Archive for April, 2009



New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson and Gov. Bobby Jindal to announce state’s new agreement with Saints Thursday morning

New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson and Gov.

Bobby Jindal to announce state’s new agreement with Saints Thursday morning

by Ed Anderson, The Times-Picayune

BATON ROUGE — Gov. Bobby Jindal and Saints owner Tom Benson will make an announcement Thursday morning at the Superdome, the governor’s office announced this evening as officials said a deal is close on a new long-term agreement to keep the Saints in New Olreans.
The press conference will be at 10 a.m. in the Bienville Club Lounge at the Dome.

Sen. John Alario, D-Westwego said today a deal between the state and the Saints is near, and the proposals he has heard discussed may may wind up saving taxpayers about $240 million with a new 15-year contract with the franchise. Alario said after a high-level briefing with

Superdome officials and key state lawmakers at the Governor’s Mansion that state officials “have indicated they may be signing some agreement in the next couple of days,” said Alario, the dean of the Legislature who had a key role in creating the existing contract which expires after the 2010 football season.

Alario said the proposed deal will involve Saints owner Tom Benson buying the Dominion Towers adjacent to the Superdome, then leasing about 300,000 square feet — roughly two-thirds of the building back to state agencies.

Several lawmakers who attended a later briefing on the deal said that the state will pay Benson about $3.8 million a year in rent for offices at the tower.

Rep. Walt Leger II, D-New Orleans, said the plans as he understands them also call for the state to tap $85 million of the remaining $150 million in state surplus money to make repairs to the Superdome and the area around it.

However, House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Algiers, said that the surplus and other revenue sources are also under consideration as a way to pay for renovations to the state facilities.

The existing deal will pay the Saints about $186.5 million by the time the contract expires in 2010.

Alario said the state will be paying the “going rate” for rental, comparable to other office space in the New Orleans Central Business District.

He said the state will pay no more than $6 million in cash to Benson — possibly less — if certain benchmarks are met such as attendance levels, ticket sale sand suitres sales.

Alario and Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner, said the deal also involves the Superdome Commission co-developing the food court and other areas of the storm-damaged New Orleans Centre, but details were sketchy.

Alario said it was his understanding that Benson would pay about $10.5 million over three years to help redevelop the area.

Alario said he understands the area to be renovated would be turned into an “entertainment venue.”

“It will not be easy, but we can work it out,” Alario said of lawmakers’ approval of the deal during the session.

Rep. Juan LaFonta, D-New Orleans, said the deal just shifts money from one source to another for Benson. With education and health care needs being cut around the state, LaFonta said, the deal as it was laid out “is robbing from the poor to give to the rich. …

“The state has not done anything for the concerns like NOAH (the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital) and layoffs at University Hospital.”



State and Saints to announce details of deal

State and Saints to announce details of deal

The New Orleans Saints and the state of Louisiana have called a news conference for 10 AM tomorrow at the Superdome, where officials are expected to lay out details of a long-term deal between the state and the Black & Gold.

Governor Bobby Jindal and Saints Owner Tom Benson, along with a host of other officials, will be on hand for the announcement. WWL will carry that news conference live Friday morning at 10.

The City of New Orleans has placed a bid for the 2013 Super Bowl; a long-term agreement is seen as an absolute necessity  for the city to have a real chance at landing the Super Bowl.

Sen. John Alario, who attended a morning briefing with the Jindal administration’s negotiators on the deal, said the state could pay the team less than $6 million each year, depending on how much money the Saints get from other income sources.

The arrangement would be far less than the $23.5 million the state is currently paying the Saints annually in a direct cash subsidy.



New Orleans Saints release defensive tackle Hollis Thomas

New Orleans Saints release defensive tackle Hollis Thomas

Posted by Mike Triplett, The Times-Picayune April 29, 2009 9:37AM

The New Orleans Saints have released defensive tackle Hollis Thomas.

Thomas, 35, was scheduled to earn $1.4 million this season.

“Hollis Thomas had a significant presence for us both on the defensive line and in the locker room for a number of years,” Saints Coach Sean Payton said in a statement. “He has been a big part of what we have accomplished here.”
Thomas spent the past three seasons in New Orleans after a draft-day trade with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2006. The run-stuffer played a key role in the Saints’ 2006 run to the NFC Championship Game.

