Carolina Panthers free safety Kurt Coleman (20) pushes New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) during the NFL Wild Card Playoff game in New Orleans, La., Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018. The Saints won 31-26.

Advocate staff photo by MAX BECHERER

Kurt Coleman had plenty of options when he made the rounds at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis as a veteran free agent looking for a home. 

Cincinnati wanted Coleman. So did the New York Giants, a team led by Coleman's old general manager, Dave Gettleman. A few others were waiting in the wings.

None of those places painted a picture as clear as the Saints, who gave the eight-year veteran a three-year, $18 million deal to come to New Orleans

"I do a lot of different things for a team, and it’s not just playing on Sundays," Coleman said. "I think it’s Monday to Saturday, as well, and we have a young defensive secondary, and I’m excited to work with those guys.'

With Kenny Vaccaro headed elsewhere in free agency after five years in New Orleans, the Saints have four promising starters in the secondary — Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley at cornerback, Vonn Bell and Marcus Williams at safety. None who have more than two years of experience. 

Adding Coleman gives the Saints the veteran voice they have tried to keep in the defensive backfield the past couple of seasons. Roman Harper handled that role two years ago; Rafael Bush served as the veteran voice a year ago.

Coleman, like both Harper and Bush, has strong ties to the current Saints defense. Middle linebacker A.J. Klein was a teammate in Carolina; Coleman knows Bell well.

And Harper was a strong thread connecting Coleman to New Orleans.

"He’s been in that atmosphere for so many years, he understands the dynamic," Coleman said. "I favor his advice a lot, because he’s been through it all, he understands the game and the defensive scheme."

Coleman will be expected to play a much bigger role than either Harper or Bush.The veteran is expected to replace Vaccaro's role in the defense as a versatile safety with a variety of roles.

A ballhawking presence, Coleman is also better suited to drop back and play a deep zone than Vaccaro, who was at his best near the line of scrimmage.

"Moving me around, I think, allows me to kind of keep the quarterback on his toes and allows me to play to the best of my ability," Coleman said.

Coleman, who had 11 interceptions in the first two seasons of his three-year tenure in Carolina, is coming off of his worst year with the Panthers, a season that featured no interceptions and led to his release. 

But Coleman believes the drop-off can be attributed in part to the first major injury of his career, a sprained MCL that cost him four games and lingered once he returned, working through a knee brace and scar tissue.

The knee is no longer a problem. Coleman has never played in a full 16 games in his career, but he has played in 14 or more seven times.

"I haven’t had any surgeries that have held me out," Coleman said. "My knee feels great. I was told that I have the knees of an 18-year-old."

When Coleman first signed with Carolina, he saw a team with a Super Bowl shot on the horizon, a belief that was realized when the Panthers reached the title fight in his first season.

Ultimately, he feels the same way about the Saints now.

"This team was literally knocking on the doorstep of a Super Bowl last year," Coleman said. "That’s exciting. I think this team is right there, right where they want to be."

Follow Joel A. Erickson on Twitter, @JoelAErickson.