INDIANAPOLIS — The New Orleans Saints’ kicking situation has rarely been stable for more than a year or two in the Sean Payton era.
Even Garrett Hartley’s six seasons in New Orleans were marked by uncertainty. For whatever reason, the Saints haven’t been able to find a kicking equivalent to Thomas Morstead, who has been a rock since the team took him with a fifth-round pick in 2009.
New Orleans might look to rectify that situation in the draft. Florida State’s Roberto Aguayo mentioned Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine that the Saints are in the market for a kicker.
“There’s a couple top teams that are interested. There are still teams waiting for free agency,” Aguayo said, “New Orleans is looking for a kicker.”
New Orleans opened last season with Zach Hocker and closed it with Kai Forbath, but neither kicker could stabilize a kicking game that finished second-to-last in the NFL in field-goal percentage at 69.2. Hocker and Forbath made 9 of 13 field-goal attempts, and the Saints missed two extra points.
Forbath finished the season in New Orleans but isn’t under contract for 2016.
When Aguayo and his agent, Jimmy Sexton, looked at the potential kicker market in the draft, they identified the Saints as a clear possibility. Aguayo, who left Florida State a year early with his degree in hand, might be the best kicker available in this draft after making 69 of 78 field goals (88.5 percent) and all of his 190 extra points in college.
“Definitely talking to them. Their team is in need of a kicker,” said Aguayo, who has talked to all 32 NFL teams already.
LSU tackle Jerald Hawkins betting on himself
Last year, LSU cornerback Jalen Collins was told by the draft advisory board that his best bet was to return to school. Collins ignored that advice and was rewarded by being selected in the second round.
A year later, Jerald Hawkins is hoping for a similar outcome.
The LSU tackle received the same advice and also decided against it. After speaking to his friends, family and former teammates La’el Collins and Trai Turner, he decided entering the draft was his best option.
Now, he’s projected to be a mid-round pick by many draft analysts.
“I didn’t want to jump into a situation and not think about the outcome,” Hawkins said. “That was a big thing, talking to my family and my brothers about it. It played a role.”
Hawkins said he has spent the time since the season ended improving the strength in his lower body.
“I was struggling this year with a high-ankle sprain throughout the whole year,” he said. “I really couldn’t show my power with my lower level.”
Vadal Alexander: lean and mean
LSU’s Vadal Alexander brought a little less of himself to the combine.
Alexander, who carried 336 pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame when he weighed in at the Senior Bowl, showed up at the NFL scouting combine 10 pounds lighter Wednesday, a precursor to the speed and agility tests that will dominate the opening of on-field workouts Thursday.
“I actually want to be lower than that,” Alexander said. “I look forward to losing weight to help my times and help me be quicker. I want to be down in the 315, 320 range.”
The 326 pounds Alexander brought to Indianapolis is right around the weight he carried at LSU.
But he’s in the process of overhauling his body to get ready for the next level.
“Not as solid as I am now. I kind of changed my body composition: more muscle, things like that,” Alexander said. “I want to lose at least five more pounds to be able to handle the speed and react to stuff, because you have to be a certain body type to handle what defensive ends and defensive tackles can do in the NFL.”
Alexander’s weight also might make him look even more versatile to NFL teams.
Deemed the second-best guard in the draft by NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, Alexander has also been approached by some NFL teams about playing tackle, the position he played in his final season at LSU.
Peyton Manning watch
The Denver Broncos are still waiting to find out what the future holds for Peyton Manning.
The quarterback figures to announce his retirement this offseason, but Denver coach Gary Kubiak is still waiting to hear Manning’s plans. He also said there is no rush.
“We want him to enjoy what just took place and we’ll go from there. Nothing has changed from that standpoint,” Kubiak said. “The plan continues to be in place. I think he and John (Elway) have had some conversations. I had a brief one with him yesterday. We will probably be talking today (or) I know this week. But we want him to take his time and we’ll work from there. Nothing has changed.”
If Manning decides to keep playing, the Broncos can save $19 million against the salary cap by releasing him.
If that happens, it’s likely Denver would try to work something out with Brock Osweilier, who is scheduled to reach free agency.
“I think he has a bright future, obviously,” Kubiak said of Osweiler. “Did a heck of a job for us. Started seven games for us, played against really good people, had some tough situations and played very well. I think he has a bright future, obviously. We think the world of him. We want him to be a part of our football team.”
Brandon Browner’s expiration date
Brandon Browner made it clear last month that he was no longer going to be a member of the Saints by posting on social media that he was being let go.
What wasn’t clear was when the move was actually going to take place. The transaction will take place March 9, according to a source, when the new league year begins.
By waiting to make the move, New Orleans can choose to take the $2.6 million cap charge Browner carries all in 2016 or split the charge over two seasons by designating him a June 1 cut.