Tagged in: New Orleans

Chris Hogan reaches deal with New Orleans Saints

After moonlighting as a lacrosse player this summer, veteran wide receiver Chris Hogan will return to the NFL and try to help the New Orleans Saints make up for the absence of injured star Michael Thomas.

Hogan, 33, agreed to a deal with the Saints on Monday, a source told ESPN’s Mike Reiss, confirming an NFL Network report.

As expected, Thomas was formally placed on the physically unable to play list Monday to start training camp. He is expected to miss time at the beginning of the regular season after having ankle surgery in June.

Hogan (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) will compete for a roster spot along with Saints receivers Tre’Quan Smith, Deonte Harris, Marquez Callaway and others in a position group that is thin on proven talent after New Orleans released veteran Emmanuel Sanders this offseason.

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Hogan won two Super Bowls with the New England Patriots during a nine-year career that also saw him play with the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and New York Jets.

But after playing in just 12 total matches with the Panthers and Jets in 2019 and 2020 while battling injuries, he briefly decided to switch careers this offseason and play in the Premier Lacrosse League before the Saints lured him back.

Hogan was a standout lacrosse player at Penn State before he spent a year playing football at Monmouth and joined the NFL as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2012.

He was mostly inactive during his time in the PLL, starting with the Cannons before being traded to the Whipsnakes. Back in the NFL, Hogan brings versatility along with his experience.

He has lined up almost equally in the slot and out wide while catching 216 passes for 2,795 yards and 18 touchdowns in the regular season. He has another 34 catches for 542 yards and four TDs in the playoffs.

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New Orleans Saints agree to deal with free agent cornerback Brian Poole

The New Orleans Saints have agreed to a deal with free agent cornerback Brian Poole, pending a physical, a source confirmed.

Terms of the agreement were not instantly known. NFL reporter Josina Anderson first reported that Poole stated he intends to sign a one-year deal with the Saints on Monday.

Poole, 28, spent his first five seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets after going undrafted out of Florida.

The 5-foot-10, 213-pounder established himself as one of the NFL’s top slot cornerbacks before he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 9 last year.

Poole had two interceptions, one sack and seven pass break-ups in his abbreviated 2020 season with the Jets. He has seven interceptions and six sacks in 70 career games.

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Cornerback has been a pressing need for the Saints ever since they released veteran starter Janoris Jenkins during a salary-cap purge at the start of the offseason.

Poole is a curious fit since he primarily plays in the slot – where New Orleans has other proven options like safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson and cornerback Patrick Robinson. But the increased depth and talent can’t hurt.

The Saints, who recently created more than $10 million in cap space through revised contracts, could also look to add more veteran help at wide receiver and defensive tackle as they head toward the beginning of training camp this week.

Poole is known for his physical coverage against slot receivers, yet he was called for only three penalties in 2019 and none in 2020, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

He spent his first three years with the Falcons, and quickly became an integral part of the defense. As a rookie, he saw significant playing time on their NFC championship squad. In 2018, he struggled at times in pass coverage, prompting the Falcons to set him free by declining his restricted-free agent tender.

Poole proved to be a solid, cost-effective acquisition for the Jets, first signing a one-year, $3 million deal in 2019, then a one-year $5 million deal in 2020.

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New Orleans Pelicans officially name Willie Green as next head coach

The New Orleans Pelicans officially named Willie Green as their next head coach Thursday.

Green is coming off a stint as an assistant with the Phoenix Suns, who just made a run to the NBA Finals, which delayed the timing of the Pelicans’ announcement.

“After an extensive and collaborative search, Willie stood out among an impressive group of candidates as the best person to lead our team moving forward,” Pelicans governor Gayle Benson said in a statement.

“We are very happy to welcome Willie as our new head coach and we look forward to working with him to guide our team on the court as we work towards bringing a championship to New Orleans.”

Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin called Green, a 12-year NBA veteran, one of the “most respected assistant coaches in the NBA.”

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“He brings a vast amount of basketball knowledge and experience to our team as both a coach and former player, along with exceptional leadership qualities and an innate ability to connect with players, staff and fans alike,” Griffin said in a statement.

Green spent three seasons as an assistant with the Golden State Warriors before joining Phoenix.

“I want to thank Mrs. Benson, David Griffin, and the entire Pelicans organization for having faith in me to lead this talented group of players moving forward,” Green said. “It’s a blessing and an honor to get this opportunity in a special place like New Orleans. I look forward to getting to work and immersing myself and my family into the local community.”

As a player, Green made the playoffs in seven of his 12 seasons, including the lone year in New Orleans (2010-11), one of just seven playoff trips the team has made in franchise history.

That season, Green made it on a team coached by Monty Williams and led by point guard Chris Paul. Now the Pelicans are hiring Green away from a Suns team led by Williams and Paul.

