Tagged in: Saints

Seattle Seahawks to face Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Munich on Nov. 13

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL’s first regular-season game in Germany.

The league revealed Wednesday the teams will play at 9:30 a.m. ET on Nov. 13 at Allianz Arena, home of FC Bayern Munich.

The NFL also announced the three 9:30 a.m. ET games that will be played in London next season. The New Orleans Saints will face the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 2 and the Green Bay Packers will play the New York Giants on Oct. 9 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The Jacksonville Jaguars will play the Denver Broncos on Oct. 30 at Wembley Stadium.

In addition, the league stated the Arizona Cardinals will play the San Francisco 49ers on Nov. 21 in a Monday Night Football game at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City; it will be the fourth NFL game played at that stadium. (The Oakland Raiders beat the Houston Texans 27-20 in 2016, the New England Patriots beat the Raiders 33-8 in 2017, and the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Los Angeles Chargers 24-17 in 2019.)

The Chiefs were arranged to play the Los Angeles Rams in Mexico City in 2019 but the game was moved to Los Angeles because of poor field conditions.

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Arizona lost its lone international matchup in 2017 33-0 to the Los Angeles Rams at Twickenham Stadium in London. The 49ers are 2-0 in international games, beating Denver 24-10 in 2010 and Jacksonville 42-10 in 2013 at Wembley Stadium in London.

The Bucs will be seeking their first victory playing outside the United States.

They’re 0-3 in their three games played in London, losing to the Patriots 35-7 in 2009, the Chicago Bears 24-18 in 2011, and the Carolina Panthers 37-26 in 2019.

This will mark the Seahawks’ third international regular-season game in franchise history. They beat the Buffalo Bills in Toronto in 2012 and the Oakland Raiders in London in 2018.

The Seahawks have a German-born player in linebacker Aaron Donkor, who was allocated to Seattle last year as part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program. Donkor is from Achern, about 200 miles west of Munich, and spent the 2021 season on Seattle’s practice squad. The Seahawks received another roster exemption for Donkor this week.

The NFL revealed in February that it will play four games in Germany over the next four seasons, two apiece in Munich and Frankfurt.

The Packers were the lone team to have never played in an international game. The Giants are 2-0 overseas, beating the Miami Dolphins 13-10 in the NFL’s first international game played in 2007 at Wembley Stadium and beating the Rams 17-10 in 2016 at Twickenham Stadium.

“Our fan base in the U.K. has always been extremely loyal and passionate,” Giants chief commercial officer Pete Guelli said. “The organization has had two memorable games in front of the London fans, and we look forward to engaging with them leading up to the game this fall.”

The Saints are 2-0 in London, defeating the San Diego Chargers 37-32 in 2006 and the Miami Dolphins 20-0 in 2017 at Wembley Stadium. The Vikings beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-27 in 2013 at Wembley Stadium and the Cleveland Browns 33-16 in 2017 at Twickenham Stadium.

This will be the ninth time the Jaguars will have played a game outside the United States, which is more than any other team. The Las Vegas Raiders and Miami have each played five international games.

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New Orleans Saints name Ryan Nielsen and Kris Richard as co-defensive coordinators

The New Orleans Saints have promoted assistant coaches Ryan Nielsen and Kris Richard into the roles of co-defensive coordinators under new head coach Dennis Allen, the team revealed Wednesday.

Nielsen and Richard will continue to oversee the Saints’ defensive line and secondary units, respectively.

Allen previously served as New Orleans’ defensive coordinator under Sean Payton, while Nielsen was the assistant head coach/defensive line coach and Richard was the secondary coach.

Allen hinted at his introductory news conference that he will likely continue to call plays for the defense, though he hasn’t made that official yet.

The use of co-defensive coordinators is much more common in college than in the NFL. However, the Minnesota Vikings used co-defensive coordinators during their final two seasons under coach Mike Zimmer, and the New England Patriots have split duties on defense without naming anyone as their official coordinator over the past four campaigns.

Other teams have used passing game coordinators and run game coordinators. Richard served as a passing game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys from 2018 to 2019.

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Most likely, Allen wanted to find a way to promote both of his highly valued assistants to make sure to retain them on his staff.