He started 30 games in his three years with the Saints, including the playoffs, 123 tackles and 6.5 sacks. He missed the first half of last season after tearing a tendon in his left triceps during training camp. He was actually released by the team, then re-signed once he got healthy.

He finished the season with 10 tackles in limited action in eight games. But his performance and production level had steadily declined in his years with New Orleans, and the team felt he didn’t come into this year’s offseason workout program in good enough shape.

Thomas, who is listed at 6-foot, 335-pounds, has continually battled weight and conditioning issues with the Saints.

The Saints, who also released injured veteran Brian Young this week, are now somewhat thin at the defensive tackle spot behind starters Sedrick Ellis and Kendrick Clancy. They’re counting on two players who did not play last season — second-year pro DeMario Pressley, who missed his entire rookie season with a foot injury, and former Falcons veteran Rod Coleman, who signed with the Saints after spending a year away from football.

They also have two-year veteran Remi Ayodele, who appeared in six games with the Saints last year. And veteran end Paul Spicer should be able to slide inside and play some tackle.



New Orleans Saints release injured defensive tackle Brian Young

New Orleans Saints release injured defensive tackle Brian Young

Posted by Mike Triplett, The Times-Picayune April 28, 2009 11:10AM

The Saints released defensive tackle Brian Young, who has been unable to return from a major left knee injury this offseason.

I just spoke to Young, who said he still wants to come back and play, whether it’s this year or next. But he knows it’s a long shot after having three procedures this offseason that he said “nobody’s ever come back from.”

The Saints released defensive lineman Brian Young.

Young said he has no ill will toward the Saints, who went “above and beyond” to give him a chance to come back this offseason. And he said if he is able to come back he doesn’t want to play for any other team.

“It’s hard to deal with right now because I’ve been playing this game for 20 years and I’ve loved every minute of it,” Young said.

Young, 31, was originally scheduled to earn a $1.5 million salary and $3 million roster bonus this season, but he had already worked out an undisclosed restructuring of the roster bonus earlier this year. He had two years remaining on the three-year deal he signed in 2007.

“This was a very difficult decision to make,” Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis said in a statement. “Brian is one of the hardest working individuals I have ever met and I have as much respect for him as any player I have ever been associated with. We will miss his passion for the game. He has been a key contributor to our defense for a number of years and has also brought a lot to our organization as a high character individual. He has not received as much recognition and credit as he deserves for what he has brought to our team and this community. He will always be welcome in our building.”

Young spent five years with the Saints after signing as a free agent from St. Louis in 2004. He had 266 tackles, 12 sacks and two forced fumbles in that span.

The 6-foot-2, 298-pounder was a mainstay in the lineup until 2007, when his left knee was originally hurt against Atlanta in Week 7.

He continued to play through his knee issues – in addition to other ailments, including a frightening bout with pneumonia that landed him in the hospital for 11 days in late 2007. But eventually the knee gave out on him.

Young has had six surgeries on the knee over the past two years, including three this offseason. He had part of his bone replaced with the bone from a cadaver, which he said “actually went well.” But he said most of the lateral meniscus is gone from the knee, and a meniscus transplant he underwent last month “didn’t take.”

Young said whenever he does quit football for good, he’ll have to have a more serious procedure, which will involve breaking the leg to reset it. But he’s not ready to give up the dream just yet. If all goes well, he can begin running in June and attempting football activities in July. He knows a return this season would be especially difficult but said next year is also a possibility.

“I don’t want to just come back and be an average d-lineman,” Young said. “I only want to come back if I can come back and play like I did before. If I’m not going to be able to play fast and high intensity the way I was before, then I’ll hang it up.

“It’s too bad because I like what they’re doing here. I like the direction we’re headed. … I’m gonna be lost without this game.”

The Saints have decent depth at the tackle position, but it’s loaded with question marks behind starters Sedrick Ellis and Kendrick Clancy. Veteran Hollis Thomas has continued to battle weight and conditioning issues. Veteran Rod Coleman is attempting to come back after a year away from football. And second-year pro DeMario Pressely missed his entire rookie year after suffering a foot injury at the start of training camp.



