Sean Payton took a chance on Wil Lutz back in 2016.
Lutz has made sure that gamble paid off.
Lutz, after three stellar seasons with the Saints, signed a five-year deal Wednesday to remain in New Orleans.
"It's exciting," Lutz said. "This is the team that kind of took a shot in the dark on me from the start. I'm obviously excited that I've been able to back up Sean's decision to stick his neck out for me. To stay here after the carousel that's been here is exciting me. Hopefully there are a few more of these to come."
Lutz was a restricted free agent. The Georgia State graduate has made 87 percent of his NFL field goals (87 of 100). Lutz had his best NFL season in 2019, connecting on 28 of his 30 kicks.
Saints kicker Wil Lutz set a franchise record at the end of the second quarter when he kicked a 43-yard field goal against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
During the season, he broke Morten Andersen's franchise record by connecting on 26 consecutive field goals. Andersen, a Hall of Famer, made 25 in a row during the 1992 and 1993 seasons.
"Wil works his butt off," said Saints linebacker and special teams star Craig Robertson. "His deal came out today and he earned every penny of it."
Lutz credits working with a cohesive unit of long snapper Zach Line and holder Thomas Morstead for his success.
"When you're working with the same unit, you know what you're going to get," Lutz said. "We work so hard and we trust each other. I know when points are on the line, I know what I can expect from those two and it makes life a whole lot easier on me."
Before Lutz came to New Orleans, the Saints had used 10 different kickers (in games) in the first 10 years of the Payton era.
Payton got a recommendation from Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh about Lutz in 2016 and the rest is history. Lutz had spent camp with the Ravens, but was a long shot to make a roster that also included standout veteran kicker Justin Tucker.
"The ultimate goal for any athlete is to reach your next contract," Lutz said. "I never looked back after I signed. I just kept my head down and kept working. If you do what you need to do, this is what it leads to. I'm not going to say I'm shocked. But it's extremely gratifying and an amazing opportunity for me."
Lutz is the third special teams contributor to be retained by the Saints in free agency. The team signed Robertson and safety Chris Banjo to contract extensions on Monday.
"Those are our two special teams core leaders," Lutz said. "Craig is our captain and Chris is just as much a leader. We have Taysom (Hill) back. So the whole gang is back together and we'll see how the pieces fall going forward. But there is no drop-off. We get to pick up right where we left off so it's exciting."
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The day after the Saints' NFC championship game loss to the Los Angeles Rams, linebacker Craig Robertson talked about his future.