Saints Rumors

Sean Payton Downplays Cowboys Rumors

It has been long speculated that the Cowboys will target Saints head coach Sean Payton as a replacement for Jason Garrett. Payton, of course, has heard the chatter, but he’s doing his best to downplay the rumors. 

I’m in my 13th year. I don’t know how to answer it,” Payton said (via Josh Katzenstein of The Times-Picayune). “I feel like it’s every other year; it’s on the odd number years, so 2019 it comes up and then we’ll hear it in 2021…I’ve got fleur-de-lis tattoos that can’t be erased!

Payton is right – the Cowboys speculation will probably continue, unless Garrett manages to guide the Cowboys to a Super Bowl victory in the near future. And, even though 40-year-old quarterback Drew Brees hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, his retirement may not be too far off. When that happens, some believe that Payton will follow him out the door.

Still, Payton didn’t blink when asked if he plans on staying in New Orleans.

That’s clearly the plan,” said Payton.

Last year, the Saints finished out with a 13-3 record for the third time under Payton’s watch. The Saints managed to top the Eagles in their Divisional Round showdown but fell to the Rams in a controversial NFC Championship Game loss.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints To Host Jerry Tillery, N'Keal Harry

  • This year’s wide receiver hierarchy has not produced a clear-cut favorite, D.K. Metcalf‘s take-notice measurables notwithstanding. One of the top pass-catching prospects, N’Keal Harry, joined Ferguson in meeting with the Bills on Monday, Pelissero tweets. Upcoming for the Arizona State alum this week: visits with the Eagles, Patriots and Saints. Harry rates as the No. 4 receiver prospect — behind Marquise Brown, Metcalf and A.J. Brown — per NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah. Harry met with the Seahawks last week.
  • One of the second-tier defensive tackle prospects, Jerry Tillery remains in recovery from shoulder labrum surgery. But he traveled to New Orleans on Monday for a pre-draft Saints visit, Pelissero adds (via Twitter). The Notre Dame product is not expected to participate in OTAs but may be on track for training camp. The 6-foot-7, 305-pound prospect profiles as late-Day 1/early-Day 2 pick. By virtue of 2018 trades, the Saints hold just one pick in the first four rounds — No. 62 overall.

Saints Re-Sign CB P.J. Williams

The Saints brought back one of their cornerbacks on Tuesday, announcing they have agreed to a one-year deal with P.J. Williams. Williams appears to have done well on this pact, with Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweeting the deal is worth $5MM.

A third-round Saints pick in 2015, Williams has been a primary contributor for the past three seasons. He became a part-time starter in each of New Orleans’ most recent two NFC South championship campaigns, starting 13 games over the past two years.

While Williams did not have a strong season in 2018, finishing as Pro Football Focus’ sixth-worst full-time cornerback, he played 810 snaps for the NFC’s No. 1 seed. He became needed again on a near-full-time basis when 2018 UFA addition Patrick Robinson suffered a season-ending injury in September of last year.

Likely representing possible depth for the 2019 Saints, Williams will rejoin a secondary that houses Robinson, Marshon Lattimore and Eli Apple. However, the 25-year-old defender is a suspension candidate, having been arrested for driving under the influence in January.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Notes: Sternberger, Jets, Thorson

The Patriots are on the lookout for tight end help in the wake of Rob Gronkowski‘s retirement, and the club will have a top-30 visit with Texas A&M TE Jace Sternberger, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. The Pats could use their No. 32 overall pick on a tight end, and while that may be a little high for Sternberger, top prospects Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson may be off the board by that point. Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr. could be available, though, and there is no reason why New England, which has deployed two tight ends to great effect in the past, could not use several of its 12 picks in this year’s draft on the tight end position.

Now for more draft-related rumblings from around the league:

  • In addition to the Patriots, Wilson reports that Sternberger has visits lined up with the Chiefs, Packers, Lions, Cowboys, Vikings, and Seahawks.
  • Brian Costello of the New York Post does not believe that the Jets will invest high-end draft capital on the WR, RB, or TE positions this year in light of their free agent expenditures, but he still thinks the club could bolster those units with collegiate prospects. He suggests that Gang Green could use a middle- or late-round selection on a wideout, particularly if that player offers return ability, and he thinks a Day 3 blocking tight end and power back could also be in the cards. Of course, with only six draft picks at the moment, New York may need to focus on areas of greater need.
  • Penn State DE Shareef Miller will visit with the Ravens, Cardinals, and Jets, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Miller currently projects as a Day 3 pick, but all three clubs could use pass rushing help, and Miller has the raw ability to succeed as a 4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB.
  • The Broncos may be hosting some of the top QBs in this year’s draft class, but they’re looking at more under-the-radar passers as well, as Mike Klis of 9News.com tweets that Denver will be working out Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson in early April. Thorson is expected to be a middle-round selection.
  • Valdosta State CB Stephen Denmark has top-30 visits lined up with the Browns and Saints, per Wilson (via Twitter).

Bears Eyeing Toledo CB Ka'dar Hollman

  • Toledo cornerback Ka’dar Hollman also had a private workout with the Texans, reports Wilson. The defensive back has also had visits and workouts with the Dolphins, Saints, Bears, Colts, Eagles, Lions and Browns. While Hollman has boosted his draft stock following a strong Pro Day, he’s still at best a sixth- or seventh-rounder.

