The New Orleans Saints re-signed safety Jamarca Sanford, a source confirmed to The Advocate on Thursday.
Sanford, an eight-year veteran, played a key role on special teams for the Saints last season and proved capable of filling holes on the defense on short notice.
When Rafael Bush went down with a torn pectoral muscle in the season opener, Sanford played 41 snaps at free safety — the first time he’d ever played the position before — and held up well.
Sanford also came up big by picking off Matt Ryan in the season finale to set up Kai Forbath‘s game-winning field goal against Atlanta. In 105 defensive snaps, Sanford made six tackles and the interception, and he added eight tackles on special teams.
Bringing back Sanford doesn’t necessarily fill the Saints’ need for a third safety. Bush played a key role as a swing safety behind Kenny Vaccaro and Jairus Byrd, and New Orleans now has Sanford, CFL import Erik Harris, Vinnie Sunseri coming back off of injury and practice squad safety Alden Darby on the roster.
Attention to Hill
Josh Hill is starting to receive some attention on the open market.
The Saints tendered the tight end at the lowest level earlier this month, but that hasn’t prevented teams from taking a look at him. Hill met with the Jets on Thursday and has scheduled another visit with an unnamed team, according to a source.
By tendering Hill, the Saints have the right to match any offer he receives from another team. Since New Orleans tendered him at the lowest level, it will not receive any compensation if he signs with another team.
Hill caught 16 passes for 120 yards last season.
If he remains with the Saints, he’ll be behind Coby Fleener and Michael Hoomanawanui on the depth chart.
DT comes to town
The Saints remain focused on defense.
After signing linebackers Nate Stupar and James Laurinaitis on Wednesday, New Orleans hosted free agent defensive tackle Nick Fairley for a visit on Thursday, according to a source.
The 6-foot-5, 291-pound Fairley recorded 29 tackles and a half-sack during 15 games with the Rams last season. A former first-round pick, Fairley was limited to eight games in 2014 because of a knee injury, his final of four seasons with the Lions.
His best years came in 2012 and 2013 when he recorded 11.5 sacks over those two seasons. He only had one sack in 2014.
New Orleans has continued to show interest in defensive players, after also visiting with free agent defensive tackle Jason Hatcher earlier this week, according to a source. The former Grambling standout last played for the Redskins.
The Fairley visit was first reported by NFL Network.
The Saints are about to hit a big milestone.
New Orleans is on the verge of its 50th season of NFL football, a history that dates all the way back to John Gilliam’s kickoff return for a touchdown in the season opener against the Los Angeles Rams in 1967.
To commemorate the franchise’s longevity, the Saints will wear a special “50th Season” patches on their uniforms in 2016, and the logo will also adorn the playing surface at the Mercedes-Bena Superdome.
“As we prepare to kick off our 50th season with the upcoming NFL draft, we are excited to recognize the players, historic moments and stories of our team’s first 50 seasons in New Orleans,” Saints owner Tom Benson said in a statement. “We are also looking forward to celebrating and inviting the participation of our season ticket holders, fans and region who have been the foundation of all of our successes and inspiration in times of challenge.”
New Orleans is also installing new video boards that cost $25 million.
“I could not be more excited to see the new video boards during 2016 season, which I am told will be among the largest in the world in our stadium,” Benson said. “I am proud that we can provide these continued important fan enhancements on so many levels for those attending our games.”
Hall of Fame dates set
The Saints have set the dates for their annual Saints Hall of Fame celebrations.
New Orleans will hold its sixth annual Saints Hall of Fame Reception/Auction at 5-8 p.m. May 15 at the Saints indoor facility.
Then, on Monday, the Saints will hold their annual Hall of Fame golf tournament at the Chateau Golf and Country Club in Kenner. Fans can purchase the right to attend the reception or play in the golf tournament by going to saintshalloffame.com.