Malcolm Jenkins was a no-brainer selection for the New Orleans Saints in the NFL Draft

Malcolm Jenkins was a no-brainer selection for the New Orleans Saints in the NFL Draft

Posted by Jeff Duncan, The Times-Picayune April 25, 2009 9:17PM

I don’t just like the pick of Malcolm Jenkins.

I love it.

Malcolm Jenkins was the right pick for the Saints.

Jenkins was the best player on the board overall and by far the best player available for the Saints.

It’s the first time the Saints have used a first-round pick on a defensive back since they nabbed Alex Molden with the No. 11 overall pick in 1996.

The Saints are expected to try Jenkins first at cornerback, then move him to safety if — and only if — he proves to them he can’t play corner. But either way, he’ll bolster a Saints secondary that was victimized by opposing quarterbacks far too often the past two seasons.

The Saints secondary is significantly better today than it was two months ago. Jenkins, Jabari Greer and Darren Sharper are excellent upgrades. At least two of them will start next season. Maybe three.

The pick also could spell the end of Jason David’s career in New Orleans. The veteran cornerback will have an uphill climb in training camp to make the final roster.



Big question for New Orleans Saints in today’s NFL draft is, ‘Deal or no Deal?’

Big question for New Orleans Saints in today’s NFL draft is, ‘Deal or no Deal?’

Posted by Jeff Duncan, The Times-Picayune April 24, 2009 10:03PM

Here’s the dream scenario for the Saints in the first round of today’s NFL draft:

If Ohio State cornerback/safety is available at No. 14 when the Saints pick, there’s a good chance he’ll play in N.O. next year

A huddle of prospects they love is still available when their pick rolls around at No. 14. As is a top-10 talent that inexplicably has toppled out of his grade zone.

Faster than you can say Brady Quinn, the Saints would be positioned to make a deal that could transform their draft from four-pick famine to multi-pick feast.

This is the perfect draft storm for the Saints in the top half of today’s player lottery. And it’s a distinct possibility, judging by pre-draft forecasts from league outposts.

For once, it appears the stars are aligned for the Saints. In past drafts they have found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time to nab the apple of their eye.

This time, though, it appears the team is in good position to get its man. Most of the teams set to draft above them appear to be interested in players at positions the Saints don’t need: quarterback, offensive tackle, wide receiver, defensive end.

There’s a real possibility that the top-rated player at the position of most need for the Saints will be available at No. 14: defensive back/safety Malcolm Jenkins.

And therein lies a potential dilemma.

What if Jenkins — by all accounts a rock-solid impact talent — is there, along with a juicy trade offer?

Several teams in the pecking order below the Saints reportedly are interested in trading up this year, among them New England, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia.

If one of them offers a package that includes their first-round pick along with a second- or high third-rounder, then the Saints will have a tough decision to make.

With only four picks at their disposal, the Saints could use a pick or two more to adequately address their needs that include safety, linebacker, defensive tackle, running back and interior offensive lineman.

As is, they’ll pick in the first round today, then not again until Sunday afternoon’s fourth round. That’s a long wait for a team desperately in need of defensive help. The chances of adding an impact player in the fourth round are slim.

So the Saints desperately need a team to offer them a good trade, so they can move down in the first round and procure at least one other starting caliber prospect.

Carolina faced a similar scenario two years ago with the No. 14 pick of the 2007 draft. The Panthers were desperate for a safety to replace Mike Minter, but the Jets’ trade offer, which included the No. 25 overall pick and an additional second-rounder, was too good to pass up.

The Panthers liked cornerback Darrelle Revis, whom the Jets selected at No. 14, but they also liked a handful of other defensive prospects, including safeties Michael Griffin, Brandon Merriweather, Reggie Nelson and linebacker Jon Beason.

So they rolled the dice that at least one of those guys would be there at No.¤25, and they guessed correctly when Beason was still on the board. With the second-round pick, the Panthers added center Ryan Kalil, who has become a fixture on their offensive line.

Revis and Beason both made the Pro Bowl this past year, and Kalil is a candidate to make it soon.

