Cam Jordan’s life shifted into hyperdrive two weeks ago.
First, Jordan signed a contract extension with the Saints, a $60 million extension that could keep Jordan in New Orleans for the next six years, including $33.469 million in guaranteed money, a deal that instantly transformed the standout defensive end into a franchise cornerstone.
Nine days later, Jordan’s girlfriend, Nikki, gave birth to his first child, a baby boy named Caleb Tank Jordan who came into the world with his father’s initials — his dad’s name is Cameron Tyler Jordan — and a website already dedicated in his honor, full of photos before the little one even finished his first week.
Two milestone moments, the first providing for the security of the second, all in a matter of days.
“It’s like, ‘Oh, I got a new contract, what am I gonna buy?’ ” Jordan said. “Diapers. That’s what I’m buying first.”
Both of Jordan’s moments of elation arrived with the full weight of responsibility following close behind.
Fully charged now with the task of providing and caring for little Caleb at home, Jordan simultaneously finds himself bearing a heavier yoke in the Saints’ defense. By handing Jordan a deal that could be worth at least $12 million per year, the Saints made the fifth-year defensive end one of the 20 highest-paid non-quarterbacks in the NFL, and it’s up to the burgeoning star to live up to that billing.
For his part, Jordan seems to understand the responsibility he’s been handed.
Even as the offseason began and Jordan entered his contract year -- the final year of his rookie deal, when most players either re-sign with their initial team or start thinking about free agency -- he wanted to be with the Saints all along. His father, Steve, spent all 12 of his seasons in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings, and the younger Jordan has heard enough stories about his dad’s playing days over the years to notice a pattern emerging.
His father is always talking about how much he misses his teammates. Unlike some players, who hit their contract year trying to force the organization’s hand, Jordan, who has built some close friendships during his time in New Orleans, decided that he’d play out his final year, even if the organization didn’t make him a priority.
“I was going to be here regardless,” Jordan said. “This is the place that I saw myself being.”
The big defensive end had no reason to worry. According to Sean Payton, locking up Jordan was one of the Saints’ highest priorities this offseason.
“It’s great to be wanted,” Jordan said. “That being said, I’m glad I got the contract, but now it’s about furthering everything I’ve done so far and becoming a better overall player.’’
While talks between his agent and the Saints progressed this offseason, Jordan says he hit the film room, evaluating a season that didn’t live up to the lofty goals he set for himself last season. One year after he blossomed into a dominant force with 12.5 sacks, 13 quarterback hits and 50 hurries, Jordan finished with 7.5 sacks, four hits and 37 hurries a year ago.
Jordan didn’t like everything he saw.
“Of course, everyone’s going to look at sack total; I look at being a pure disruptive player, so that being said, there needs to be more hurries, there needs to be more quarterback hits,” Jordan said. “Some things were clearly missing last year. I’ve broken down enough film to know that I’ve got a couple things I still need to work on.”
Jordan declined to offer any details about his findings; he doesn’t want to show his hand.
But at his best, Jordan is so valuable that the Saints rarely take him off the field. He played 1,018 snaps last season, second on the team only to departed linebacker Curtis Lofton.
“He plays the run well, he plays in the sub well, and he gives you some flexibility to where you want to line him up,” Payton said. “The key is where and how we want to deploy him in the nickel, but he will be a part of us getting better on defense this year for sure.”
Payton is alluding to the fact that the 6-foot-4, 287-pound Jordan can rush either from the edge or the interior. If the Saints move him around, Jordan might have more opportunities to wreak havoc and fix the mysterious issues he found in his own game.
Jordan is driven by the missed opportunities.
“I definitely think I didn’t meet the standard last year,” Jordan said. “I put that on me, and think that I’ve got to become a better player, a more knowledgeable player this year. That’s what it’s all about, it’s about progressing and never being happy with where you’re at.”
Except for the last two weeks. Hard not to be happy when two blessings hit at once.