Saints Rumors

Latest On Chase Young’s Recovery From Neck Surgery

Chase Young got a positive update on his recovery from neck surgery. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the Saints defensive end “received a positive report” during a check-up with “renowned neck specialist” Dr. Robert Watkins.

[RELATED: Chase Young’s Neck Injury Affected 2023 Trade Market]

The plan is for Young to undergo more tests in about six weeks, which would bring us to the end of July/the beginning of August. Fowler notes that Young intends to participate in Saints training camp, which opens in California on July 24.

Young’s neck issues date back to last year’s preseason, when the former second-overall pick suffered a stinger that ultimately forced him to miss the regular-season opener. Young didn’t miss another game for the rest of the 2023 campaign, although the lingering injury reportedly affected his trade market. The impending free agent was eventually traded from the Commanders to the 49ers for a third-round pick, with Young getting into 12 games (including postseason) for his new squad. The player went under the knife after the season.

The Saints ended up snagging the edge rusher in free agency, giving him a one-year deal that could be worth up to $13MM if the free agent acquisition can stay healthy. Of course, that’s easier said than done. After earning Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, Young suffered a knee injury that derailed his 2021 and 2022 seasons. He rebounded nicely in 2023, finishing with 7.5 sacks, but it doesn’t sound like the veteran is completely past his injury struggles.

While the Saints were clearly banking on Young’s upside, the acquisition will surely test the team’s depth. Saints stalwart Cameron Jordan underwent surgery earlier this year to address a significant ankle injury, although the veteran was able to participate a bit in this week’s practices. The team does still have Carl Granderson on the edge, with the former UDFA coming off a career season. 2021 first-round pick Payton Turner and 2023 second-round pick Isaiah Foskey are also competing for depth spots.

Minor NFL Transactions: 6/14/24

Friday’s minor NFL transactions:

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Chargers

  • Signed: WR Praise Olatoke

New Orleans Saints

Olatake joins the Chargers offense as a member of the league’s International Player Pathway Program. Born in Nigeria, Olatoke was raised in Scotland before attending Ohio State as a sprinter in track and field. Olatoke clearly possesses next level speed, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors while posting a 10.27-second 100-meter dash time, but doesn’t have much competitive football experience. In fact, the Olatoke’s only experience playing football was on the Ohio State club team. Truly an inspiration for club players everywhere.

Brewer lands on injured reserve but does so without an injury designation. If Brewer plans to play in the backup role he held last year, he’ll now need to reach an injury settlement with the team in order to do so.

TE Jimmy Graham’s Retirement Decision Dependent On Saints’ Plans

Jimmy Graham returned to NFL action last season, doing so where his decorated career began. Another Saints season is a possibility for the veteran tight end, but whether he plays or retires in 2024 will depend on how the team proceeds.

The 37-year-old made 13 appearances last season, his sixth in New Orleans and first since 2014. Graham saw a career-low snap percentage (19%s), though, and he made only six catches during the year. While four of those were touchdowns, a similar workload would likely await him if he elected to continue playing in 2024.

Graham posted what appeared to be a farewell message to the Saints in March. That stopped short of a retirement announcement, however, and nothing has appeared to change on that front. The five-time Pro Bowler has plans for the offseason – including being a member of a team attempting to break the world record for the fastest time rowing across the Arctic Ocean – but he is still open to playing another year in New Orleans.

“I’m gonna reach out to the Saints and figure out what’s best, and then make the decision on when it’s best for me to retire,” Graham said (via ESPN’s Katherine Terrell). “I don’t have any expectations. I just want to make sure when I retire, it’s as a Saint, and it’s when they want me to. I’ll just make sure I give them a call and see exactly when they want me to retire and then I’ll end up doing it.”

While those comments point even further to Graham’s playing days being done, New Orleans could be shorthanded at the tight end position to begin the season. Juwan Johnson is facing a multi-week absence following foot surgery, and his Week 1 availability is now in question. The Saints have other replacement options on the books, but Graham could provide the team with an experienced red zone threat if they were open to a new deal.

If no such agreement is reached, though, Graham’s career will end with top-10 rankings amongst tight ends in a number of all-time statistical categories. He has amassed over $82MM in earnings, but it remains to be seen if that total will increase in 2024.

