Saints Rumors

Saints Re-Sign OL Michael Ola

Michael Ola is set to return for another season with the Saints. On Tuesday, New Orleans agreed to re-sign the offensive lineman on a one-year deal, according to SiriusXM’s Adam Caplan (Twitter link).

Ola, 31 in April, appeared in seven games for the Saints last year, including one start. Signed in October to add depth behind injured left tackle Terron Armstead and left guard Andrus Peat, Ola suffered a season-ending ankle injury of his own in December and had to be placed on IR.

Terms of Ola’s deal are not yet known, but it’s likely an inexpensive deal of the low/no guarantee variety. If he sticks on the final roster, he’ll avoid putting on the fifth jersey of his NFL career. Previously, Ola suited up for the Chargers, Bills, Lions, and Bears. He’s also had camp/taxi squad deals with the the Dolphins, Seahawks, and Giants.

Saints Hire Phil Galiano

  • The Saints have hired former Penn State staffer Phil Galiano as an assistant special teams coach, tweets Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Galiano has spent most of his career in the collegiate ranks, but work for the Buccaneers from 2010-12. He’ll now assist Darren Rizzi, who was hired as New Orleans’ special teams coordinator last week.

Saints To Block Bengals From Interviewing Aaron Glenn

It appears another Bengals path toward a potential defensive coordinator hire will close. The Saints are planning to block them from interviewing Aaron Glenn, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

The Bengals requested a meeting with the Saints’ secondary coach earlier on Thursday. This represents the latest in what’s been a series of barriers impeding a Bengals DC hire.

This is the second Saints coach the Bengals have tried to meet with regarding their DC position. The team sought a meeting with Saints DC Dennis Allen, whose previous contract had expired after the 2018 season, but Allen and the Saints agreed on a new contract.

Cincinnati has been connected to other veterans like Dom Capers, Jack Del Rio, Mike Nolan and John Fox. The team moved forward with Capers and Del Rio. Capers turned the Bengals down, and nothing came to fruition with Del Rio. Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham then looked like the pick, but the Gators are keeping him. The Bengals requested meetings with former Falcons DC Marquand Manuel and Texas A&M defensive boss Mike Elko.

The Rams have granted the Bengals permission to meet with cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant, however. Mere permission on this front, which would make Pleasant a first-time coordinator, could be critical given the way this process has unfolded.

A 15-year NFL veteran as a corner, Glenn has been a coach for five seasons — the past three as Saints DC. As long as he is under contract, the Saints can block him from an interview to become a coordinator.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bengals Request Interview With Aaron Glenn

Aaron Glenn is in the running for the Bengals’ defensive coordinator job. On Thursday, the Bengals requested an interview with the Saints secondary coach, according to Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (Twitter link). 

Glenn caught the Bengals’ eye earlier this month after deals with Jack Del Rio and Dom Capers went south. Glenn lacks the previous DC experience of Del Rio and Capers, but he is a highly respected coach with recent playing experience.

Glenn played for the Jets, Texans, Cowboys, Jaguars, and Saints over the course of his 15-year career, which ended in 2008. In 2012, he hooked on with the Jets as a personnel scout and later joined the Browns as their assistant DB coach. The Saints brought him on board as the top DB coach in 2016 and he may now have a chance to vault up the coaching ladder.

The Saints’ secondary has lacked talent in recent years, but Glenn has been lauded for developing the younger players in his group.

The Bengals’ latest would-be DC hire, Todd Grantham, opted to stay with the University of Florida rather than join Cincinnati.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

ERFA Signings: 2/11/19

With free agency barely a month away, teams have begun to make moves regarding their exclusive-rights free agents. Here are Monday’s ERFA decisions:

Detroit Lions

New Orleans Saints

Saints To Hire Darren Rizzi

One of the league’s most respected special teams coaches is headed to New Orleans. The Saints have hired former Dolphins ST coordinator Darren Rizzi, according to Aditi Kinkhabwala and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). New Orleans has officially announced Rizzi’s hiring.

This week, the Saints chose to move on from their previous special teams staff, which was headed by veteran guru Mike Westhoff. Rizzi will now step in after courting interest from multiple clubs around the league, including the the Bills, Jets, Lions, Packers, and Vikings.

In addition to serving as the Dolphins’ ST coordinator, Rizzi also carried the title of Assistant Head Coach. After the firing of Adam Gase, the Dolphins interviewed Rizzi for the job. When Rizzi didn’t get the gig, he resolved to move on.

The Saints’ dismissal of Westhoff was surprising to many, including Westhoff himself. In 2017, Westhoff’s first year with the team, the Saints’ ST unit improved from 25th in the league to 14th, per Rick Gosselin’s annual rankings. In 2018, they ranked second overall.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

David Onyemata Cited For Marijuana Possession

Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata was recently cited for possession of marijuana, per Nick Underhill and Ramon Antonio Vargas of The New Orleans Advocate. Jefferson Parish (La.) prosecutors are unsure if they will formally charge Onyemata.

