The New Orleans Saints have one of the more talented rosters in the NFL. Last year, they won the NFC South and made a run in the playoffs despite multiple injuries at different positions. This offseason, the team clearly focused on adding depth with the majority of their moves in free agency and the draft. They felt comfortable enough with their offseason additions that they released veteran linebackers Michael Mauti and Adam Bighill last week, just a week after letting go of tight end Coby Fleener. Today, we have a look at a few more veterans who could be facing the end of their Saints careers, perhaps even before the team begins mandatory mini-camp in June or training camp in late July.
De'Vante Harris, CB
Harris has suffered a long dropoff from the beginning of the 2017 season, when he was a starting cornerback in the team's season opener against Minnesota. He came to New Orleans as an undrafted rookie in 2016, and played well enough to be among the top cornerback options for the Saints through training camp last year. He struggled mightily in coverage early in the '17 season, quickly getting benched and used only on special teams units, where his play was often inconsistent at best. The Saints cornerback position is suddenly crowded with talent. Marshon Lattimore is the reigning defensive rookie of the year, and Ken Crawley played well as the starter opposite Lattimore. The team re-signed Patrick Robinson this offseason, a former Saints first round pick who played for New Orleans from 2010-14, and still has P.J. Williams, who intercepted two passes as a part-time starter a year ago. The Saints also expect big improvements from Arthur Maulet, who made the team as an undrafted rookie last year, along with special teams standout Justin Hardee. They then added even more talented competition through the draft, with Natrell Jamerson (5th round), Kamrin Moore (6th round), and Linden Stephens (undrafted), making this perhaps the most hotly contested position on the team entering training camp. Harris has clearly regressed from the player who latched on to a roster spot in the summer of '16, and faced an uphill battle to make the team to begin with, but now may be jettisoned before the final roster battle begins.
Tommylee Lewis, WR/KR
Lewis made the roster as an undrafted free agent in 2016, then held the spot again last year due to standout performances in preseason. The Saints had hoped that he would take over primary kick and punt return duties, while also providing a big play threat as a backup receiver. Lewis has been largely ineffective as a kick returner, averaging less than 10 yards per punt return, just 21 yards per kickoff return, and was replaced by Alvin Kamara on the kick return unit down the stretch last season. He's caught just 17 passes in two seasons, often struggling to consistently make plays in the open field, as was expected of him. The Saints used a 3rd round pick on Tre'quan Smith, acquired Cameron Meredith through free agency, and also re-signed Brandon Coleman. A receiving corps that struggled to produce last year outside of starters Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn looks like it's been significantly upgraded, perhaps leaving Lewis as the odd man out. The return units look deeper as well, with the addition of rookies Natrell Jamerson and Boston Scott, both of whom showed explosive open field abilities in college.
Michael Hoomanawanui, TE
"Hooman" has been a valuable run blocker and used effectively in the Saints' short yardage packages since his arrival to the team in 2015. He missed the '16 season with a knee injury, but bounced back nicely last year, helping New Orleans to the 5th best rushing attack in the league. Although he has proven to be a decent weapon near the goal line, Hoomanawanui adds little as a receiving threat, limiting the Saints passing options when he's in the lineup. The offseason return of Benjamin Watson, who played for New Orleans from 2013-15, gives the team a dual receiving and blocking factor in the starting lineup. Although the team did not draft a tight end, if the coaching staff feels comfortable with the potential of undrafted rookies Deon Yelder and Cam Serigne, or if they perhaps add another veteran free agent, such as Antonio Gates, then they may decide to cut ties with Hoomanawanui or fellow veteran Josh Hill before camp convenes.
There do not appear to be any big name veteran players for New Orleans in jeopardy of being released by June 1, a date when many players throughout the league will be released for salary cap reasons. The recent cuts of Fleener, Mauti, and Bighill does show that the Saints feel comfortable with their offseason attempts to upgrade depth at many positions on the team. New Orleans still will have to make a number of moves as they set their roster limit moving towards the start of training camp. The Saints have 3 OTA sessions between now and their June 12th mini-camp, the first of which begins this week. They've already shown no hesitation in moving on from veterans who performed below their expectations, even coming off of a division championship season. We can expect more moves of the same on what looks to be a New Orleans squad with several deep roster positions.
Which Saints veteran is in the most danger of getting released before training camp?
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