Erik McCoy

Saints Elevate WR Kenny Stills

Thin at wide receiver, the Saints are promoting a familiar player to help fill the void. The team elevated Kenny Stills from its practice squad Saturday.

Should the Saints dress Stills for their Week 3 game against the Patriots, it will mark his first game with the team since 2014. Like former teammate Brandin Cooks, Stills has been involved in multiple trades since his most recent game as a Saint. New Orleans traded Stills to Miami in 2015; the Dolphins sent him to the Texans in 2019.

Stills’ most recent Saints slate remains his best yardage total to date, with the former fifth-round pick accumulating 931 in his second season. The veteran deep threat has 37 touchdown catches and 4,843 receiving yards as a pro. Much has changed since Stills’ last stint on New Orleans’ active roster. Only Cameron Jordan and Terron Armstead remain from that period.

The 29-year-old target has, however, hit a bit of a rough patch since the Texans acquired Cooks and reconfigured their receiving corps last year. Stills has not played in a game since the Texans faced the Patriots in Week 10 of last season. Houston released Stills last November. While the Bills signed him to their practice squad late last season, Stills did not suit up for Buffalo.

The Saints reacquired Stills on a practice squad deal last week. He will join a receiving corps in need. The Saints are down Michael Thomas until at least Week 7, due to his belated ankle surgery, and also have Tre’Quan Smith stashed on IR. New Orleans also elevated center Austin Reiter for Sunday’s game. Starter Erik McCoy remains out with a calf injury.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints’ Erik McCoy To Miss Time

Saints center Erik McCoy will miss time due to a calf strain (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). While the team awaits word on his timetable, they’ll work out former Chiefs center Austin Reiter, per Pelissero. 

The Saints drafted McCoy in Round 2 of the 2019 Draft and immediately installed him as the starting center. They flirted with moving him to right guard at one point in time to make room for Cesar Ruiz, but his leadership in the middle was too valuable to lose.

Including Sunday’s blowout win over the Packers, Ruiz has started in all 33 of his games for the Saints. Now, he’ll be shelved for the first time in his young pro career.

Reiter, a Washington seventh-round pick in 2016, could offer some interim support. He spent the last couple of seasons as Patrick Mahomes‘ snapper, but Kansas City let him hit the open market. Reiter met with multiple teams, including the Bengals, Giants, and Texans, but went unsigned all offseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Goodwin, Hunter, Murphy, Saints

Marquise Goodwin‘s bid to make a second U.S. Olympic team failed Friday. The Bears wide receiver was unable to qualify for Sunday’s finals in the long jump, placing 19th out of 24 jumpers in the prelims at the U.S. Olympic trials. An Olympian in 2012, Goodwin has now fallen short of returning to the U.S. team in back-to-back trials. He placed seventh at the 2016 Rio-qualifying event. The 30-year-old’s best jump a 24-foot, 10-inch leap, was nearly three feet shy of his career-best mark — set at the 2012 trials. Goodwin falling short should not exactly surprise, given his focus on an NFL career in the years since the London Games. Although the veteran wideout met the Olympic standard at a March meet, he has been far from an active jumper during his NFL career. He can now transition to full-time football prep. Goodwin, who signed with the Bears in April, will now be on track to join his team on time for training camp.

Here is the latest from the NFC:

  • Danielle Hunter‘s reworked contract ended up creating nearly $4MM in cap space for the Vikings. The Pro Bowl defensive end’s adjusted deal dropped his 2021 cap number from $17.25MM to $13.37MM, per Sports Talk 790’s Aaron Wilson (Twitter link). This pact added $9.45MM in total guarantees to Hunter’s contract, Wilson tweets. In 2022, Hunter’s base salary will drop to $1.4MM, per Wilson (on Twitter), with the $18MM roster bonus comprising most of his $26.1MM cap figure. The Vikings also included a $1MM sack-based incentive for their top pass rusher.
  • The Cardinals lost All-Decade cornerback Patrick Peterson, a 10-year starter, in free agency. Fellow 2020 Arizona boundary starter Dre Kirkpatrick is gone as well. However, the Cards want to keep top holdover Byron Murphy primarily in the slot, Kyle Odegard of AZCardinals.com notes. GM Steve Keim called Murphy one of the league’s top inside defenders earlier this year, and the former second-round pick fared much better in 2020 than he did as a rookie in ’19. Murphy’s snap rate, however, dropped from 98% in 2019 to 72% last season. The Cards also signed Darqueze Dennard this offseason; Dennard mostly played in the slot with the Bengals. It will be interesting to see how DC Vance Joseph deploys Murphy, whom he called his top corner, in the Washington product’s third season.
  • The Saints‘ starting lineup received some shakeups this offseason, most notably at quarterback. But Taysom Hill and/or Jameis Winston are still set to play behind one of the NFL’s top offensive lines. However, the Saints may be considering a change up front. Upon selecting Cesar Ruiz in last year’s first round, the Saints originally planned to play him at center and move incumbent Erik McCoy to right guard, per Larry Holder of The Athletic. But McCoy’s play at center through two seasons prompted New Orleans to leave him there. While a switch may still be a consideration, Holder expects the two blockers to stay put for now (subscription required). McCoy has been a quality center, but Pro Football Focus ranked Ruiz 64th among guards last season.