Green replaces Stan Van Gundy, who mutually agreed to leave the Pelicans after just one campaign. The Pelicans went 31-41 last season, a disappointing result after the season started with playoff aspirations.

In the end, New Orleans didn’t even make the Western Conference play-in. At 39, Green becomes the third-youngest coach in the NBA behind Oklahoma City’s Mark Daigneault and Memphis’ Taylor Jenkins.

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Kansas City Chiefs re-sign defensive end Alex Okafor to 1-year deal

Veteran defensive end Alex Okafor has signed a one-year contract to return to the Kansas City Chiefs, just days before the first players start reporting for training camp.

The Chiefs did not disclose financial terms in announcing the deal Tuesday.

The 30-year-old Okafor has 30 sacks and 183 tackles in eight NFL seasons, including the past two with the Chiefs. He joined the club as a free agent from New Orleans in March 2019, signing a three-year, $18 million contract.

Okafor made an immediate impact in helping rebuild the Kansas City defense, recording five sacks and 21 combined tackles in 10 games. A torn pectoral muscle in Week 15 forced him to finish the season on injured reserve. He missed playing in the team’s triumph over San Francisco in Super Bowl LIV.

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The veteran signed a restructured contract in August 2020 that reduced his salary cap figure for that upcoming season by $2 million and voided the final year of his original three-year deal.

A hamstring injury limited Okafor to 11 games last season.

He finished with three sacks and 16 total tackles. He contributed in a backup role during the team’s playoff run, picking up five total tackles in three postseason contests, including one stop versus Tampa Bay in the team’s 31-9 loss in Super Bowl LV.

Okafor expects to compete for a backup role behind anticipated starters Frank Clark and Chris Jones as the team’s edge rushers. Competition at defensive end also includes veteran Taco Charlton, second-year pro Mike Danna and 2021 fourth-round draft pick Joshua Kaindoh.

Clark was charged in California with felony possession of an assault weapon stemming from a traffic stop in March. In June, he was arrested in Los Angeles after police said they saw a submachine gun in his car. Chiefs players begin reporting to training camp at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph on Friday.

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New Orleans Saints signing RT Ryan Ramczyk to five-year, $96 million extension

The New Orleans Saints have not yet identified their next quarterback after Drew Brees’ retirement. But they ensured that he will be well protected on Wednesday by signing All-Pro right tackle Ryan Ramczyk to a five-year extension.

The Saints revealed Wednesday that they had signed Ramczyk to a five-year extension but did not disclose financial terms.

The deal is worth $96 million in new money ($60 million guaranteed), a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter, which makes Ramczyk the highest-paid right tackle in the NFL.

The $19.2 million average per year in Ramczyk’s extension sets the standard for NFL right tackles, surpassing the $18 million average per year in the deal Lane Johnson signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2019.

It makes sense, because Ramczyk has been among the league’s elite linemen since being drafted with the 32nd pick out of Wisconsin in 2017. He was named first-team All-Pro in 2019 and to the second team in 2018 and 2020.

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“It’s a huge relief. I’m extremely happy with how everything played out,” said Ramczyk, who was asked what it means to him to be the highest-paid right tackle in NFL history.

Ramczyk also said that he reflects “quite often” on how far his “unique journey” has taken him.

He quit football for a year after high school and briefly considered becoming a welder before realizing how much he missed playing.

He wound up attending five different schools (Winona State, Madison Area Technical College, Mid-State Technical College, Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Wisconsin) before becoming a first-round draft pick.

“There’s not a lot of guys who kind of go through what I did,” Ramczyk said. “But I think it was necessary for me, and I think everything played out obviously really well. And I wouldn’t change a thing looking back on it.”

Signing Ramczyk long term was a no-brainer for New Orleans, even at this hefty price tag. All-Pro left tackle Terron Armstead is also heading into the final year of his contract, which could lead to a tough financial decision next year.

But the Saints certainly couldn’t afford to lose both as they build for the future behind quarterbacks Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill and/or a candidate to be named later.

Ramczyk, 27, was due to earn $11.064 million in the final year of his contract this campaign. But the Saints could actually save some needed salary-cap space in the short term, depending on how they structure the deal.

The Saints had about $5 million to $6 million in cap space before Ramczyk’s new deal. They should now have room to add some veteran help heading into this season, with potential needs at cornerback, receiver, defensive tackle and possibly linebacker.

Ramczyk and Armstead have formed an elite duo over the past four years, while the Saints have won four consecutive NFC South titles and produced the league’s best regular-season record.

Ramczyk was part of New Orleans’ superb 2017 draft class, which also includes running back Alvin Kamara, cornerback Marshon Lattimore, safety Marcus Williams and defensive end Trey Hendrickson. Kamara signed an extension last year, and Williams or Lattimore could be next.

