New Orleans Saints Rumors & News

Payton: Saints Need Pass-Rusher

  • The Saints will look to upgrade their pass rush, Sean Payton told the team’s website. “It’s a must. We’ve got to find a pass-rusher,” Payton said. “Now, whether that comes from free agency or that comes from the draft, we have to be better at affecting the quarterback. Last year if you took hurries, sacks, pressures – a study of all three things that can happen with a rush – we were in the bottom third of the league and that has to get better.” The Saints ranked 27th last season with 30 sacks. Cameron Jordan remains under contract, but New Orleans has Nick Fairley (6.5 sacks last season) looming as a UFA and no surefire answer opposite Jordan. No other defensive end recorded two sacks, but promising rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins accrued four despite missing much of the season with a broken leg.
  • One veteran who served as part of the Saints’ defensive end equation wants to continue playing. Darryl Tapp would prefer to continue his career on a contending team, Alex Marvez of the Sporting News tweets. Tapp, 32, said he might re-sign with the Saints, although it’s not known if the interest is mutual, and is eyeing two more seasons before retiring. The veteran defensive end finished with just a half-sack last season but graded out reasonably well despite being a late-summer signing, coming in at 44th on Pro Football Focus’ edge defender rankings.

Saints, Nick Fairley Want Reunion

  • Defensive tackle Nick Fairley and the Saints would both embrace a reunion, but Nick Underhill of The Advocate wonders if the two sides can make the money work. Following a season where he recorded 6.5 sacks, the writer believes Fairley could be in line to make around $9.5MM next year. While the Saints have the financial flexibility to make that work, Underhill wonders if they’d actually be willing to commit that kind of money.

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Saints Likely To Pay Zach Strief's Roster Bonus

  • The Saints are likely to select an offensive tackle early in the draft, perhaps as early as Round 1, writes Mike Triplett of ESPN.com. Although Drew Brees‘ blindside is locked down by Terron Armstead, right tackle Zach Strief is now 33 years old and entering the twilight of his career. Strief is due a $1.5MM roster bonus later this spring, and New Orleans is expected to pay that figure if Strief definitely decides to continue his career, per Triplett. As such, the Saints likely won’t target a tackle in the free agent market, and the draft looks like a better avenue to find a new lineman.

Details On John Kuhn's Contract

  • Fullback John Kuhn‘s one-year pact with the Saints is a minimum salary benefit deal worth $1.08MM, tweets Nick Underhill of The Advocate. Kuhn will earn a $1MM salary and count $695K against New Orleans’ cap in 2017.

K’Waun Williams To Meet With Lions, Jets

Former Browns cornerback K’Waun Williams is already making the free agent rounds. As a rare February free agent, he has visits scheduled with the Lions on Monday followed by a meeting with the Jets, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Williams is also on the Saints’ radar, tweets The Advocate’s Joel A. Erickson, though he notes that other teams seem to have more interest in the defender.K'Waun Williams (Vertical)

[RELATED: Josh McCown Eyeing Future Coaching Career]

Williams, who had ankle surgery in November, was recently given full clearance by Dr. Robert Anderson. In theory, the young cornerback could sign with a team right away and give a club a quality option to consider in the slot.

Last summer, Williams was embroiled in a high-profile spat with the Browns organization. The Browns suspended Williams for “conduct detrimental to the team” when he said that he independently decided that he could not play in the team’s first preseason game because of the ankle condition. Ultimately, Williams had to have an operation to remove painful bone spurs and he is now pushing for the team to reimburse him for his 2016 $600K salary. In between all of this, Williams had an agreement with the Bears that was scuttled by a failed physical.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Nick Fairley Expected To Test Free Agency

Pending free agent defensive tackle Nick Fairley will explore the open market before considering a new deal from the Saints, according to Larry Holder of NOLA.com.Nick Fairley (Vertical)

[RELATED: Saints Re-Sign John Kuhn]

Fairley, 29, has hit free agency in each of the past two offseasons, but has been forced to settle for one-year deals on each occasion. In 2015, Fairley signed with a pact with the Rams that came with a base value of $5MM, but also included incentives and escalators. Last year, the Saints landed Fairley on a fully guaranteed, $3MM contract that will void 15 days prior to the start of the 2017 league year if the two sides don’t work out an extension.

