METAIRIE, La. — Sean Payton has long said those involved in making personnel decisions at the Saints’ Airline Drive facility look not at where the player comes from, but how he’s handling the game itself.
And while New Orleans has long been a destination for free agents because of that, 2013’s initial roster is, well, a bit crazy.
Ten rookies. Twelve total players who haven’t seen a regular season NFL snap. That's 22.6 percent of the roster without NFL experience.
Not that Payton set out to overhaul the roster when camp started.
“We look closely at how they are going to fit into the (game) plan, how they are going to play in the kicking game and the progress they have made in their position group,” Payton said.
In that group of 10 rookies is a set of six undrafted rookie free agents. They’re led by defensive end Glenn Foster, whom the Saints had to fight with other teams to get once April’s draft came to a close.
|Terrelle Pryor #6 of the Oakland Raiders is pursued by Kevin Reddick #52 of the New Orleans Saints during a preseason game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on August 16, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)|
The sell likely wasn’t all that hard even if it took three phone calls. All Payton had to do was point out running backs Pierre Thomas and Travaris Cadet as well as receiver Joe Morgan and linebacker Junior Galette, who earned spots in different years as undrafted guys. Or center Brian de la Puente, fullback Jed Collins and receiver Lance Moore, who worked their way onto the roster via the practice squad after going undrafted.
“One of the selling points is we are going to play the best players and a guy who is a free agent out of college will have the same opportunities as the draft picks,” Payton said Monday when asked if past success with undrafted free agents helps.
This year’s group is as diverse as it is deep. Besides Foster, running back Khiry Robinson, tight end Josh Hill and interior offensive lineman Tim Lelito were joined by linebacker Kevin Reddick and cornerback Rod Sweeting in the undrafted free agent sweepstakes.
That list doesn’t include receiver Andy Tanner, who after more than 30 transactions with the Saints since December 2010, finally earned a spot on the 53-man roster with his consistent route running and soft hands.
“Sean and those guys have an idea, a game plan going ahead of what they want to try to get accomplished. We’ve got to have the right numbers for everything,” safety Roman Harper said. “They always do a good job. They always try to keep the best players. It’s not like we pick and choose, oh you know, because of draft status or money. It’s always the best players playing and we always try to go about it that way.”
Harper wouldn’t call this the most makeable team in his tenure with New Orleans, but he did admit to the usual cut-day shock.
“You always think you know who is going to make it but you never really know,” Harper said. “There’s always a couple of surprises here and there and this year is the same.”