Contract Issue Prompts Alvin Kamara To Leave Saints Minicamp

The NFL’s restructure kingpins, the Saints have not touched Alvin Kamara‘s contract this offseason. Although the team has used the deal for cap savings in the past, the structure of the Pro Bowl running back’s deal points to 2024 serving as his de facto contract year.

Kamara’s five-year, $75MM extension runs through 2025, but the ’25 season features a nonguaranteed $22.4MM base salary that almost definitely will not be paid out. This situation brought a notable development Thursday. Kamara left the Saints’ facility before the team’s minicamp practice, per NewOrleans.football’s Nick Underhill, and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport confirms the exit came about because of a contract issue.

The sides have engaged in discussions about the deal this offseason, according to Underhill, but they have not made progress toward a solution. The eighth-year back is indeed seeking an extension, NOLA.com’s Jeff Duncan adds. Kamara, who will turn 29 next month, is attached to a $10.2MM base salary for the 2024 season.

During a rather bleak period for running back value, Kamara became one of the winners. The versatile back locked down a $15MM-per-year deal — albeit with a dummy final year in place to inflate the AAV — just before the 2020 season. In terms of per-year value, that contract matched Ezekiel Elliott‘s for second — behind Christian McCaffrey‘s Panthers-constructed extension — among running backs. Kamara has done well to remain on the pact, but he is now the only NFL RB still attached to a deal he signed in 2020.

The NFL’s eight-figure-per-year RB club sustained hits in recent years. Before bringing back Elliott this offseason, the Cowboys jettisoned his six-year, $90MM deal. The Vikings moved Dalvin Cook‘s five-year, $63MM contract off the books in May 2023. These cuts came during an offseason in which the Packers and Bengals, respectively, gave Aaron Jones and Joe Mixon pay cuts. Following a major knee injury, Nick Chubb accepted a Browns pay cut. Jones, Mixon and Derrick Henry relocated this year and are tied to lower-level deals; though, Mixon still secured eight figures guaranteed on his multiyear Texans pact.

The RB landscape has changed during Kamara’s contract, but unlike the wide receiver market, no value spike has taken place. Kamara’s AAV still sits second — behind McCaffrey’s new two-year, $38MM 49ers extension — though Jonathan Taylor has since signed a three-year, $42MM deal that does not feature a phony final-season number. Only five RBs are now tied to eight-figure AAVs, with one of those deals — Josh Jacobs‘ — containing only $12.5MM guaranteed at signing. Kamara has done well on this contract, though it is not difficult to envision the Saints shedding it from their payroll in 2025.

Kamara, who served a three-game suspension in connection with an assault incident, finished with a career-low 1,160 scrimmage yards last season. Kamara’s minus-99 rushing yards over expected represented the fourth-worst number, per Next Gen Stats, last season. Kamara also ranked in the bottom 10 in RYOE in 2022, when he scored just four touchdowns and fumbled four times. While Kamara served as a central part of the Saints’ success over Drew Brees‘ final four seasons, he has not stood out in the two years since Sean Payton‘s departure.

The Saints can create $25MM in cap savings next year by designating Kamara as a post-June 1 cut, with Duncan adding there is “no way” the Saints keep Kamara on this contract beyond 2024. Going into this season with a Saints-high $18.6MM cap number, Kamara is tied to $29.1MM figure in 2025. The five-time Pro Bowler faces a $17K fine for skipping today’s workout. The focus will now turn toward training camp, as Kamara would face $50K fines for each day missed.

Saints TE Juwan Johnson To Undergo Foot Surgery

Juwan Johnson suffered an injury during the Saints’ minicamp, as first reported by Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football. The veteran tight end is facing notable absence as a result.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the ailment – a foot injury – will require surgery. Both Schefter and Underhill add the team is hopeful Johnson will be available by the start of the regular season, but at a minimum he will be sidelined for the bulk of training camp. His procedure will take place next week.

New Orleans’ tight end depth chart would be dealt a blow if Johnson were forced to miss time in September. The 27-year-old has received 124 targets in the two seasons following his transition from receiver to tight end. He has totaled 876 yards and 11 touchdowns during that span, and a notable offensive role should await him when he is healthy.

