The New Orleans Saints released veteran punter Brandon Fields, a league source told The Advocate on Tuesday, a clear sign that Thomas Morstead is ready to return from the strained quadriceps that cost him two games on the sidelines.
Fields, who was signed to fill in for Morstead after the Saints’ normal starter was injured on a kickoff against Dallas, punted in two games for New Orleans, averaging 41.2 yards on 10 punts.
Now that the Saints feel comfortable releasing Fields, all signs point to Morstead returning this week against Indianapolis, a key development for both the punting and kicking game.
A healthy Morstead might have helped allow New Orleans to make a move at kicker on Monday. The Saints released Zach Hocker and signed Kai Forbath, a veteran who is accurate from within 50 yards but doesn’t have the leg strength to be a consistent kickoff artist. Morstead, on the other hand, is one of the league’s best, and he should resume those duties if he’s fully healthy.
The Saints signed wide receiver T.J. Graham to take over a key special teams role, multiple sources told The Advocate on Tuesday.
Graham, a 5-foot-11, 188-pounder, is a fifth-year veteran who has played for three teams.
Drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the third round in 2012, Graham caught 54 passes in his first two seasons there, then spent the 2013 season with the Tennessee Titans. Picked up by the New York Jets in 2014, Graham caught three passes and made an impact on special teams, but he was cut at the end of training camp.
A burner, Graham posted a personal-best of 10.21 seconds in the 100-meter dash in college as a track star at North Carolina State, and he’s got a history of playing key special teams roles as a gunner on both kick and punt coverage.
New Orleans had an opening for a special teams gunner. Forced to release Don Jones last week because of injury-related additions, the Saints watched Jones get scooped up by Cleveland, leaving a spot open once Morstead started to get healthy.
Adding Graham to the roster had ripple effects all the way down to the practice squad. With Graham on the squad, the Saints released rookie R.J. Harris off of the practice squad, even though he was named the scout team’s special teamer of the week for the practices leading up to the Atlanta game. In his place, New Orleans signed veteran safety Akeem Harris, another special teams ace who might be a candidate for the active roster down the road.
New Orleans also placed rookie guard Cyril Lemon on the practice squad injured list, a move that allowed the Saints to bring in veteran Ryan Seymour, a versatile interior lineman who entered the league as a guard but started three games at center for the Cleveland Browns last season. Seymour was released in Cleveland after being hit with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.