The Saints placed the franchise tag on Williams this year and have until July 15 to reach a long-term extension. Lattimore has one year left on his rookie deal. Hendrickson signed a lucrative deal with the Cincinnati Bengals this offseason.

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San Francisco 49ers center Weston Richburg retires from NFL, cites injuries

Almost three years ago, the San Francisco 49ers made Weston Richburg the highest-paid center in NFL history. On Wednesday, Richburg’s time with the Niners came to an end, as he declared his retirement from the NFL.

Richburg had an injury-plagued stint with the 49ers that culminated in his missing the entire 2020 season because of a lingering shoulder injury and his continued efforts to recover from a torn right patellar tendon suffered in Week 14 of the 2019 season.

“I consider myself extremely blessed to have played in this league and am so grateful for the experiences over the last seven years,” Richburg said in a statement released by the 49ers.

“Injuries are an unfortunate part of this game and I’ve reached a point where my body won’t allow me to continue playing and competing at a high level. I was able to play some good football all over the country and was fortunate enough to finish my career with the greatest franchise in sports. From top to bottom, the 49ers organization is comprised of some of the best men, women and athletes I’ve ever been around. To be just a small part of an NFC Championship and Super Bowl run is something I will never forget.”

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As it turned out, that Week 14 contest versus the New Orleans Saints was the final game of Richburg’s 49ers tenure.

Richburg, who turns 30 on July 9, also recently had hip surgery. In three seasons in San Francisco, Richburg started 28 games.

After four years with the New York Giants, who selected him in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft, Richburg signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract with the 49ers in the opening days of 2018 free agency. The Niners reworked that deal during the 2019 season to save some cap space, leaving Richburg with a scheduled cap charge of almost $11.5 million in 2021.

Since Richburg retired after June 1, the Niners can spread out the $7 million in remaining dead money evenly over the cap in 2021 and 2022. They will save $1.075 million in cap space for 2021 upon Richburg’s retirement.

“Weston was someone who made not only our offense, but our entire team better,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said in the statement. “He led by example through his detailed approach and the toughness in which he played the game. He was a tremendous player for our organization and will be missed both on the field and in the locker room.”

The 49ers signed Alex Mack in free agency to take over the starting center duties.

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New Orleans Saints receiver Michael Thomas likely to have multiple surgeries on ankle

New Orleans Saints receiver Michael Thomas is likely to have surgeries on the torn deltoid and other injured ligaments in his ankle that plagued him all campaign, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Tuesday.

The expectation is that Thomas would be recovered in time for summer OTAs under a normal offseason calendar, the source said.

Thomas first suffered the high ankle injury in the final minutes of Week 1 and missed a total of nine games in the regular season. But the source said he knew it was likely Drew Brees’ last season and didn’t want to miss out on trying to win a Super Bowl with him.

Thomas often wouldn’t practice all week, yet would still play in games, at much less than 100% and with pain medication, the source said. The coaches told him that, even as injured as he was, they were much better off with him than without him.

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Thomas went on injured reserve from Weeks 15-17 to try to get as healthy as he could for the playoffs. He returned with five catches for 73 yards and his first touchdown of the season in the wild-card playoff victory over the Chicago Bears.

However, he had zero catches on four targets in the divisional round playoff loss to Tampa Bay — including a near-touchdown in which his knee was ruled out of bounds.

Thomas also missed Weeks 2-8 after first suffering the injury, then being disciplined for one game for a practice altercation that included him punching teammate C.J. Gardner-Johnson, and then suffering a hamstring injury during his recovery.

He concluded the regular season with 40 catches for 438 yards and zero touchdowns in seven games — just one season after setting the NFL record with 149 catches in 2019. He did, however, have two games with nine catches and more than 100 yards receiving during Taysom Hill’s four-game stint at QB while Brees was sidelined by injuries of his own.

Thomas’ 510 career receptions are the most by a player in the first five seasons of his NFL career.

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New Orleans Saints’ Tre’Quan Smith is latest wide receiver to land on injured reserve

The New Orleans Saints are even thinner at wide receiver after placing Tre’Quan Smith on injured reserve with an ankle injury he sustained in Sunday’s 32-29 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Smith, who is a standout blocker in addition to his pass-catching role, will have to miss at least three matches, including the Saints’ playoff opener.

Saints receivers Michael Thomas (ankle) and Deonte Harris (neck) are already on IR for the remainder of the regular season — though coach Sean Payton stated the goal is for Thomas to be as close to 100% as possible for the start of the playoffs.

“I just felt with Mike it was real clear,” Payton said. “Man, he was grinding and productive and catching eight balls, nine balls. But it wasn’t gonna get better until football stopped, just by the nature of the ankle sprain. And so look, if it was ‘win this one, you get in or not,’ then I think our approach would have been much different. But we’ve got a pretty good feel that he can be closer to his 100% — and I don’t know if it’s exactly his 100% — but closer to full speed. And that’s a tremendous asset for us. And in fairness to him right now, we’ve got a little bit of that luxury.”