Johnson signed a two-year extension worth just over $12MM last offseason. That move took away the need for an RFA tender and included $8.5MM in guarantees. Another $2MM is available via incentives, but missed time would obviously hurt the former UDFA’s chances of earning them. As a pending free agent, Johnson’s value could also be affected depending on the length of his recovery and his production when back on the field.

The Saints have Taysom Hill and Foster Moreau as other options the tight end spot. The former is in line to once again serve in a unique offensive role in 2024, whereas the latter could see an increased workload if Johnson is unavailable for Week 1. ESPN’s Katherine Terrell notes Moreau (who played in 15 games last year following a successful bout with cancer) was used heavily during minicamp practice yesterday with Johnson sidelined.

New Orleans has other, less experienced options in the fold. That group includes rookie Dallin Holker, who received one of the league’s largest guarantees ($235K) amongst this year’s UDFAs. As New Orleans proceeds with a shorthanded tight end group through the summer, Johnson’s recovery will be worth monitoring.

Saints Working Out WR Russell Gage, S Roderic Teamer

As recent UFL players are emerging on the workout radar, NFL teams also use minicamp to occasionally audition veteran free agents. The Saints are doing so, bringing in a former Falcons regular looking to rebound.

Russell Gage‘s three-year, $30MM Buccaneers pact did not go well, and he missed all of last season with an injury. Gage excelled on his Falcons rookie contract, however, and the Saints will take a look at the NFC South lifer. The veteran slot receiver joins veteran safety Roderic Teamer as players working out at Saints minicamp, New Orleans.football’s Nick Underhill tweets.

A ruptured patellar tendon sustained last August knocked Gage out for the 2023 season. Brought in to complement Mike Evans and Chris Godwin after the Antonio Brown addition predictably ended poorly, Gage did not justify his contract in 2022, either. While Gage did make some contributions by posting a 426-yard, five-touchdown season in Tom Brady‘s finale, he did not match his best Falcons showings while attached to an eight-figure-per-year contract.

Gage’s 2022 numbers, however, came in 13 games; the former sixth-round pick missed time due to a hamstring injury. The Bucs still gave Gage a slight pay cut during the 2023 offseason, though the team increased his guarantee figure in the process. The team declined a 2024 Gage option this offseason, sending him to free agency.

With an Atlanta team that had seen extended Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley unavailability stretches during the early 2020s, Gage stepped in as a key Matt Ryan target. The LSU alum posted 786 yards and four touchdowns in 2020, teaming with Ridley while Jones battled a chronic hamstring issue, and added 770 yards and four scores in 2021 — as Ridley left the team midway through the season. The Saints will evaluate Gage’s form ahead of his age-28 season.

New Orleans released Michael Thomas after a spate of injuries and did not make a major addition to their wideout group this offseason. The team did add Equanimeous St. Brown and use a fifth-round pick on Bub Means, but the Chris OlaveRashid Shaheed duo still leads the way in New Orleans. A.T. Perry also flashed during his rookie season. As the team shifts to a Klint Kubiak-run offense, more receiving help is on the radar.

Teamer, 27, has made 11 career starts. The former Chargers UDFA found a role with the Raiders, but the team moved on following a November DUI arrest. Teamer’s arrest came years after he incurred a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Teamer, however, is a New Orleans native who attended college at Tulane. His local team will see about a second chance.

The Saints roster a more acclaimed New Orleans native (Tyrann Mathieu) but released Marcus Maye this offseason. Jordan Howden, a 2023 fifth-round pick, operated as Maye’s primary replacement last season. A Teamer addition would undoubtedly be for depth purposes.

Andrus Peat Sought Saints Exit; Raiders Making O-Line Changes

Andrus Peat spent nine seasons with the Saints, the last four attached to a contract he signed as a free agent in 2020. Peat played out what became a four-year deal and signed a one-year, $2MM deal with the Raiders shortly after the draft.

The Saints are believed to have shown interest in another Peat contract, but NewOrleans.football’s Nick Underhill writes he preferred a fresh start elsewhere. Peat figures to vie for a starting job in Las Vegas, while New Orleans is holding a competition to see who will start at guard opposite Cesar Ruiz.

