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News » Saints near end of first 'phase' of free agency


Saints near end of first 'phase' of free agency


Saints near end of first 'phase' of free agency
The Saints are close to wrapping up the first "phase" of Free Agency, as Coach Sean Payton described it earlier this week. Before it's over, they likely will add a new free safety, but that might be the final major addition to a team that has become quite well-stocked during the past week.


The Saints' frenzied pace finally slowed to a crawl Friday, with no roster moves being announced or new free-agent visits being unearthed. But in the first seven days of the free-agent signing period, the Saints were among the most active teams in the NFL, despite their tight salary-cap constraints.

They re-signed their top three unrestricted free agents -- linebacker Jonathan Vilma, offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb and receiver Devery Henderson, and they added two new veterans -- cornerback Jabari Greer and fullback Heath Evans.

It's unclear exactly where that leaves the Saints under the league's $127 million salary cap. It's possible they still will have to release another veteran player or two, as they already have done with tailback Deuce McAllister, fullback Mike Karney and receiver David Patten.

But barring any drastic changes, the Saints appear to be ahead of the game heading into the 2009 season. They have 21 of 22 starters back from last year's roster. The only subtraction is Karney, and the Saints believe they upgraded that position with Evans's arrival.

And it's likely that at least two new starters could emerge in their embattled secondary. Greer will compete for a starting cornerback job, and the free safety spot is open for the taking if the Saints find the right fit in Free Agency.

They have been focusing on the safety spot since early in Free Agency, bringing in Jacksonville's Gerald Sensabaugh and Minnesota's Darren Sharper for visits. Chances remain high that one of the two will become a Saint, but so far there has been no sense of urgency to lock up either player.

Both players have received interest from other NFL teams, but neither has been closely linked to a specific landing spot.

The Chicago Bears were thought to be high on Sharper's wish list, but according to a report in the Chicago Tribune this week, the Bears are not pursuing him. Atlanta is another reported possibility for the four-time Pro Bowler who spent his first 12 seasons in Green Bay and Minnesota.

PAYTON FOUNDATION EVENT SET: Payton's Play It Forward Foundation will host a new event called "Viking Fest" on March 14 at Lakeview Playground.

Payton will host a "Football 101 Clinic" for novice Football fans during the festival, which runs from morning until night. He also will participate in a "fun run" that will coincide with a 5K run, and he will present awards to the winners of the various age groups.

The event also will include Football-related activities for children, raffle items, a fireworks display, performances from popular New Orleans bands like The Buck Town All-Stars, Band Camp and Ratt Poison, and a guest appearance from the Disney Channel's Imagination Movers.

For information, call Arthur Boisfontaine at Crystal Clear Imaging at 504.818.2241.

. . . . . . .

Mike Triplett can be reached at mtriplett@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3405.



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: March 7, 2009

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