Yet another player is attempting a position change to tight end. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reports (via Twitter) that quarterback Tommy Stevens is auditioning for the Packers next week as a tight end. Defensive back Rashard Robinson and nose tackle Sterling Johnson will also be working out for the team.
Stevens was in and out of the lineup during his time at Penn State and Mississippi State, but he showed promise both with his arm and on the ground. Thanks to that potential, he was drafted by the Saints in the seventh round of the 2020 draft…but the team chose the prospect as a tight end. So, while we’ve seen the likes of Tim Tebow and Jordan Matthews attempt their own changes to tight end, Stevens already has a bit of experience at the position.
Stevens didn’t end up making New Orleans’ active roster, but he did stick around their practice squad for most of the campaign. He later caught on with the Panthers (as a quarterback), and he ended up making his NFL debut in Carolina’s Week 17 loss to the Saints. Stevens got four carries in that game for 24 rushing yards.
Robinson, a former fourth-round pick, has seen time in 42 games across five seasons in the NFL. After spending his first two seasons split between the 49ers and Jets, the defensive back ended up sitting out the 2019 season thanks (in part) to a 10-game suspension. The 25-year-old caught on with the Cowboys in 2020, seeing time in four games (three starts) and finishing with 20 tackles.
The 6-foot-4, 285-pound Johnson went undrafted in 2020. He spent time with the Jets and Steelers over the past year-plus.
Tommy Stevens brief stint with the Panthers has come to an end. The team announced that they’ve waived the quarterback. The team signed rookie wideout C.J. Saunders to take the open roster spot.
Stevens was in and out of the lineup during his time at Penn State and Mississippi State, but he showed promise both with his arm and on the ground. Thanks to that potential, he was drafted by the Saints in the seventh round of the 2020 draft…but the team made the bold decision of switching him to tight end. He didn’t end up making New Orleans active roster, but he did stick around their practice squad for most of the campaign.
He later caught on with the Panthers (as a quarterback), and he ended up making his NFL debut in Carolina’s Week 17 loss to the Saints. Stevens got four carries in that game for 24 rushing yards.
Saunders was a former walk-on cornerback at Ohio State, but he ended up transforming into one of the team’s most reliable receivers. He had 27 receptions in two seasons at Ohio State, and he was named a captain in 2019 before succumbing to an injury. He spent rookie minicamp with the Falcons organization.
The Panthers were going to land Stevens as an UDFA back in April before the Saints snagged him in the seventh-round. He was recently cut from New Orleans’ practice squad last week. Stevens is a diverse athlete who played a Taysom Hill-esque role at Penn State before transferring to Mississippi State for the 2019 college season. His signing could be an indication the Panthers are worried about Teddy Bridgewater‘s status for Sunday, but since they had previous reported interest in Stevens it could be completely unrelated.
Two of the Saints’ most notable Saturday cuts will stay with the team. Both Anthony Chickillo and Margus Hunt opted to stay with New Orleans, joining the practice squad Sunday.
The Saints signed Chickillo, a five-year Steelers linebacker, and Hunt — a former first-round defensive lineman whom the Colts cut earlier this year — earlier this year. Each will represent a veteran slot on the Saints’ P-squad.
Teams are permitted, thanks to the COVID-19-altered rules, to carry six veterans of unlimited service time on their taxi squads this year. Here is New Orleans’ full squad:
The Saints made some notable cuts on their defensive line, dropping Edwards and Hunt. The former played with New Orleans last season, while the latter was an offseason addition. The Colts cut Hunt earlier this year, doing so after previously extending him. However, New Orleans does have Malcom Brown back and re-signed David Onyemata in March. The Saints are pursuing Jadeveon Clowney as well.
Alonso suffered a torn ACL in the playoffs last year. He will miss at least six games. The Saints signed Fowler over the summer. The former Broncos auxiliary receiver worked out with Drew Brees and Emmanuel Sanders during the pandemic-induced NFL hiatus.
Stevens, like most of the players cut Saturday, profiles as a practice squad candidate. The Saints became involved in a strange controversy over the seventh-round pick, whom the Panthers coveted. It will be interesting to see if Carolina submits a waiver claim on Stevens.
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.
Two division rivals were engaged in an interesting game of tug-of-war at the tail end of the 2020 draft, with the prize being Mississippi State quarterback Tommy Stevens. On Day 2 of the draft, New Orleans traded pick nos. 130, 169, 203, and 244 to the Vikings for the right to move up to no. 105 and select Dayton tight end Adam Trautman. That left the team with no Day 3 selections, so as Jeff Duncan of The Athletic writes, the Saints spent much of that day planning for the UDFA signing period.
One of New Orleans’ top UDFA targets was Stevens, who may ultimately fill the same QB2/gadget role that Taysom Hill presently occupies. But the Saints learned that the Panthers were interested in Stevens as well and were prepared to offer him a $15K signing bonus and guarantee $30K of his salary if he signed with Carolina as a UDFA. The Saints swooped in and offered a massive $144K in guaranteed salary if he would agree to sign with New Orleans, but then Stevens’ camp stopped answering the Saints’ calls.
Perhaps the Panthers topped the Saints’ offer, or perhaps Stevens viewed Carolina as a better long-term fit. But Saints head coach Sean Payton coveted the 6-5, 235-pound signal-caller, so he helped engineer a trade back into the seventh round of the draft to grab him, leaving the Panthers stunned.
This makes for an interesting story, one that may ultimately have no significance if Stevens, like most seventh-round picks, doesn’t pan out. The problem, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk observes, is that both the Saints and the Panthers flagrantly violated league rules. Once the draft begins, teams are at liberty to let prospects know that they are interested in them if they go undrafted, but they cannot discuss financial details. The NFL drove that point home in a league-wide memo this year, perhaps because the UDFA signing period was expected to be even more frenzied than usual.
As Florio notes in a separate piece, the league has yet to comment on the matter, though the Panthers have said that their actions were in compliance with league rules. And these particular rules are surely violated all the time, probably by every team in the league. The casualness with which the Saints brass discussed the situation suggests as much. Nonetheless, a league source expects both teams to be punished, though it remains to be seen what that punishment will entail.