The Saints need to ask themselves a similar question today if a similar offer is made. And a deal is quite possible.

The Patriots, who are blessed with six picks in the top 100, are potential trade partners. The teams worked out a deal in last year’s draft and have traded twice before in the past six years, so the relationship is there to get a deal done.

Patriots Coach Bill Belichick indicated as much earlier this week: “We could probably trade a combination of our picks in the first round and get up as high as 10.”

Clearly, the Saints have prepared for just such a scenario.

Many of the prospects invited to town for pre-draft visits are projected as second- and third-round picks. If the Patriots offered their first-rounder (No. 23) and one of their three second-rounders (Nos. 34, 47 or 58), do the Saints make the deal?

Will one potential impact player — Jenkins or, say, Clay Matthews Jr. — improve the team more than two lower-rated prospects, like perhaps cornerback Sean Smith and defensive tackle Ron Brace?

If the situation presents itself, the Saints should jump on the deal and disconnect the phone.

One pick at No. 14 is not going to turn this defense around, and make no mistake, defense is where the Saints need to concentrate today and tomorrow.

In three seasons under Coach Sean Payton, the Saints have scored more points than all but two teams in the NFL.

Their 26.1 points-per-game average over that span is the best in franchise history.

Problem is, they’ve allowed more than 26 points in almost half of their games during that span (21 of 48). Not surprisingly, they are 3-18 in those contests.

It doesn’t take Vince Lombardi to determine what the Saints need to add to join the NFL’s elite.

When you set a team scoring record (463) points, your quarterback passes for the second-most yards in NFL history (5,069) and you still only finish 8-8, then your team has a clear problem: Defense.

And the problems aren’t restricted to one phase of the defense. The Saints need help in the secondary, at linebacker and along the defensive line.

On offense, the needs are less pressing: A running back, preferably one with some junk in the trunk, to help fill the large cleats of the departed Deuce McAllister, and a perhaps a young interior lineman.

That’s more needs than picks.

So clearly, the best-case scenario for the Saints isn’t BPA — Best Player Available, it’s BDA — Best Deal Available.

Jeff Duncan can be reached at jduncan@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3404.



New Orleans Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey won’t follow in T.O.’s footsteps: Saints mailbag

Posted by Mike Triplett, The Times-Picayune April 01, 2009 2:40PM

As promised, here’s part two of today’s two-session mailbag. Keep the questions coming, and be sure to stop in for tomorrow’s chat at 11:30 a.m. if you get the chance.

Q: A lot has been made recently about Terrell Owens missing voluntary workouts when he has a personal trainer. Will Jeremy Shockey do the same thing with the Saints this year and not attend voluntary workouts? If you don’t know then when does voluntary work-outs for the Saints start to monitor that situation? Stephen LeCompte, Houston, TX

A: You’ll be happy to know, Stephen, that Shockey did report to the Saints’ offseason conditioning program, which began on Monday. And, really, I don’t expect Shockey to be anything like Terrell Owens this offseason. He’s committed to making things work in New Orleans – where else would he have it better than here? – and he’s determined to put last year’s disappointing season behind him. I don’t know how much time he’ll spend in New Orleans vs. Miami, where he has always worked out in past offseasons. But he said after last season that he plans to spend more time at the team’s practice facility than ever before. Here’s the whole quote: “I’m going to do a lot of work with Drew. I’m going to be here working with these guys. I haven’t done that in five or six years, and I’m not saying that I didn’t make the right decision in the past. Just here, I think it would benefit myself and the team a lot more than it would if I was playing, doing the one up in New York. So I’m going to still work out in Miami, that’s the normal plan, but really show my face and come around here a lot more than I’ve ever done in my whole career.”
Q: I was surprised that the Saints cut ties with Mike McKenzie, rather than simply re-working his contract. I realize the team needed some cap relief and McKenzie is coming off two serious injuries in two consecutive years, but given his past performance at a high level and the Saints’ need at cornerback (even with the signing of Jabari Greer), I would have expected the team to at least keep him around through the offseason and perhaps training camp before deciding that he is not in their future plans. Do you agree that it seems a little premature to have made that decision now, before he is completely rehabbed? Do you have any indication that the Saints attempted to rework his deal but McKenzie would not go along? Todd Owers, Metairie, La.

