Saints Should Add Veteran Tight End Before Training Camp


The New Orleans Saints surprised everyone in the 2015 NFL Draft by not selecting a wide receiver or a tight end, with receiver being a popular choice in mock drafts during the first two rounds.

Prior to the draft head coach Sean Payton spoke about tight end Josh Hill stepping up after receiving a major bump up the depth chart following the departure of Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks.

Second year speedster Brandin Cooks will assumably get the nod as the #2 receiver alongside veteran Marques Colston with Kenny Stills in South Beach with the Miami Dolphins.

For both position groups there is a huge drop off following the first couple of players on the depth chart, or more likely question marks.

Jul 25, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton addresses the media during a press conference prior to the start of training camp at the team practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Payton was asked following the draft if he had confidence in his group of wide receivers and tight ends on the current roster to which he responded,

"“I would say this, to start with the receivers, yes.  You guys are around our team a lot and I think last year at this time we were able to hit on a couple of free agent receivers that we think are going to be good football players.We think Nick Toon is developing.  A lot of the snaps last year toward the end of the year we started seeing him make some plays.  He is a tremendous worker who has size.Of course Brandin (Cooks) is back healthy, Marques (Colston) is a veteran presence for us.  We certainly have a vision for him.Joe Morgan is a guy we are real familiar with, and so I think the signing of those younger receivers a year ago this time, and they are not household names but guys in the building.”"

Payton also mentioned receivers Seantavius Jones and Brandon Coleman as players he expects to see “good things” from in the future.

The only point Payton didn’t answer in the question was regarding tight end which only has Hill, Benjamin Watson, and Orson Charles for depth.

Sep 21, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Josh Hill (89) catches a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings during the first quarter of a game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Hill and Watson are the only two that have playing time with the Saints since Charles was only a practice squad member.

I’ve pounded the preverbal table about how the team should have signed tight end James Casey who was a very good blocker as well as receiver.

But Casey signed with the Denver Broncos not long after that article was published on a 1-year, $1.25 million dollar deal that the Saints easily could have managed.

The free agent pool for tight ends have all but dried up and the Saints may have to dig deep in order to find a fit.

One choice would be 6’4″, 255lb. former Seahawk Zach Miller who was used like Casey as a substantial blocker as well as a receiver.

Dec 29, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks tight end Zach Miller (86) runs with the ball against the St. Louis Rams during the second quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Miller was released by Seattle in March of this year on a failed physical after spending a large part of the 2014 season on injured reserve due to having two surgeries on his ankle.

While Miller’s current rehabilitation status in not known, the Saints need to due their homework to see when the timetable for him to start would be.

Another option that’s available would be former Bengal Jermaine Gresham who was thought to be highly sought after when free agency started this year.

However, Gresham discovered he had a herniated disc that required him to have back surgery in mid-March.

At 6’5″, 260 lbs. Gresham has made some spectacular catches and has averaged 9.7 yards a reception as well as averaging 544.4 yards and 4 touchdowns a season in his six years in the league.

Sep 29, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham (84) makes a leaping catch as Cleveland Browns inside linebacker Craig Robertson (53) defends during the third quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns beat the Bengals 17-6. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

With Gresham’s surgery being in the middle of March it’s unclear if he’s ready to be medically released to get back on the football field, but it’s worth a look for the Black and Gold.

The Saints did bring in some tight ends after the draft, signing New Hampshire’s Harold Spears(6’4″, 255 lbs.) and North Carolina’s Jack Tabb(6’3″, 250 lbs.) as undrafted free agents.

They also are bringing in Central Missouri’s Cullen Rosine, 6’5″, 255 lbs., on an try out for their rookie mini-camp.

But even still I just don’t know if you can get a better veteran presence than someone like Miller who has played on a championship team and be a huge asset if he’s healthy.

But I have been seeing and hearing good things about Rosine and he just might be that dark horse, Khiry Robinson-type player who makes it to training camp.

Of course with only three tight ends in the stables for the Saints, they’ll take any horse they can get right now…..

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