Saints Sign Entire Draft Class

That’s a wrap! On Friday, the Saints announced that they have signed their entire draft class:

All players will receive four-year deals. But, naturally, McCoy gets the biggest payout of the bunch. His draft slot at No. 48 overall gives him almost $6.1MM in total, with a signing bonus of nearly $2.5MM.

McCoy spent three years as the Aggies’ starting center, but he also made a pair of starts at guard in 2017. With the Saints, McCoy is expected to compete for the starting center job, though he could theoretically see time at left or right guard.

The Saints had a condensed draft class this year, due in part to the two trades they made to land McCoy and Gardner-Johnson. Last year, Gardner-Johnson made 71 tackles, nine tackles for loss, three sacks, and came away with a team-high four interceptions. He already has a relationship with secondary coach Aaron Glenn and couldn’t be happier to be in New Orleans.

It’s the best all around team from top to bottom, offense and defense,”Gardner-Johnson said recently. “I’m just coming into a system where everything has a standard. I’m just going to come in and live up to that standard so everyone on the team and in the front office upstairs can be proud of me and say these guys are set.”

 

 

Dolphins Ship No. 48 Pick To Saints

The Dolphins will acquire more draft capital, dealing the No. 48 overall pick to the Saints. This will involve three picks coming back to Miami.

Involved in dealing high draft choices in recent years, the Saints will send picks 62 and 200 in this draft to the Dolphins. New Orleans will also part with a 2020 second-rounder to move up 14 spots in this year’s second round. The Saints will also collect a Dolphins 2019 fourth-rounder (No. 116).

And the Saints will use this selection to add center Erik McCoy. Max Unger‘s retirement has now preceded New Orleans signing Nick Easton and using its only pick in the first four rounds to add one of this draft’s top interior linemen.

For the Dolphins, this may keep their Josh Rosen talks alive. They were reluctant to part with the No. 48 pick for Rosen, but with the team dropping in this year’s second round and adding a 2020 Round 2 pick, perhaps the Fins and Cardinals can come to an agreement.

Draft Notes: LBs, Cowboys, OL, Pats, Ravens

Two teams who will be visiting with Devin White soon are also set to have this draft’s other high-profile Devin on their pre-draft itineraries. The Bengals met with Devin Bush on Monday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets, adding the Buccaneers are next up on the Michigan-produced linebacker’s schedule. White is expected to go off draft boards a bit sooner, but Bush is viewed as a solid first-round pick as well. Bush finished out the 2018 season with 66 tackles, including 8.5 for a loss, and 4.5 sacks. In 2017, the versatile linebacker posted 95 tackles, 10 for loss, and 5.5 sacks. He is the son of former Falcons, Rams and Browns safety Devin Bush Sr., a 1995 first-round pick who played in back-to-back Super Bowls in the late 1990s. The Bucs hold the No. 5 pick, while the Bengals’ first pick comes at No. 11.

Here’s the latest from the draft world:

  • While Bush may be a solid first-round bet, White has climbed to the point of potentially becoming the first off-ball linebacker to be drafted in the top five since Aaron Curry in 2009. A consensus of White being as good or better than Roquan Smith as a prospect has formed, Albert Breer of SI.com notes, adding that he could be a fit at No. 4 for the Raiders or No. 5 for the Bucs.
  • The Cowboys have made most of their 30 visits known, and some higher-level prospects reside on Dallas’ list — despite the team not holding a first-round pick. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel and safeties Taylor Rapp and Johnathan Abram are set to visit the Cowboys, Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News reports. Four defensive tackles, four safeties, three wideouts and three running backs appear on the Cowboys’ list. The past six Cowboys first-round picks visited the Cowboys pre-draft, Machota notes, though with Dallas not holding a selection until late in the second round (No. 58) could complicate matters. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah rates Samuel, a South Carolina-honed receiver, as this class’ No. 6 wideout. He rates Abram (Mississippi State) as the class’ top safety.
  • Rapp will be receiving a nice tour of the country this month, with a three-time zone trip on the horizon. The Lions, Rams, Giants and Panthers also booked pre-draft summits with the Washington safety, Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com notes. A three-year Huskies contributor, Rapp intercepted seven passes and made at least 50 tackles in each of his college campaigns. Pauline expects Rapp to be a second-round pick.
  • A fellow Washington Huskies product, tackle Kaleb McGary has visits lined up with the Patriots, Rams and Jaguars, per Pauline. The Falcons are also going to work out McGary, who was a three-plus-season starter at right tackle for the Pac-12 program.
  • The top two centers on Jeremiah’s list, N.C. State’s Garrett Bradbury and Texas A&M’s Erik McCoy, will visit the Ravens, The Athletic’s Jeff Zreibec reports (subscription required). Baltimore allowed Ryan Jensen to walk in free agency last year and turned to Matt Skura to replace him in 2018. Skura graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 23 center last season for a Ravens team that became far more reliant on the run once Lamar Jackson entered the equation.