A: I didn’t really have a problem with the decision, Todd. I think McKenzie probably has a little gas left in the tank, but he’s 32 and the injuries have definitely slowed him down a little bit. This reminds me of the Saints’ decision to stick with Deuce McAllister last year. Sometimes it might be better to just cut ties and move on with the younger players rather than straddle the fence. The Saints are very high on their top three corners – Jabari Greer, Tracy Porter and Randall Gay. And they like backup Leigh Torrence, who will also contribute in special teams. … I’m not sure if/where Jason David fits in. But clearly, McKenzie had become expendable. I’m not sure how much of a discount he was willing to offer the Saints to stay for another year. I know early in the offseason, they seemed interested in keeping him around for a while at a discounted price to see how well he was progressing from a health standpoint. But I think that changed after they signed Greer.

Q: There’s been a lot of speculation/chatter on the fan sites regarding a trade of Lance Moore for LenDale White. Any talk like this from the Saints’ brain trust? Chris Lee, New York, N.Y.

A: Sorry Chris, but that sounds like more of a fantasy football trade than a real-life one. But this is probably a good time to clear up Moore’s status with the Saints one more time since there seems to be so much confusion about the restricted free agent process. … The Saints aren’t “shopping” Lance Moore. They don’t want to trade him, they don’t want to lose him, and the chances of him leaving New Orleans are extremely, extremely slim. True, they would get a second-round pick as compensation if Moore signed with another team and the Saints chose not to match the offer. That’s a protection clause designed to make it difficult for restricted free agents to switch teams – much like the franchise tag with veteran players. But that doesn’t mean the Saints WANT that second-round pick. They’d rather keep Moore, and they’ll probably work on a long-term extension with him at some point later this summer. Sean Payton said the other day that he envisions Moore being with the Saints for years to come. … So do I.
Q: I like the moves of getting rid of dead weight by cutting injured players, but we have underachieving players in Shanle LB and David CB. With all the good vets out there like Cato June LB and Ken Lucas CB why don’t we cut some more dead weight and do what Payton wants to do so desperately, get a big back in the draft or free agency and shore up the D by getting some quality defensive players like the players above? What do you think will happen and if we do nothing do you feel that Gregg Williams can get the current players to play great D? Craig, Dallas Tx

A: Ah, yes. No mailbag or chat would be complete without an anti-Shanle question. Thanks for filling today’s quota, Craig. … Seriously, though, I think it’s obvious that there are better outside linebackers in the NFL than Shanle. And I personally think the Saints’ best chance of upgrading their defense through the draft is to identify an athletic, dynamic difference-maker at that position who can rush the passer and cover tight ends. But Shanle isn’t “dead weight.” He’s a nice, solid player who has earned the trust of the coaching staff and the front office, and I think he had a pretty underrated solid season last year. Clearly, the Saints have not identified someone they feel is an upgrade over Shanle to this point – at least not at the right price tag. I know they kicked the tires on Pro Bowler Lance Briggs a year ago but didn’t want to break the bank for him. I don’t think Cato June is a great fit for their defensive system. And obviously Tampa Bay wasn’t too thrilled with June, since they released him despite having enough money to burn in free agency this year. … If the Saints think there’s someone better out there, they’ll make the switch – and don’t forget about Dan Morgan, who will compete at that spot this year. The Saints have proven that they’re willing to cut ties with underachieving veterans if they see an upgrade on the open market. Remember, they haven’t just dumped injured players this offseason like McAllister and McKenzie. They also dumped fullback Mike Karney and safety Kevin Kaesviharn, replacing them with guys they liked better in free agency. … As for Jason David, I still think he might end up getting released at some point. But I think he has enough potential that they’d at least like to take a look at him in new coordinator Gregg Williams’ system to see if it’s a better fit for him. … And yes, I think Williams will make a big difference with the current personnel. I feel like he’ll take some more chances, get more pressure on quarterbacks and force more turnovers. Even if the Saints keep giving up big plays from time to time, they can counteract that by making more big plays and giving the ball back to the offense.