The Saints initially signed Peat to a five-year deal back in 2020, but they voided the former first-rounder’s final year and gave him a pay cut in 2023. Peat, 30, missed 17 games due to injury from 2021-22 but ended up being the team’s replacement for struggling first-rounder Trevor Penning at left tackle last season.

Not much interest came his way this offseason, which also included a Titans visit. Pro Football Focus ranked Peat 56th among tackles last season; the former Pro Bowl guard will attempt to rebound with the Raiders. Though, Las Vegas is far from certain to turn to the mid-offseason pickup as a first-stringer. The team made some moves to bolster its front after multiple low-key offseasons regarding this position group.

In addition to Peat, the Raiders added Cody Whitehair in free agency and then used both their Day 2 picks on blockers — second-rounder Jackson Powers-Johnson, third-rounder DJ Glaze. The Raiders may view Peat as a swingman, making it rather interesting he would select Las Vegas as his free agency destination. It is unclear, however, if New Orleans made an offer. Given the Saints’ situation at tackle and left guard, it would make sense for the team to bring Peat back. But the sides separated. The 10th-year blocker is now on an O-line set for significant change.

Kolton Miller and re-signed center Andre James will reprise their roles, but the other three positions stand to see change from 2023. The Raiders are shifting two-year left guard Dylan Parham to the right side, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Vincent Bonsignore, while Thayer Munford is the favorite to replace Jermaine Eluemunor at right tackle. Eluemunor signed a two-year, $14MM Giants deal in March.

A 2022 third-round pick, Parham logged 110 snaps at right guard as a rookie. But he has primarily played on the left side as a pro. Munford pushed Eluemunor during the Raiders’ 2023 training camp, but the veteran remained the Silver and Black’s right tackle when available. He also saw time at left tackle, filling in for Miller, who missed four games. PFF viewed Munford’s work positively, particularly in the run game, last season. This will still be a big jump for a former seventh-round pick.

Peat’s tackle history in the NFL has mostly come on the left side; he has logged all of 80 snaps at RT (78 of those as a rookie in 2015) as a pro. Glaze, who also could settle in as the Raiders’ swing tackle, will be part of the team’s RT battle as well, Bonsignore adds.

The Raiders are expected to use Powers-Johnson at left guard, but he missed much of the team’s OTA sessions, Bonsignore adds. Powers-Johnson played center at Oregon last season, replacing 2023 Broncos seventh-rounder Alex Forsyth as Bo Nix‘s snapper and winning the 2023 Rimington Award (given to Division I-FBS’ top center). The Raiders, who re-signed James to a three-year deal worth $24MM, are converting their second-round pick to guard. Powers-Johnson played 350 snaps at right guard as a sophomore in 2022.

Las Vegas, which did not re-sign primary 2023 RG Greg Van Roten, suddenly features both experience and a collection of early-round picks up front. It will be interesting to see how the team uses its host of offseason additions, as Peat (102) and Whitehair (118) have combined for 220 career starts. New Raiders OC Luke Getsy coaching Whitehair for two seasons in Chicago makes his status as a projected backup — as of now, at least — rather interesting as well.

11 Teams Gain Cap Space From Post-June 1 Cuts

Early June no longer means a mid-offseason update to the free agent market, as teams can designate players as post-June 1 cuts months in advance of that date. But June 2 does bring an annually important date in terms of finances. This year, 11 teams will see their cap-space figures expand thanks to post-June 1 release designations. One other club — the Broncos — used a post-June 1 designation, but they will not save any money from the historic Russell Wilson release.

Teams are permitted to designate two players as post-June 1 cuts ahead of that date. This designation spreads a player’s dead money hit over two years as opposed to a 2024-only blow. Courtesy of Spotrac, here are the savings this year’s teams to make post-June 1 designations will receive:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

New Orleans Saints

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Broncos’ overall Wilson cap hit, even with the quarterback’s $1.21MM Steelers salary factoring into the equation, will more than double any other single-player dead money number in NFL history. The now-Sean Payton-led Broncos, after a failed effort to move Wilson’s guarantee vesting date beyond 2024, will take their medicine for bailing 18 months after authorizing a five-year, $245MM extension. Denver will absorb the lion’s share of the dead money this year, taking on $53MM. The team will not receive the cap credit from Wilson’s Steelers deal until 2025, per Spotrac.

