Saints try out a pair of free agent kickers, work out LS John Denney again

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John Sigler
·3 min read
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The New Orleans Saints have taken a lot of hits in recent weeks, losing linebacker Kwon Alexander and wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith to injured reserve (and that’s before running back Alvin Kamara landed on the COVID-19 reserve list), but their interest in available free agents has been limited to the game’s third phase.

A trio of specialists, two kickers and a long snapper, tried out for New Orleans on Friday, per the daily NFL wire. Here’s what’s up with each of them:

LS John Denney

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File

This is the second time Denney has tried out for the Saints this year. He previously made the trip on Oct. 17 as part of another group workout, which saw the Saints sign tight end Ethan Wolf and defensive end Will Clarke to the practice squad. Here's some of what I wrote about him at the time:

Before the Saints hired special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi, he held the same post with the Miami Dolphins from 2010 to 2018 — where he coached Denney up and into a pair of Pro Bowls in 2010 and 2012. Now 41 years old and a free agent, Denney is likely just a candidate to keep on short notice. But it’s possible that he could be an emergency signing to the practice squad. You could do worse than having a 226-game veteran waiting in the wings.

It's possible that the Saints are looking to expand the number of players in their "break glass in case of emergency" box, should a specialist get sidelined by a positive COVID-19 test. They already have a punter waiting in the wings, theoretically (rookie Blake Gillikin on injured reserve, who is eligible to return at any time, if healthy), but there isn't a backup long snapper or kicker in New Orleans just yet.

K Blair Walsh

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

It's possible the Saints aren't happy with Wil Lutz and are looking for a replacement. He's gone 21-for-26 on field goals (a career-worst completion percentage of 80.8%) this year, missing 2 of his 3 attempts from 50-plus yards. With salary cap space compressing in 2021, they could be searching for a cheaper option for that kind of performance. The issue is that Walsh doesn't fit the profile. He hasn't kicked in an NFL game since Dec. 31, 2017 with the Seattle Seahawks, and he has a career field goal completion percentage of just 82.4%. More realistic is the idea that the Saints wanted to see if he can still play, so they can put his number in their Rolodex in case Lutz is unavailable for a playoff game.

K Chandler Catanzaro

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Catanzaro is another kicker who's been out of the NFL for a few years, making him a good comparison for Walsh in a head-to-head tryout. The former Clemson Tigers standout kicked for four different teams from 2014 to 2018, though he spent part of the offseason with the New York Jets and joined the cross-town New York Giants practice squad for a few weeks back in Aug. 2020. Still, his career numbers are uninspiring: he's completed 83.8% of his field goals in the NFL and has never made more than 3 attempts from 50 or more yards out in a single season. It's anyone's guess who the Saints left their group tryout feeling better about between him and Walsh.