Nielsen has been with the Saints since 2017, while Richard arrived in 2021.

The Saints ranked fourth in the NFL in points permitted last season and seventh in yards allowed. They have ranked fourth in both categories overall since 2019. And they became the first team to shut out Tom Brady in 15 years with a 9-0 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this past December.

Nielsen and Richard, both 42, were teammates on USC’s defense in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Richard went on to play six NFL seasons for the Seattle Seahawks, Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders. Nielsen signed with the Philadelphia Eagles but never cracked a NFL roster.

Richard then became one of the architects of the Seahawks’ famed “Legion of Boom” secondary as a defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator from 2010 to 2017. He has had several head-coaching interviews in recent years and also interviewed for multiple defensive coordinator positions in the NFL this year.

Nielsen, meanwhile, has had multiple opportunities in recent years to become a college defensive coordinator. But the Saints didn’t want to let him go and promoted him to assistant head coach last year while keeping him away from nearby LSU.

The Saints have had the NFL’s No. 1 run defense since Nielsen arrived in 2017.

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New Orleans Saints again to be without RB Alvin Kamara vs. Buffalo Bills

Running back Alvin Kamara has been ruled out for the third consecutive week with his knee injury as the New Orleans Saints prepare to host the Buffalo Bills on Thanksgiving night.

Right tackle Ryan Ramczyk (knee) and defensive ends Marcus Davenport (shoulder) and Tanoh Kpassagnon (ankle) were also ruled out for Thursday’s game.

Running back Mark Ingram II (knee) and left tackle Terron Armstead (knee/shoulder) are listed as questionable after practicing on a limited basis Wednesday.

If Ingram is out or limited, the Saints will obviously be short-handed at running back. Second-year pro Tony Jones Jr., RB/WR Ty Montgomery and backup quarterback Taysom Hill would likely be among those who fill the void.

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Kamara is not expected to be sidelined long term, and he was not placed on injured reserve after he first started experiencing knee soreness during the Saints’ Week 9 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

The Saints will play another Thursday night match at home versus the Dallas Cowboys in Week 13 before having three extra days between games in Week 14.

Kamara has obviously been missed in a depleted Saints offense that has been short on playmakers in the passing game all season.

He leads the team with 840 yards from scrimmage, 7 touchdowns and 32 receptions this season.

The Saints (5-5) have battled injuries all season — but especially over the past month (including quarterback Jameis Winston’s season-ending ACL tear and receiver Michael Thomas’ season-ending setback with an ankle injury).

The Saints have hit a three-game losing streak for the first time since 2016

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RB Mark Ingram traded by Houston Texans, reuniting him with New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints have reunited their dynamic running back duo of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram by getting Ingram in a trade with the Houston Texans, sources confirmed to ESPN.

The deal contains a swap of late-round picks, the source said. NFL Network first reported the trade, the second in two months between the Saints and Texans after New Orleans acquired veteran cornerback Bradley Roby in Week 1.

The Saints desperately needed running back depth after releasing veteran Latavius Murray in September and losing backup Tony Jones Jr. to injury. So they turned to one of the most popular and productive backs in franchise history.

Ingram, 31, spent his first eight campaigns in New Orleans after being drafted in the first round in 2011, tallying 6,007 rushing yards, 1,598 receiving yards and 55 touchdowns before the Saints let him leave as a free agent in 2019. Ingram is just 89 rushing yards behind Deuce McAllister for New Orleans’ franchise record.

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At their peak, Ingram and Kamara were one of the best running back duos in NFL history.

Nicknamed “Boom and Zoom,” they became the first duo ever to both surpass 1,500 scrimmage yards in the same season in 2017, and the first in more than 40 years to both make the initial Pro Bowl roster.

Murray proved to be an excellent replacement from 2019 to 2020, while Ingram had success with the Baltimore Ravens. But the Saints missed both veterans this year while relying more than ever on Kamara as a one-man show.

Kamara is on pace to break his career high for carries in a season by more than 100, and he reached 30 touches in a game for just the second time in his career in Monday night’s 13-10 victory at Seattle. Kamara was named the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday.

“Aye @markingramII ….. we back,” Kamara tweeted in response to the reported trade.

Ingram was the Texans’ lead back this season, running for 294 yards and a touchdown on 92 carries on a team that ranks last in the NFL according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA.

With his trade to New Orleans, the Texans now have four running backs on their roster: veterans David Johnson, Phillip Lindsay and Rex Burkhead and second-year pro Scottie Phillips. Phillips has been inactive for all but one game this season, but just played on special teams.

Earlier in the month, the Texans moved on from veteran defensive end Whitney Mercilus, who signed with the Green Bay Packers after he was released by the Texans. Mercilus, a first-round pick in 2012, was one of the longest-tenured Texans players on the roster.

Since Ingram signed in Houston, coach David Culley has spoken about the importance of the running back on the roster because of his leadership role in the locker room.

After the trade was reported Wednesday, wide receiver Brandin Cooks appeared to react to the move on Twitter, writing, “This is bulls—. Such a joke.”

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New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz will miss start of season due to injury

New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz is estimated to miss time at the start of the season because of injury, according to a source, adding to the Saints’ growing roster upheaval.

Lutz’s specific timetable is unknown, but there is optimism that he won’t miss too many matches. He missed time at the beginning of training camp with a groin injury, and the source indicated that Lutz aggravated a previous injury.

The kicker took to Instagram to acknowledge that he had an injury that had worsened and decided to get it “fixed now in order to miss the least amount of time as possible.”

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Lutz did not say when he hoped to return.

The Saints are signing veteran kicker Brett Maher after Monday’s auditions to fill in for Lutz, a source told ESPN. Maher, 31, spent two seasons as the Dallas Cowboys’ kicker 2018-19 and has been on practice squads/offseason rosters since then with the Jets, Washington, Texans and Cardinals.

The Saints are expected to have at least 11 new starters in Week 1 due to Drew Brees’ retirement, an offseason salary-cap purge, defensive tackle David Onyemata’s suspension and now injuries to Lutz and receiver Michael Thomas.

Lutz, 27, was a Pro Bowler in 2019 and ranks as one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history with a field goal rate of 86.6% during his five-year career.

The Saints will also have a new punter in 2021 after releasing longtime standout Thomas Morstead this offseason. Second-year pro Blake Gillikin is anticipated to take over the role after spending last season on injured reserve.

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LB Kwon Alexander agrees to re-sign with New Orleans Saints

Linebacker Kwon Alexander is back with the New Orleans Saints after he spent the offseason recovering from a torn Achilles tendon.

They agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $3 million, his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

It’s a birthday present of sorts for Alexander, who turned 27 on Tuesday.

Alexander, who played college football nearby at LSU, proved to be a good fit for the Saints after they obtained him in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers last November.

The 6-foot-1, 227-pounder started seven matches for New Orleans and had 27 tackles, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. His season ended in December, however, when he suffered a torn Achilles tendon in a Christmas Day triumph over the Minnesota Vikings.

The Saints released Alexander in March before he was due to make $13.4 million in salary and bonuses this year. But clearly they kept the door open, and they brought him in for a workout last month after he was healthy enough to resume football activities.

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The Saints are suddenly crowded at the linebacker position after they drafted Pete Werner in the second round this year and Zack Baun in the third round last year. And it’s a position where they typically play only two linebackers at a time, with Demario Davis locking down one of those spots.

But Alexander, who is particularly valuable on passing downs, adds to their overall depth and versatility after they lost some key pieces at cornerback and along the defensive line during a salary-cap purge this offseason.

The Saints have been filling out their depth throughout the first week of training camp after they cleared out more than $10 million in cap space late in the summer.

They have also recently signed cornerbacks Brian Poole, Prince Amukamara and KeiVarae Russell; running back Devonta Freeman; receiver Chris Hogan and guard J.R. Sweezy.

Alexander, who was initially drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fourth round out of LSU in 2015, made the Pro Bowl in 2017. He has started a total of 66 games in his career with 471 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 7 interceptions and 9 forced fumbles.

The 49ers signed Alexander to a four-year, $54 million contract as a free agent in 2019, but he was limited during the 2019 season by a torn pectoral muscle before returning for their playoff run. He played in five games for the 49ers in 2020 but was sidelined by a high-ankle sprain at the time he was traded.

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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 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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