Saints have discussed holding joint practices during training camp with multiple teams

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, left, talks with general manager Mickey Loomis during an NFL football practice in Metairie, La., Thursday, May 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

For Mario Edwards Jr., this was a chance to get back close to home.

The defensive end, who signed with the Saints on Friday, was born a little over 100 miles from New Orleans in the Mississippi gulf coast town of Gautier.

He lived there until he was 8, then moved to Texas to live with his father, who at the time was playing with the Dallas Cowboys.

So yeah, he grew up a Cowboys fans.

"But this is a business and I love the Saints and it was close to home so I loved it," Edwards said on Friday, moments after signing with his new team.

Edwards adds depth to the Saints defensive line. He played his first three seasons with the Oakland Raiders before playing in 2018 with the New York Giants. Edwards, who can play both inside and outside, predominantly lined up at defensive tackle last season. He recorded 14 tackles, 2 sacks and 3 tackles for loss with the Giants. The former Florida State standout could help fill the void with Sheldon Rankins (Achilles) expected to start the start the season on the physically unable to perform list.

What does Edwards bring to the Saints?

"Just someone who is going to work hard and versatility and someone who is going to get after that passer and give 110 percent every time," Edwards said. "I'm excited to be here and anything I can do to contribute."

Edwards says having a father who played in the NFL made the free agency process easier. Mario Edwards Sr. played with the Cowboys, Dolphins and Buccaneers and currently serves as player development coach at Florida State.

"It's always a little weird not knowing what the next step is for you," Edwards Jr. said. "But just having faith and my dad having been in the process before giving me the blueprint and guidelines on how things go. He told me not to get too high with the highs or too low with the lows and just stay even Steven. That was my mindset."

It's one of the many lessons the younger Edwards learned growing up with the same name as a dad who played in the NFL.

"It comes with the territory," Edwards said. "Having a dad who has done it set the blue print for me. He let me know early that If anything happens and you drop the ball, nobody will feel sorry for you because you had the blue print in front of you and that was your choice. He was tough on me from the start."

Now, Edwards returns close to where he started, an hour and 45 minute drive away from his Mississippi gulf coast hometown. He's where he wants to be.

"This was the best fit for me," Edwards said.


Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.