Undrafted free agents face an uphill battle on the Saints’ roster this year

·3 min read

Few teams have as strong a history with undrafted free agents like the New Orleans Saints. They’ve consistently found diamonds in the rough for years, making players like Pierre Thomas and Lance Moore into fan favorites during the early years of Sean Payton’s tenure. That success has continued recently with Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harty, and, hey, Taysom Hill finding success. It’s extended to the trenches, too, with Calvin Throckmorton, Carl Granderson, Shy Tuttle, and Malcolm Roach all carving out roles for themselves.

But a downside to assembling such a strong depth chart is that it gets increasingly harder for those players on the roster bubble to make the cut. And the Saints are as strong this year as they’ve ever been on both sides of the ball. Some promising undrafted rookies have already been let go, like former Baylor running back Abram Smith. It’s a legitimate question as to whether a single UDFA sticks on the opening-day 53-man roster.

If anyone has a good shot at accomplishing that feat, it’s probably rookie linebacker Nephi Sewell (out of Utah). He led the defense in tackles this preseason (5 of them constituting stops, per Pro Football Focus) while playing 50 snaps on special teams. He got on the field with five of the six kicking units, primarily playing with the coverage and return teams on punts and kickoffs. New Orleans has been trying to find a way for him to make their roster, but it remains to be seen if he showed enough to surpass a veteran like Jon Bostic or Zack Baun.

There’s another option on offense, too. Let’s talk about right tackle Lewis Kidd (Montana State). Kidd saw more snaps as a blocker (147) than anyone, but he wasn’t charged with allowing a sack through three preseason games and drew just one penalty. He did yield six pressures and he probably isn’t someone you want seeing meaningful snaps, but he’s worth holding onto as a project behind Ryan Ramczyk and Landon Young. And that’s valuable considering the many injuries the Saints have sustained along the offensive line. At some point you just need bodies to fill out the depth chart.

As for other former undrafted free agents in the mix: look for rookies like wide receivers Dai’Jean Dixon (Nicholls) and Rashid Shaheed (Weber State), as well as defensive backs DaMarcus Fields (Texas Tech) and Vincent Gray (Michigan) to get some consideration for the practice squad. It would be a big surprise to see them on the 53-man roster, but the door slams open if the Saints trade a veteran like Deonte Harty or Bradley Roby. Other teams see how deep the Saints run at receiver and corner, among other position groups, and they’ve already begun calling New Orleans to see who may be available. If a more-experienced player is moved before the roster cuts deadline, one of those undrafted rookies stands to benefit. That may be what it takes for one of their number to make the team.

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Tracking Saints' 53-man roster cuts

Story originally appeared on Saints Wire