Annually making exhaustive efforts to move under the cap, the Saints will be hit with more than $30MM in total dead cap from the Thomas and Winston contracts. Redesigning both in 2023, the Saints will take on $8.9MM in 2024 dead money on Thomas and $3.4MM on the Winston pact. Mickey Loomis‘ operation is once again at the bottom of the NFL in future cap space, being projected to come in more than $84MM over the 2025 cap.

Baltimore structured Beckham’s one-year, $15MM contract to void, and the team will take on more than $10MM in total dead money on it. The bulk of that will come in 2025; the post-June 1 cut will produce $2.8MM in 2024 dead cap this year.

Saints Sign Round 2 CB Kool-Aid McKinstry, Wrap Draft Class

The Saints announced on Friday that second-round corner Kool-Aid McKinstry has inked his rookie deal. All members of the team’s draft class are now on the books as a result.

McKinstry was one of many players believed to be on the fringe of first round consideration leading up to the draft. Expectations were high entering the 2023 campaign based on his strong sophomore season. Alabama teammate Terrion Arnold delivered a better showing this year, though, and to no surprise he heard his name called in the first round.

That left McKinstry to wait until Day 2 to be selected. New Orleans moved up to draft him at No. 41, giving the team another starting-caliber option at the cornerback spot. One of the Saints’ top offseason storylines has centered on the future of four-time Pro Bowler Marshon Lattimore. A trade sending him away is not in the team’s plans, however, meaning he is on track to remain in place for at least 2024.

The Saints have Lattimore alongside Paulson Adebo and Alontae Taylor. The latter two were also recent Day 2 selections, and McKinstry represents another draft investment at the CB position. He did not record an interception this season, but he added seven pass deflections while remaining a contributor as a punt returner. Known more for a well-rounded skillset in coverage and a high football IQ (which helped yield All-SEC and All-American honors) than for overwhelming physical traits, he should be able to compete for at least a special teams role right away.

New Orleans ranked 10th in the league in terms of passing yards against last season. With Lattimore, Adebo and Taylor returning, expectations will be high for the unit to repeat that success in 2024. McKinstry could be relegated to backup duties as a rookie, but he has starting potential down the road.

Here is a final look at the Saints’ draft class:

Drew Brees Was Serious About 2021 Comeback

Those whispers of a potential Drew Brees return in 2021 were apparently more than rumors. While speaking with reporters today following his selection into the Saints Hall of Fame, the former quarterback acknowledged that he was serious about coming out of retirement in 2021.

[RELATED: Drew Brees: “I Would Absolutely Still Be Playing” If Not For Shoulder Injury]

“Very,” Brees answered when asked about his past interest in a comeback attempt (via Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football). “I’ll just leave it at that.”

Brees decided to hang up his cleats following the 2020 campaign. His replacement, Jameis Winston, suffered a torn ACL and MCL damage only seven games into the 2021 season, leading the Saints to ask Brees if he’d consider returning for the stretch run. Brees publicly rejected the invite, but is sounds like he gave the opportunity more consideration than he let on.

Brees hinted that part of his decision was attributed to injury, a factor he’s acknowledged in the past. The quarterback didn’t believe he could properly overcome his surgically repaired throwing shoulder, although he joked with reporters that he could have just reverted to his high school playbook.

“At the end of the day, it’s like, how capable … am I to do the job, right?” Brees asked reporters (via ESPN’s Katherine Terrell). “I would’ve run QB draws, I would’ve done whatever. I would’ve done some veer option. We would’ve pulled out all the stops. I was ready. Pull out the high school playbook.”

While the 2021 rumors didn’t lead to a reunion, rumors continued to persist. When Brees announced that he was stepping away from his television role, there were immediately rumblings that the quarterback could look to return to the NFL. The player himself often helped flame these rumors, and Brees believes he never completely shut the door on a return because his career lacked “closure.”

“Certainly to have it be in a situation like that where you’re not able to really be with the fans and celebrate it with all those who are so important, I felt like there was a little bit of a lack of closure,” Brees said of playing in front of mostly empty stadiums in 2020. “I try not to think about, like, the glance back in the Dome because I wish it would’ve been with a packed house. That energy that is so synonymous with the Superdome that I’ll always remember and what we always fed off every game day. My image of the Dome is much different than that last one.”