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The Saints (10-4) have clinched a playoff spot.

And they can clinch their fourth straight NFC South title with one more win or a loss by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-5) over the final two weeks. The Saints still have an outside shot at the NFC’s No. 1 seed, but they need help from other teams.

New Orleans has lost two consecutive games, and the lack of receiver depth was noticeable in Sunday’s loss to Kansas City. Drew Brees started 0-for-6 passing for the first time in his career before he tried to rally the Saints back with three touchdown passes.

On a positive note, the Saints activated undrafted rookie receiver Marquez Callaway off the IR list in time for Friday’s game versus the Minnesota Vikings. Callaway caught eight passes for 75 yards in a game earlier this season when the Saints’ receiver position was similarly thinned out. New Orleans’ active receivers for Friday will be Emmanuel Sanders, Callaway, Austin Carr, Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Juwan Johnson.

Smith, a third-round draft pick from Central Florida, set career highs in his third NFL season with 34 catches and 448 yards before sustaining the ankle injury Sunday. He had four touchdown catches — one shy of the five he had in each of his first two seasons.

The Saints also ruled out starting free safety Marcus Williams (ankle) and part-time starting guard Nick Easton (concussion). Guard Andrus Peat (ankle), defensive end Trey Hendrickson (neck) and defensive tackle Malcom Brown (calf) are questionable.

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Linebacker Nigel Bradham released by Saints

The New Orleans Saints have released veteran linebacker Nigel Bradham less than a month after signing him, a source tells ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

It seemed that Bradham would have a good opportunity to compete for a starting job with the Saints. But he was working behind starters Demario Davis, Alex Anzalone and rookie third-round draft choice Zack Baun throughout the first week of padded practices.

The news appears to bode well for Baun’s chances to play an impact role right away and could open the door for a young backup to earn a roster spot. Bradham’s release comes a week after he sparked a mini controversy with his comments about joining the Saints, which sparked backlash in Philadelphia.

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“It’s definitely a different type of environment, a different culture, because the last two organizations I went to wasn’t really a winning organization,” he said.

“So when you come to a place where it’s known for winning and known for being in the postseason, you see the different type of culture that they have and the different type of expectations that they have naturally and what they expect out of you as a player.”

Bradham has played for the Buffalo Bills and Eagles, winning a Super Bowl ring with Philadelphia, and was a part of three straight playoff teams. He later clarified his comments, saying that when he joined the Eagles, they were coming off the struggles of the Chip Kelly era.

Bradham, 30, was released by the Eagles in February. In 115 matches in his career, he has 619 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 3 interceptions and 5 forced fumbles. Also Monday, the Saints placed veteran defensive back Johnson Bademosi on injured reserve.

Bademosi, 30, who was on the Saints’ roster bubble, was used him heavily on special teams by the Saints after they added him in the middle of last campaign.

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Saints re- sign QB Taysom Hill to deal through 2021

While the New Orleans Saints are closing in on a deal with quarterback Jameis Winston, they doubled down on their investment in current backup Taysom Hill.

The Saints and Hill agreed to a two-year deal, which will take the place of the one-year, $4.641 million tender they had already offered him as a restricted free agent.

The deal is worth $21 million, including $16 million fully guaranteed at signing, plus $1 million more in performance incentives, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. 

“I’ve felt a lot of love from the organization and the fan base. … My wife and I always wanted to stay in New Orleans, so this worked out perfect,” Hill said on a conference call Sunday.

Hill said the idea of a two-year deal “made the most sense for everybody” because it gives him an opportunity to become Drew Brees’ successor if Brees retires in the next year or two — but also gives him freedom if that doesn’t happen.

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Hill posted a message on Instagram on Sunday, stating, “I’ve had this dream since I was a little kid of playing in the NFL. The New Orleans Saints made that dream a reality. … Thank you NOLA.”

Hill, 29, did not sign an offer sheet with any other NFL teams before last week’s deadline for restricted free agents, which gave the Saints exclusive negotiating rights. Depending on how they structure the new deal, they could create some extra salary-cap space to help make room for Winston.

Regardless of Winston’s pending arrival, Saints coach Sean Payton has made it clear he considers the versatile Hill could potentially succeed Brees as New Orleans’ starting quarterback.

Hill got a late start to his NFL career because he went on a two-year church mission to Australia after high school, then spent five years at BYU, where he suffered a total of four season-ending injuries. But he was impressive enough as a dual-threat QB at BYU to finish his career with 6,929 passing yards, 43 TD passes, 2,815 rushing yards and 32 rushing TDs.

He started his NFL career as an undrafted rookie with the Green Bay Packers in 2017 before the Saints claimed him off waivers on cut-down day.

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