Wednesday, 23 February 2011 15:13

New Orleans Saints Vets Uncertain As NFL Draft, Lockout Nears

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Ed Staton-Louisiana SportsSaints GM Mickey Loomis has the task of re-signing the free agents.  Normally, the club would have signed the key free agents by now, but the possible lockout has changed that.

"I don't envy Mickey," said fullback Heath Evans, an unrestricted free agent. "You'd want to keep the bones of the team together, especially because this team has accomplished so much. Mickey's got a tough job ahead of him."

Evans, 33, said he will consider playing for only two teams, Saints and Patriots (his former team). I'm 33 and missed a season (ACL) in 2009, and I don't want to play for anyone else."

Thomas is a fan favorite and has been productive, but he missed 10 games last season with a slow-healing ankle injury. That could hurt him at getting a nice deal with the Saints or another team.

Sean Payton and Saints top executives, coaches, player personnel staffers and medical personnel are all in Indianapolis this week for the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium to evaluate the nation's top players eligible for the upcoming draft.

The event, which runs Thursday through Tuesday, is a vital step in athletes achieving there dreams. and NFL Network will have full coverage. This intense, four-day job interview is an exciting time for the 300 athletes and a vital step in achieving their dreams of playing in the NFL. The Saints need to draft a fast pass rusher or an outside linebacker.

Payton said the Saints, one of the older teams in the NFL, need to add some youth to their team at various positions. After the season, the coaching staff graded all 53 players on the active roster, the players on injured reserve, the players on the practice squad, all of the players in the building, trying to have an honest assessment of where the Saints were as a team.

"We need to get younger in certain positions," said Payton. "Our defensive front, specifically our down linemen, and the linebacker position. We need to look at adding some youth there. We have to look at it with the idea that our free agents (26) aren't here..

"So, for example, when you look at our offensive line, you look at Jermon Bushrod and Jonathan Goodwin as being unrestricted players right now. We've got depth at the wide receiver position. Adrian Arrington had a good season, although he didn't play  a lot, but he played a lot on the practice squad and was elevated to the 53 at the end. So we've got depth there.

"The running back position will be a key spot for us as we look at the players who are in the building and the players who technically are not. Pierre Thomas is an unrestricted free agent.

"We've got depth at corner. It's going to be important at the safety position. Malcolm Jenkins had an outstanding year. Roman Harper (an unrestricted free agent) is a guy who will be a critical piece to what we are trying to accomplish.

"I do feel when that when we ran the ball in the '09 season, there was a key element that helped us win consistently and we weren't as good in that area offensively this year."

What does the future hold for veterans, some of whom may be approaching the downsides of their playing careers? Translation: Devery Henderson, Dave Thomas, Scott Shanle, Jermon Bushrod, Jonathan Goodwin, Darren Sharper, Anthony Hargrove and Pierre Thomas.  On Tuesday, one of these vets was released—Jeremy Shockey.

"It would be crazy for me as a head coach to go through who we have a vision for and who we don't have a vision for before ever discussing any of these things with the players. But we've had discussions in house and we know where we want to go."


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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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