell
G: Jahri Evans, Carl Nicks, Tim Duckworth, Brandon Carter, Joe Tonga
C: Jonathan Goodwin, Nick Leckey, Matt Tennant

E: Will Smith, Alex Brown, Bobby McCray, Jimmy Wilkerson, Jeff Charleston, Junior Galette, Brandon Sharpe
DT: Sedrick Ellis, Remi Ayodele, Anthony Hargrove, DeMario Pressley, Rodney Leisle, Al Woods, Earl Heyman, Jay Ross
OLB: Scott Shanle, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Jonathan Casillas, Troy Evans, Anthony Waters, Jason Beauchamp, Harry Coleman
MLB: Jonathan Vilma, Marvin Mitchell, Stanley Arnoux
CB: Jabari Greer, Tracy Porter, Randall Gay, Malcolm Jenkins, Leigh Torrence, Patrick Robinson, Reggie Jones, Greg Fassitt, Patrick Robinson, Marcell Young, Glenn Sharpe, Rafael Priest
FS: Darren Sharper, Usama Young, Chip Vaughn, Ryan Hamilton
SS: Roman Harper, Pierson Prioleau, Chris Reis

K: Garrett Hartley
P: Thomas Morstead
LS: Jason Kyle, Clint Gresham

Monday, May 3, 2010

Saints Nation: Darren Sharper re-signs a 1 year deal with Saints

Yessss!!!!!!!!! After all that, Darren Sharper is back with the New Orleans Saints! He has signed a one year deal, and he confirmed this on his twitter account. You can also visit details of the story HERE.

I'm feeling pretty good about Two-Dat all of a sudden.

Saints Nation: Vicodin Theft Accusation Spells Trouble for Saints

So much for that squeaky clean reputation the Saints' front office, staff and players have enjoyed during the Sean Payton era. By now, most of you are familiar with the suit currently facing the Saints, which alleges that two senior staff members (rumored to be assistant coach Joe Vitt and head coach Sean Payton) stole the pain killing pill Vicodin from team supplies without a prescription. The suit claims Mickey Loomis was aware of the issue and ordered that it essentially be ignored, and it also claims to have video evidence of Joe Vitt stealing said medication.

It seems like most Saints fans believe this is nothing more than a greedy and desperate disgruntled former employee looking for a cash grab. Part of me agrees with this because it's clear that money is the main motivating factor in this man coming forward and exposing this story to the public, true or untrue. That said, this man Geoff Santini who is accusing the organization of these unlawful crimes is a retired FBI special agent. He's obviously a threat in that he knows how to collect evidence, and he's likely not reckless or stupid in making any serious claims. I believe the bottom line is that pills were stolen from the team's stash. If you steal medication you do not have a prescription for, that is a felony. I don't think Santini would fabricate that story out of thin air, so I do believe there's at least partial truth in his claims. I don't doubt for one second, though, that he may have sensationalized his story in order to go for the jugular.

None of us should be that worried about this particular case because the only thing that stands to happen is an exchange of money. Santini still has to prove beyond reasonable doubt facing Saints' lawyers in a court of law that his claims are true. That will be no easy feat, but if he does he would be awarded a nice chunk of change. I do think there's a decent chance this may get settled outside of court because the Saints will want this to go away. What we should be worried about is the state charges that could follow this case, and the possible jail time Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis, Joe Vitt and others could face. If Vitt and Payton both really stole Vicodin, they're facing a possible felony charge. Loomis is facing the possible cover up of a felony, based on the charges.  This could cause a serious distraction to both the team and the players. Depending on how far this goes it could weigh heavily on the coaching staff's mind smack dab in the heart of the regular season. We know how long these kind of proceedings can drag out, and without resolution something of this nature can stay in the back of someone's mind for a long time. Sadly I think this claim is just the beginning of what will be a long and taxing process to uncover the truth.

Whether some or all of the Saints' staff are innocent from these charges, they'll have to worry about proving it over the course of a long period of time. The effects could ultimately hinder the team's performance, and as fans that is what we should be worried about the most. On top of that, we're looking at a possible public black eye for the organization on a national scale, and maybe jail time down the road for some of the team's biggest masterminds. That's all worse case scenario, but we shouldn't be naive about the fact that these charges are very serious, and there's probably no easy way out of this.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Saints Nation: Heath Evans' Softball Event A Big Success

The softball showdown at Zephyr field was a raging success in large part thanks to the Saints fans. The turnout was close to selling out Zephyr field, and fans were treated to a great softball game by their favorite athletes. You can read a review of the game and evening HERE. Proceeds from the event went to the Heath Evans Foundation, designed to give counseling to sexually abused children. More information on the foundation can be found HERE.

Congrats to the fans for making this event so special, and thank you to the players, particularly Heath Evans, for putting on something the fans could really enjoy!