The Saints on Friday agreed to a one-year deal with one of their top special-teams players, backup linebacker Ramon Humber, the team announced. News of the deal with Humber, a free agent, came a day after New Orleans’ 2013 special-teams captain (Will Herring) had agreed to a one-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys.
However, on Friday, ESPN Dallas reported that the deal between Herring and the Cowboys was off. The report didn’t cite a reason — it only said it was not due to a failed physical and that Herring never officially signed a deal.
Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth, Texas, Star-Telegram reported both Herring and the Cowboys had “a change of heart.”
Humber tied for third in solo special-teams tackles (six) last year for the Saints. He also recovered one onside kick each in a Week 15 loss to St. Louis and in a Week 16 defeat to Carolina.
For his performance, he drew almost 63,000 Pro Bowl fan votes, which was ninth among special teamers. He wasn’t selected for the Pro Bowl, however.
Positioned under inside linebackers Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne on the depth chart, Humber lined up in some of the Saints’ specialty packages on defense, recording 0.5 sacks and two tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He arrived in New Orleans in 2010 after going to Super Bowl XLIV with the Indianapolis Colts, who lost that game to the Saints.
“We put a lot on his plate,” Saints special teams coach Greg McMahon said when asked about Humber toward the end of the 2013 season. “And we know what we’re going to get in this player — he’s dependable; he makes plays when he needs to make plays, so that’s why we kind of lean on him.”
The 26-year-old Humber — who entered the NFL in 2009 as an undrafted free agent out of North Dakota State — earned a base salary of $715,000 in 2013. Terms of his new deal weren’t immediately disclosed.
As for Herring, he led the Saints’ special teams unit in tackles and forced a fumble. Rotating in at inside linebacker on defense, he also intercepted a pass in a Week 4 win vs. Miami and had six solo tackles.
Herring, a 30-year-old who played in college at Auburn, is again a free agent. His contract with Dallas was supposed to be for one year and $1.02 million, with a $65,000 signing bonus and $300,000 in total guarantees, USA Today’s Tom Pelissero had reported Friday.
Other free agency chatter:
— (1:42 p.m.) Right tackle Zach Strief’s agent weighed in on a Miami Herald report that the player had declined an invitation to visit the Dolphins on Friday. Ralph Cindrich said Strief has not set up any official free-agent visits, though Cindrich has talked to teams about his client, including the Saints, for whom Strief has played his entire right-year career.
“Nothing to look at,” Cindrich wrote in an email. “Zach is out of town.”
Cindrich, though, added that it “looks like we’re moving” to the Saints. However, he couldn’t see anything being finalized before at least Monday.
— (1 p.m.) A Miami Herald report that said Strief — who the Saints allowed to become an unrestricted free agent this week — declined an invitation to visit the Dolphins was widely circulated early Friday afternoon. Then, Herald columnist Armando Salguero tweeted out he was told Strief expects to return to New Orleans, though nothing was at all definite.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport followed up with a report that said there was mutual interest between the Saints and Strief to keep him in New Orleans, citing Cindrich. Cindrich had told The Advocate the same before free agency began and Strief went on the open market.
Considered one of the best remaining tackles left in free agency, Strief has been one of New Orleans’ offensive captains, and he has been one of their top locker-room leaders.
A seventh round draft pick for New Orleans in 2006, he’s started 42 games for the Black and Gold, including the playoffs. Head coach Sean Payton inserted him into the starting lineup three seasons ago.
After allowing just three sacks and four quarterback hits on one of the most pass-heavy offenses in the National Football League, the analytics website Pro Football Focus also gave Strief the seventh highest rating among tackles in the NFL.
Note: This post has been updated since it was first published.