New Orleans selected Onyemata, a native of Nigeria, in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, and he has steadily improved his game during his first three seasons in the league. He played in almost 60% of the team’s defensive snaps in 2018 and compiled a career high 4.5 sacks to go along with 35 total tackles. He has appeared in all of the Saints’ regular season and playoff contests since he became a pro.

His early career is especially impressive considering he did not start playing football until 2011, when he arrived at the University of Manitoba. He said he picked up the game just to have something to do between classes, and now he is a regular on one of the league’s better clubs. The Saints were intrigued enough by his potential that they traded up in the 2016 draft to acquire him, and they have thus far gotten a solid return on their investment

Onyemata is entering the final year of his rookie contract, so this citation comes at something of an inopportune time. The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office began investigating a package that was seized by U.S. Customs & Border Protection personnel in Buffalo, New York, on January 28, and it obtained a search warrant for Onyemata’s apartment the following day. Deputies ultimately seized three ounces of marijuana, cannabis oil, marijuana edibles, and hemp powder.

Even if Onyemata escapes legal repercussions, he could still face disciplinary action from the league. With Sheldon Rankins working his way back from an Achilles injury suffered during the playoffs, and with Tyeler Davison a free agent, New Orleans could be a little thin along the defensive line to start the 2019 campaign.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Alex Okafor's Last Contract Year Voided

  • The Saints changed the language in pass-rusher Alex Okafor‘s contract back in December, and the new deal language automatically voided the 2019 year of Okafor’s contract, a source told Nick Underhill of The Advocate. Underhill writes that the deal was re-worked to give Okafor a $400K bonus even though he came up one sack short of the incentive, and it also guaranteed him free agency. Okafor was having a really good year in 2017 before tearing his Achilles, and then re-signed on a cheap deal with the Saints before the 2018 season started. Now fully healthy, the voided year means Okafor will be an unrestricted free agent this March and he’ll have the chance to cash in with a big contract.

NFC East Notes: Cowboys, Payton, Eagles

Take this with a grain of salt, but there’s an ongoing theory that the Cowboys are eyeing Saints coach Sean Payton as the eventual replacement for Jason Garrett, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Of course, there are a number of complications and roadblocks involved in such a plan, including Payton’s contract with New Orleans, which runs through 2020.

Garrett is a lame duck heading into 2019 and the team does not plan to give him an extension between now and the fall. Of course, Garrett’s job has been in jeopardy before and he could easily turn things around with a big season in Dallas.

If the Cowboys are indeed interested in Payton, then this wouldn’t be the first time another team has tried to pry him away. The Colts and Rams reportedly explored the idea in January 2017, but Payton wound up staying put in New Orleans.

Here’s more from the NFC East:

  • The Eagles may be hoping to “tag and trade” quarterback Nick Foles, but Foles’ representatives should be prepared to fight any attempt to block his path to the open market, Mike Florio of PFT writes. The QB’s camp could communicate that they won’t cooperate with the plan or they could fight it based on the rules of the CBA. Article 4 of the CBA reads: “A Club extending a Required Tender must, for so long as that Tender is extended, have a good faith intention to employ the player receiving the Tender at the Tender compensation level during the upcoming season.” Tendering Foles strictly to trade him would potentially be in violation of that clause.
  • The Giants are likely going to use Eli Manning as their starting quarterback in 2019, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY opines. The Giants, he writes, are more likely to seek his heir in the draft and potentially explore a negotiation to trim his $23.2MM cap hit.
  • Former Eagles quarterback G.J. Kinne has agreed to become an offensive assistant with the Eagles, Bruce Feldman of The Athletic tweets. Last year Kinne worked an analyst/assistant QB coach at Arkansas. Kinne, a Tulsa product, worked the practice squad circuit up until he was released by the Giants in May of 2016.
  • The Eagles also promoted assistant wide receivers coach Carson Walch to full WRs coach, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. He takes over after the team moved on from Gunter Brewer.

Bengals Cast Wide Net In DC Search

The Bengals are casting a wide net in their search for a defensive coordinator and other defensive staffers, as Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. The club is expected to request (or has requested) interviews with former Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel, Texas A&M DC Mike Elko, Florida DC Todd Grantham, and Saints defensive backs coach Aaron Glenn.

The Bengals made an offer to veteran coach Dom Capers this week, but he turned them down and is now believed to be Miami-bound. Capers, 68, would have given the Bengals a Rams replica of sorts as he would have supported 33-year-old head coach Zac Taylor. The Bengals also flirted with former Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio, an indication they would prefer a veteran counterweight to Taylor.

Outside of Grantham, however, the coaches they’re now considering are on the younger side of 50. That could indicate a change in philosophy for Cincinnati. Or, it could be a case of the old adage – beggars can’t be choosers.

As previously reported, the Bengals also requested an interview with Rams DB coach Aubrey Pleasant.