Saints Rumors

Jadeveon Clowney Eyeing Cowboys, Saints?

Jadeveon Clowney would be equally happy to join a contender on a one-year deal or a middling club on a multi-year deal, Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network hears. Specifically, he’d like to land with one of two contenders – the Cowboys or the Saints.

[RELATED: Clowney’s Best Multi-Year Offer Came From Browns]

It’s not clear whether the Saints or Cowboys have reciprocated that interest. The three-time Pro Bowler would represent a classic Jerry Jones splash, but they already have $20MM/year committed to DeMarcus Lawrence. The Saints are also short on cap space, and they don’t necessarily need Clowney. With Cameron JordanMarcus Davenport, and Trey Hendrickson on the edge, there’s little reason for the Saints to shell out the kind of money that Clowney is seeking.

The Browns put a multi-year offer on the table for Clowney, one that is believed to be in the range of $12MM/year. The Browns are reportedly willing to move their offer up to somewhere around $15MM/year, but that’s still a step back from the ~$17MM Clowney was looking for in March. Reading between the lines, it sounds like a winning club could have Clowney on a one-year deal worth roughly $15MM, but that’s likely too rich for his two preferred teams.

Last year, Clowney registered just three sacks with the Seahawks. That was the lowest healthy-season total of his pro career.

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Saints Rumors: Gardner-Johnson, Jenkins

The Saints didn’t hold any sort of offseason program (not even a virtual session), and the club doesn’t plan to get together again until training camp. Speaking on a conference call with reporters, defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said New Orleans coaches will continue to work from home and won’t convene until training camp begins, according to Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk. The NFL is now allowing teams to have coaches inside facilities, but the Saints won’t take advantage of that league decision.

Here’s more on the Saints:

  • Second-year New Orleans safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson will spend a “good amount of time” covering the slot in 2020, as Saints defensive backs coach Aaron Glenn tells Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football (Twitter link). A fourth-round pick out of Florida, Gardner-Johnson played 807 snaps during his rookie campaign, with 290 of those reps coming in the slot. Those slot snaps were second on the club to only cornerback P.J. Williams, who remains on the roster but could potentially see a reduced role. Pro Football Focus graded Gardner-Johnson as the No. 37 safety among 99 qualifiers in 2020.
  • Including the postseason, veteran cornerback Janoris Jenkins played in only 3 games with the Saints in 2019 after being acquired off waivers from the Giants. But that was enough time for New Orleans to decide to retain him. “Certainly there’s an overall body of work that you utilize to try to form opinions about what a guy can do or can’t do,” Allen tells Luke Johnson of NOLA.com. “But there’s nothing like the experience of having a guy in your building. I can tell you just from my experience with him in that brief period of time.” In March, Jenkins agreed to an extension that will keep him with the Saints through 2022.
  • In case you missed it, the Saints had interest in signing Tom Brady had Drew Brees opted to retire.

Mutual Interest Existed Between Saints, Tom Brady?

An interesting what-if during an offseason featuring the highest-profile quarterback movement since free agency opened 27 years ago: Tom Brady was interested in the Saints this year. The Saints were also interested, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (on Twitter).

However, both sides’ curiosity hinged on Drew Brees heading into retirement, which he did not. The Saints re-upped their all-time great for the same figures — two years, $50MM — Brady eventually received from the Buccaneers. However, Brees’ deal includes only $25MM fully guaranteed; the Bucs guaranteed Brady all $50MM.

New Orleans’ Brees transaction occurred hours before Brady’s Bucs commitment, but the former had already declared he would return for a 20th season. And Brees said earlier in the offseason he would play for the Saints or no one.

Brady’s interest level in the Saints was believed to be “very serious,” per La Canfora. This adds a layer to a complex Saints QB offseason, one that saw them re-sign Brees, replace Teddy Bridgewater with Jameis Winston and extend gadget player/possible Brees successor Taysom Hill. Brady would have been surrounded by weapons in New Orleans, but he now has an enviable arrangement in Tampa.

This isn’t necessarily surprising. Brady was connected to a number of teams this offseason, before his sweepstakes narrowed to the Bucs and Chargers. The Bay Area native was believed to be interested in joining the 49ers, who investigated the possibility. Brees’ return cut off anything notable between Brady and the Saints.

Brees, 41, and Brady, 43 in August, will instead face off twice this season in what promise to be two of the highest-profile divisional QB matchups in NFL history. Despite playing in 10 fewer games (285-275), Brees has a 3,000-plus-yard edge on his new rival and is six TD passes up on the ex-Patriot legend (547-541). Brady, of course, has a 6-1 Super Bowl edge here. The Bucs and Saints are scheduled to play in Weeks 1 and 9.

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Panthers Deny Wrongdoing In Tommy Stevens Pursuit

Last month, seventh-round pick Tommy Stevens found himself in the headlines after a strange tug-of-war between the Saints and Panthers. The Saints, after trading away their entire Day 3 haul, hoped to sign the Mississippi State quarterback as an undrafted free agent. The Saints and Panthers reportedly wound up in a bidding war for him before the conclusion of the draft, prompting Sean Payton to trade back into the draft to nab Stevens at No. 240 overall

It seems that both teams violated league rules which allow for teams to chat with potential UDFAs before the draft is over, but forbid actual negotiations. For his part, Panthers GM Marty Hurney says he did not do anything “out of bounds”.