In his sixth NFL season, Fairley appeared in all 16 games for New Orleans and racked up 6.5 sacks, grading out as the league’s No. 34 interior defender, per Pro Football Focus. Fairley, a former first-round pick, earned exceptionally high marks for his pass rushing acumen (13th among defensive tackles), and quarterback pursuits have always been Fairley’s strong point.

Fairley has indicated he’d like to re-sign with the Saints, but if the last two years are any indication, he figures to draw significant free agent interest. The Patriots, Texans, Eagles, Jets, and Bengals are among the clubs that were linked to Fairley during the 2015 and 2016 offseasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints Hire DL Coach Ryan Nielsen

  • Former North Carolina State defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen has been hired in the same role by the Saints, reports Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports (Twitter link). New Orleans originally pursued former 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula for the position, but will instead roll with Nielsen, who’s coached with the Wolfpack since 2014.

2017 NFL Draft Order Set

With the Super Bowl in the rear view mirror, the offseason is officially underway for all 32 teams. We now have the complete draft order for the entire first round, with one exception which is noted below.

The Patriots, of course, will have the honor of having the last pick. The Falcons, after losing in heartbreaking fashion, will have the penultimate selection in the first round.

Here is the complete order, via ESPN.com’s Field Yates (Twitter links):

1. Browns

2. 49ers

3. Bears

4. Jaguars

5. Titans

6. Jets

7. Chargers

8. Panthers

9. Bengals

10. Bills

11. Saints

12. Browns

13. Cardinals

T-14. Eagles (via the Vikings)

T-14. Colts (Note: The Vikings and Colts have identical records and the same strength of schedule. The tie will be broke by coin flip with the winner getting pick No. 14 and the other team getting the No. 15 pick.)

16. Ravens

17. Redskins

18. Titans

19. Buccaneers

20. Broncos

21. Lions

22. Dolphins

23. Giants

24. Raiders

25. Texans

26. Seahawks

27. Chiefs

28. Cowboys

29. Packers

30. Steelers

31. Falcons

32. Patriots

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Could Saints Be Eyeing Drew Brees Replacement In Draft?

While the Saints have a clear-cut starting quarterback for next season, could the organization still look to draft an eventual replacement for Drew Brees? For what it’s worth, head coach Sean Payton expressed his interest in Clemson’s Deshaun Watson earlier this week.

While Watson could theoretically fall to the Saints at the 11th pick, Payton was adamant that he’s not looking to replace Brees, who finished this past season with 5,208 passing yards and 37 touchdowns.

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  • While it’s unlikely, Brees acknowledged that he’d still want to keep playing in the event that he’s released by the Saints. “If the Saints came to me right now and said, ‘You’re not our guy right now, we’re releasing you,’ I’d say, ‘I’ve still got football left in me. I’m gonna go play,’” the quarterback said (via Triplett). “I just don’t ever desire to go anywhere else and play for any other team.”

Saints Notes: Payton, Benson

  • Colts COO Pete Ward stated last month that an “associate” of Saints head coach Sean Payton reached out to Indianapolis about its head coaching job, but Payton denied that Friday. Payton told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk that his only “associate” is agent Don Yee, who didn’t call the Colts, and the coach added that he had never even previously heard of Ward. While there were reports earlier this winter that teams – including the Colts and Rams – could explore trading for Payton, the Saints never made him available, he informed Florio.
  • Payton’s boss, Saints owner Tom Benson, brought an end to a long battle Friday in settling an ownership dispute with his heirs centering on both New Orleans’ NFL franchise and the NBA’s Pelicans, details Greg LaRose of NOLA.com. If not for the settlement, the parties would have headed to trial Monday (the trial would not have impacted Benson’s control over the teams). Prior to Friday, Benson had been looking to remove ownership shares in the Saints and Pelicans from trust funds created for his daughter and grandson. The family had a falling out on account of Benson’s third wife, Gayle, whom he married in 2004 and who, in the heirs’ opinions, has too much control over Benson’s business affairs.