For once, the New Orleans Saints got a big jump on signing the players they selected in the NFL draft.
With preparations continuing Thursday for a three-day rookie minicamp that begins Friday with two practices, the Saints signed four of the five players they chose in last month’s draft — including safety Kenny Vaccaro, their first-round pick.
General Manager Mickey Loomis announced that the team had signed Vaccaro, who was taken with the 15th pick, along with one of their two third-round choices and their fifth- and sixth-round picks. The others signed were tackle Terron Armstead, the first of their two selections in the third round; wide receiver Kenny Stills Jr. (fifth); and outside linebacker Rufus Johnson (sixth).
Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but all four signed four-year contracts. That leaves the Saints with just one unsigned pick going into their rookie minicamp: defensive tackle John Jenkins, their second selection in the third round.
Armstead was the 75th selection in the draft, while Jenkins was taken seven picks later when the Saints sent a pair of fourth-round picks to the Miami Dolphins for their third-round selection. Stills was the 144th player chosen, and Johnson went No. 183.
The Saints in the past took their time signing their draftees, often not even starting negotiations until just before the start of training camp in late July.
But with the collective bargaining agreement that went into effect in 2011, which includes a slotting system for draft picks, signings aren’t as complicated as they used to be.
Last summer, the Saints signed defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, their top pick, on June 28 and four days later got cornerback Corey White (fifth round) and tackle Marcel Jones (seventh) to sign.
Guard Andrew Tiller (sixth) and wide receiver Nick Toon (fourth) wrapped up the rookie class signings July 3 and 16.
Vaccaro is a versatile defender who played both safety positions in college as well as in the nickel package. He finished his career with 264 tackles, two sacks, 16 tackles for a loss, five interceptions and 21 passes defensed while starting 32 games in four seasons.
Armstead, a 6-foot-5, 304-pounder who played left tackle at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, soared up draft boards in the months leading up to the event when he posted a time of 4.71 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Stills was an extremely productive receiver in three seasons at Oklahoma, catching 204 passes for 2,594 yards with 24 touchdowns while starting all 38 games he played in before giving up his final year of eligibility.
Johnson was a second-team All-American as a senior at Division II Tarleton State. A former junior-college player who played end in a 4-3 scheme, Johnson, who has 4.72-second speed in the 40-yard dash, was scouted to be an outside linebacker in the Saints’ new 3-4 alignment.