    [SOURCE LINK]

Saints Notes: Loomis, Easton

  • Saints general manager Mickey Loomis will no longer be involved in running the NBA’s Pelicans, reports Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com (Twitter link). Loomis, who’s been the Saints’ GM since 2002, took over as the Pelicans’ executive vice president of basketball operations in 2012. However, there was reportedly some concern within the Saints’ franchise that Loomis was being “spread too thin,” according to Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk. The Pelicans are in the process of hiring a new GM, one who will report directly to Saints/Pelicans owner Gayle Benson.
  • Nick Easton‘s four-year deal with the Saints is worth $22.5MM but contains only $4MM in guaranteed money, tweets Josh Katzenstein of the Times-Picayune, who adds Easton received a $2MM signing bonus. As Mike Triplett of ESPN.com suggests (via Twitter), Easton’s deal is essentially a one-year deal with a series of options in 2020 ($5MM), 2021 ($6MM), and 2022 ($7.5MM).

Saints To Sign Jared Cook

The Saints are close to a deal with free agent tight end Jared Cook, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (Twitter link). When the deal is inked on Tuesday, it’ll be a two-year contract worth $15.5MM, including $8MM fully guaranteed in Year 1, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). With incentives, Cook can earn up to $19MM between now and the end of the 2020 season.

Cook, 31, just wrapped up the best season of his NFL career, leading the Raiders in receptions (68), receiving yardage (896), and receiving touchdowns (6). Cook ranked as a top-five tight end league-wide in all three of those categories, while Pro Football Focus grades him ninth at his position. Additionally, Cook finished fifth among NFL tight ends in Football Outsiders’ DYAR — which measures value over a replacement level player — and 11th in DVOA, which quantifies value on a per-play basis.

The Saints are losing Ben Watson to retirement, but still have Josh HillGarrett Griffin, and Dan Arnold at tight end. Cook, clearly, would represent an upgrade over any of those options, and would project to see the majority of snaps and targets at the position in New Orleans.

A number of free agent tight ends — Jesse JamesTyler Kroft, and Nick Boyle among them — received multi-year deals worth $6-7MM annually, and Cook managed to top figures. Heading into free agency, he was widely viewed as the top tight end available on the open market.

New Orleans originally hosted Cook when the free agent market opened last Wednesday. At the time, both the incumbent Raiders and the Patriots were believed to be “monitoring” Cook’s market. There was some speculation that the Patriots would circle back to Cook in the wake of Rob Gronkowski’s retirement, but Cook kept his word and remained committed to the Saints.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jared Cook Remains Committed To Saints

Rob Gronkowski is retiredwe think – and that leaves the Patriots with a serious void at tight end. Some have speculated that the Patriots could convince Jared Cook to back out of his not-yet-signed commitment to the Saints, but that won’t happen, according to Peter King of NBC Sports

Cook will not reconsider his decision, according to King. That’s disappointing news for the Pats’ front office, especially since they aggressively pursued the former Raiders tight end.

Cook would not have been a true “replacement” for Gronkowski, but he would have given the Patriots a quality pass-catcher to keep the offense moving. Last year, the 31-year-old started 14 of his 16 games, hauling in 68 receptions for 896 yards and six scores. It was the most productive season of Cook’s career, though he has topped 50 catches in three other seasons.

Instead, Cook intends to still sign with the Saints, where he has an opportunity to fill a role similar to the one occupied by Jimmy Graham years ago. Drew Brees tends to spread the ball around in the New Orleans offense, but Cook could be an opportunity to assert himself as one of the very best tight ends in the NFL, especially now that Gronk is focusing on non-football endeavors.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints Notes: Bridgewater, Moreau, Draft

Teddy Bridgewater had a dramatic free agency. He appeared all set to return to the Saints, when the Dolphins swooped in with a last second offer to be their starting quarterback. But in the end, he decided to return to New Orleans, potentially setting him up to take over for Drew Brees. In a recent interview with WWL Radio, Bridgewater elaborated on his decision to stay in the Big Easy, per Mike Triplett of ESPN.com. Bridgewater indicated it mostly had to do with how much he enjoyed his time in New Orleans, rather than about potential playing time.

“I told my agents every time that I talked to them that I haven’t stopped smiling since I arrived,” Bridgewater said. They made playing football fun, they made learning the game fun … and that’s something I appreciate. I was able to be part of that for 18 weeks last season, and it was nothing but positive things that occurred,” he continued. It sounds like Bridgewater has bought in to whatever the Saints are promising, and they clearly think very highly of him if they’re giving him $7.25MM to be their backup quarterback.

  • The Saints are reportedly close to a deal that would bring Jared Cook to New Orleans, but they might not be done adding to their tight end group. The team is “paying close attention” to LSU tight end Foster Moreau today at his pro day, Larry Holder of The Athletic is told (Twitter link). Moreau caught 22 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns at LSU last year.

Contract Details: Vaccaro, Callahan, Okafor

Let’s take a look at the details of a few recently-signed NFL contracts, with all links going to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle’s Twitter account: