The Saints are making big moves atypically early in the offseason this year. We brought you news yesterday of New Orleans signing cornerback Trevin Wade a day after releasing veteran defenders Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Jabari Greer and Roman Harper. While the team simply chose not to re-sign free agent Vilma to a new contract, Wednesday's release of the other three veterans became official on the NFL transactions wire Friday. The team also reportedly signed kicker Shayne Graham and tackle Bryce Harris on Friday. Linebacker Keyunta Dawson was signed earlier in the week.
Shayne Graham, Kicker
Shayne Graham is a 13-year veteran from Virginia Tech who signed with the Saints on Dec. 18, after kicker Garrett Hartley was released following spotty performance throughout the year. Only signed as a stop-gap to finish out the season, Shayne was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 11. According to the NFL Players Association website, the 36-year-old has reportedly signed a new one-year contract for the 2014 season, with a base salary of $955,000.
Graham scored on both field goal attempts in the final two games of the regular season, and went 4-for-4 to give the Saints 12 points (14 with extra points) in their 26-24 playoff win against the Philadelphia Eagles. Graham hit from 36, 46, 35 and 32 yards out in Philadelphia, including the game winner as time expired. A week later, he missed from 45 and 47 yards in tough conditions during a 23-15 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Throughout his career, Graham has converted 85.5 percent of his field-goal attempts, making 247 of 289 tries in 157 games.
Exclusive Rights Free Agents
The Saints also signed tackle Bryce Harris and cornerback Trevin Wade on Friday. As two-year veterans, both players were exclusive rights free agents, and could only re-sign with the Saints if given a one-year tender offer of $570,000 each.
OT Bryce Harris played in all 16 regular-season games, and started at right tackle once: against the New England Patriots. He also played extensively on special teams, and sometimes lined up as an extra tight end for blocking purposes.
CB Trevin Wade was signed to the active roster on Nov. 19 for depth, after veteran cornerback Jabari Greer suffered a season-ending knee injury. Wade played in the final two regular-season games, both postseason games. For more information about him, check out yesterday's article.
Lost in the shuffle:
The first free agent signed by the New Orleans Saints this offseason was linebacker Keyunta Dawson, one of 15 Saints scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 11. On Tuesday, the seven-year veteran, age 28, agreed to a one-year deal for the veteran minimum salary of $855,000; though he will only count $575,000 against the salary cap.
Dawson was initially signed by the Saints on Oct. 9 after being waived by the Tennessee Titans, and served mainly as a situational player on defense. The 6-foot-3, 258-pounder appeared in seven games, including the playoffs, as a backup linebacker and special teamer. He had a total of three tackles, one-half sack and a forced fumble in the regular season, and two total tackles in the NFC divisional playoff game in Seattle.
Dawson's most significant play occurred in Week 12 at Atlanta. Early in the fourth quarter, he chased down receiver Darius Johnson to force a fumble in the red zone and help clinch a 17-13 victory.
After the season, Saints director of player personnel Ryan Pace singled out the Dawson signing as a midseason move the team was proud of.