That’s not — what we did is we did have several conversations with Tommy before the draft. He had history with [offensive coordinator] Joe Brady (at Penn State). We thought that if we didn’t have a chance to draft him that he was one of the guys on our list. But it didn’t go any further than that,” Hurney said (via Joe Person of The Athletic).

The league may or may not agree after completing an investigation into the matter. If the Saints and/or Panthers are found to have violated league rules, they could be penalized with fines or the forfeiture of future draft picks.

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Contract Details: 5/29/20

Here are the details on a few recently-signed contracts:

  • Eli Apple, CB (Panthers): One year. $3MM, including $750K signing bonus. Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
  • Anthony Chickillo, LB (Saints): One year. Veteran salary benefit. $1.047MM base salary ($68,750 guaranteed). Twitter link via Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football.
  • Carlos Hyde, RB (Seahawks): One year, max value of $4MM. $1.5MM base salary, $750K signing bonus, $500K in per game roster bonuses. Up to $1.25MM in incentives. Twitter link via Rapoport.

Saints To Sign James Hurst

The Saints have agreed to sign James Hurst, according agent Jack Bechta (on Twitter). The former Ravens offensive lineman will head to New Orleans on a one-year deal. 

[RELATED: Saints DE Noah Spence Tears ACL]

The Ravens released Hurst in March, wiping his $5.25MM cap hit off of the books for 2020. In February, Hurst was hit with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Before the ban, Hurst was already on the roster bubble. After the suspension came down from the league office, his fate was pretty much sealed.

The suspension means that Hurst won’t be available for his new team in September. But, come October, Hurst could be a worthwhile reserve, one that offers starting experience at both tackle and guard. In six seasons with the Ravens, Hurst was first-string for 44 of his 90 games. He was mostly a reserve last year, but he started in all of his games between 2017 and 2018.

In New Orleans, Hurst will have the opportunity to learn from one of the league’s best O-Lines, a unit that allowed only 24 sacks in 2019. On the outside, they’ll start Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk. In the middle, they’ll deploy Andrus Peat, Erik McCoy, and rookie Cesar Ruiz, now that veteran Larry Warford is out of the picture.

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Saints DE Noah Spence Tears ACL

The Saints re-signed defensive end Noah Spence in March, but the former second-round pick is likely done for the season.

New Orleans placed Spence on its reserve/non-football injury list Tuesday. This would only shelve him for the first six weeks of the season, but Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that Spence suffered a torn ACL while working out independently. The Saints would have been unable to place Spence on the NFI list in a normal offseason, with Rapoport noting the injury occurred during the OTA window.

Spence does not count against the Saints’ 90-man offseason roster, having been moved to the NFI list to make room for recently added linebacker Anthony Chickillo.

Spence caught on with the Saints late last season but did not play in any games with the team. After the Buccaneers waived him following the preseason’s conclusion, Spence landed with the Redskins. He played seven games with the team, registering one sack.

A Bucs draftee in 2016, Spence has 7.5 career sacks. He recorded 5.5 of those as a rookie. He was expected to compete for a depth spot with the Saints.

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Taysom Hill Is "The Guy" For Post-Brees Saints

Taysom Hill is expected to be “the guy” at quarterback for the Saints whenever Drew Brees decides to retire, as Jay Glazer of The Athletic writes. Brees has already signed a post-career deal with NBC Sports, and the 2020 season may or may not be his final year in the NFL, so Hill could be in line to become New Orleans’ starter as soon as next year. The drawbacks on Hill are apparent: he’ll be 31 years old when the 2021 campaign gets underway, and he’s only attempted 13 passes over the course of his career. But the Saints have nothing but shower with him praise in addition to extending him on a two-year pact that includes nearly $17.5MM in guaranteed money and a $16.1MM cap charge in 2021. Per Glazer, New Orleans isn’t attempting a “smokescreen” — the club is comfortable will Hill under center if Brees hangs up his cleats.

Saints Sign LB Anthony Chickillo

The Saints have agreed to sign free agent linebacker Anthony Chickillo to a one-year deal, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

A sixth-round pick in the 2015 draft, Chickillo had spent his entire career with Pittsburgh until being released earlier this year. After completing his rookie contract, Chickillo inked a two-year, $8MM contact with the Steelers in 2019 despite receiving free agent interest from the Patriots. Pittsburgh decided to cut bait halfway through the deal, saving $5MM in the process.

Chickillo, 27, spent most of his Steelers career as a reserve (65 games, nine starts). His most productive campaign came in 2016, when he made seven starts and played on roughly a third of Pittsburgh’s defensive snaps. Last year, Chickillo played in 11 games, racking up a half-sack and 19 total tackles.

Chickillo has spent a great deal of time on special teams duty (at least 67% playtime in each of the past four seasons), and that’s likely what he’ll do for the Saints. New Orleans is projected to start Demario Davis, Kiko Alonso, and Alex Anzalone in base sets, with Craig Robertson and rookie Zack Baun in reserve, so Chickillo isn’t even necessarily guaranteed a place on the Saints’ final roster.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.