The New Orleans Saints opened mini-camp today and had eight non-rostered players trying out with the team, including three former Saint players, according to The Times-Picayune.
The Saints, who missed the playoffs for a second consecutive season with a 7-9 record, will run their three-day camp through Thursday. WR Robert Meachem, DE Darryl Tapp, and DE Matt Shaughnessy were the most intriguing of the players trying out. Long-snapper Chris Highland and defensive tackle Lawrence Virgil along with Meachem have previously been members of the team.
Meachem sat out last year after playing 11 games with New Orleans in 2014, catching seven passes for 114 yards. The 31-year-old player, who was selected by the Saints with the No. 27 pick in the 2007 draft, spent his first four seasons with the club. He then moved on to San Diego in 2012 before returning to New Orleans in 2013.
Meachem worked for the Saints in April. He has 178 receptions for 2,914 yards and 27 touchdowns in seven NFL seasons. New Orleans’ top three receivers are set, but there could be a spot on the roster for Meachem if he is signed. Brandin Cooks, who led the squad with 84 receptions for 1,138 yards and nine touchdowns, is No. 1 on the depth chart followed by Willie Snead, who caught 69 passes for 984 yards in his rookie campaign. Rookie Michael Thomas, the team’s second-round selection, is likely locked as the third receiver. Second-year pro Brandon Coleman (30 catches in 2015) and veteran Vincent Brown are the only other receivers with any kind of experience.
Tapp is a 10-year vet, having played for the Detroit Lions in 2015. The 31-year-old recorded 26 tackles and two sacks while also forcing two fumbles for the Lions. He has 27.5 career sacks while also playing for Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles, and the Washington Redskins. Tapp is very good against the run and was ranked as the No. 78 edge rusher by Pro Football Focus in 2015.
Shaughnessy worked out with the Saints earlier this year. The 29-year-old has six years of experience after sitting out last season. He last played with the Arizona Cardinals in 2014, appearing in eight games and recording 17 tackles. Shaughnessy also played with the Oakland Raiders and has 18.5 career sacks.
Tapp and Shaughnessy might have caught a break with starting defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha likely out for the season with a torn ACL, according to ESPN. Kikaha will get other opinions before deciding what to do – this is the third ACL injury of his career. The 2015 second-round pick had 52 tackles, four sacks, and four forced fumbles last season.
The Saints were really thin at defensive end to start with, but now with Kikaha out for an extended period, it will be tougher for them. Obum Gwacham, Kasim Edebali, Cameron Jordan, Davis Tull, Sheldon Rankins, and Bobby Richardson are the other defensive ends currently on the roster.
Jordan will start opposite whoever takes Kikaha’s place. The 26-year-old had a team-high 10 sacks to go along with 45 tackles last year.
Gwacham was drafted in the sixth round by the Seattle Seahawks in 2015 but was waived prior to the start of the season. The 25-year-old appeared in nine games, recording eight tackles, 2.5 sacks, and forcing two fumbles with the Saints.
Rankins was selected with the No. 12 pick in this year’s draft out of Louisville. The 22-year-old registered 19 sacks, including six in his season, during his collegiate career.
Tull spent last season on the Saints’ practice after being selected by the team in the sixth round of the 2015 draft.
Richardson recorded 40 tackles in 15 games, though he only was credited with a half-sack. The 23-year-old went undrafted out of Indiana.
Edebeli is entering his third season. The 26-year-old appeared in all 16 games last year, making 21 tackles and recording 5.0 sacks. He has 43 tackles and seven sacks for his career. Edebeli has been battling an unspecified injury and has yet to get on the field this offseason, but head coach Sean Payton said that he would be healthy for the start of training camp.
“We feel like we’ve got some good young developmental players at that position,” Payton said. “Obviously Hau was one of them, Boom’s one of them, Edebali, Tull. So we’ve got a handful of options. I think there’s that initial knee-jerk, ‘Well you’ve got to go sign…’ Well, you’ve got to be careful that the vision’s clear. And so right now we’re gonna work on the guys that are here and obviously pay attention to any type player that might be able to help us that’s not signed.”
Dwight Freeney would be an option if New Orleans decided to go outside to sign someone.
[Photo by Duane Burleson/Associated Press]