On a day when teams spend most of their time releasing players without an immediate return, the New Orleans Saints were able to get a little something back from one transaction Tuesday.
New Orleans traded kick returner Jalen Saunders to New England for a conditional seventh-round pick, meaning the Saints will get an extra selection if Saunders plays for the Patriots this season.
And the Patriots get a player they got a chance to examine closely when the two teams met at The Greenbrier for joint practices.
Saunders, a former fourth-round pick of the New York Jets, emerged as a return option for the Saints late last season, taking a kickoff back 99 yards against Atlanta and averaging 11 yards per return on nine punt returns. But Marcus Murphy‘s emergence as a return man — Sean Payton declared that Murphy would make the team after Sunday’s third preseason game — essentially rendered Saunders’ role on the roster moot.
Now, Saunders will have a chance to win New England’s return job after returning five kicks for an average of 26 yards against Houston last week, including a 50-yard return that Saunders nearly broke into the open.
New Orleans placed rookie cornerback P.J. Williams on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday with a reported torn hamstring, according to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Williams, a Florida State product who battled an injury throughout training camp and took part in only one week of practice, plus the preseason game against New England, was the second of the team’s two third-round picks.
New Orleans projected Williams as a potential competitor at a nickel cornerback position that has been filled by Delvin Breaux and fifth-round pick Damian Swann in Williams’ absence.
As a third-round pick, the Saints have plenty invested in Williams, enough to protect by him placing him on injured reserve, as opposed to those who were waived with an injury designation.
“All of those players that are waived-injured are subject to claim,” Payton said. “A player that’s put on IR is not.”
Amid all of the cuts, the Saints claimed former Miami Dolphins cornerback Sammy Seamster off of waivers Tuesday.
Seamster, a 6-foot, 205-pounder from Middle Tennessee State, played in two games for the Dolphins as a rookie in 2014.
Claiming a player like Seamster at the 75-man cutdown essentially offers the Saints a chance to get an extended evaluation of him.
“To claim a player to your 75 is fairly easy to do. It’s much more challenging to claim a player to your 53,” Payton said. “We would have been unable to do that if it was just a 53, so we have a chance to look at a player here for a week.”
Most of the Saints’ key veterans will have a light workload, if any work at all, in Green Bay.
But New Orleans could use the game to give a couple of veterans on the way back from injury some time.
“There might be a few guys,” Payton said. “There are a couple of guys who I’d like to see get a little bit more work, maybe that missed the game this past weekend.”
Brandon Browner, Kenny Vaccaro, Jairus Byrd, Dannell Ellerbe, C.J. Spiller and Khiry Robinson would all fit that bill for this group, and Payton left the door open.
“I think we’ve got a pretty good idea in regards to when those guys will be back, and we’ll plan accordingly,” Payton said. “Obviously, the first goal is getting them ready for Arizona. If any one of those guys are in a position to possibly play Thursday night, those are candidates to get some work.”