Much like the unseasonably "cool" weather that has invaded Louisiana and the deep south just in time for the holiday weekend, news blurbs from around the NFL have begun to chill. Unless your team's most dangerous skill player has been squarely in the midst of a franchise tag dispute, the quiet season between the final slate of organized team activities and the opening of training camps across the league has descended upon us Football fans. However, since the word "quiet" has absolutely no correlation whatsoever with New Orleans in general, here are some updates from the Big Easy..
About That Franchise Tag Thing...
Saints fans have been up to their heads in Jimmy Graham updates over the last three months, and with this week's ruling going against his wishes, the next stage of contract negotiations have effectively kicked into gear. As of today, Graham has yet to appeal arbitrator Stephen Burbank's verdict. He has until next weekend to make a decision on whether or not to launch such an appeal, which would be heard by a three-person committee in accordance with the league's CBA. Jimmy Graham and the Saints have until July 15 to negotiate terms of a long-term contract.
The most likely outcome remains Graham and the Saints agreeing to a long-term deal at some point between now and July 15th, just 9 days before the team reports to its West Virginia-based training camp. The Saints have an offer on the table for Graham which would make him the league's highest-paid tight end, and would see him earn nearly $2.5 million more annually than his tight end-designated franchise tag would pay for one season's work.
Burbank staunchly sided with the Saints in this case, and it would seem like a bit of a long shot to have an appeal reverse the ruling. Therefore, New Orleans has the leverage here, and with the best interests of both player and franchise connected to a long-term pact, it would appear that a deal should be reached in the near future.
Colston Feeling Fine
Marques Colston once again proclaimed that there are no lingering issues with the foot problem that hampered him in 2013. Colston had addressed the issue earlier in the offseason, and is ready to return to his post as the team's main threat at the receiver position.
"I feel really good," Colston told the Sun Herald this week. "The foot, I know, was addressed earlier in the offseason. It's really not an issue. I've been able to get out here with really no restrictions and just run around and feel good." Marques Colston says his injury problems are now behind him.
The former 7th round pick in 2006 saw his stats dip across the board last season, catching 75 balls for 943 yards and 5 touchdowns, the lowest seasonal totals he has compiled since the 2008 season, when he missed 5 games. Colston missed just one game last year, but with a clean bill of health, hopes to re-establish himself as a reliable target man anywhere on the field for Brees, who knows better than anyone what a healthy number 12 can bring to the team's potent offense.
"Marques has as big of a contribution now as he ever has," Brees said. "Even if he's not getting the ball, he's a threat. Teams have to game plan for him and therefore, that opens up opportunities for others to get the ball."
Greer Not Pondering Return...Yet
One of the downers from the resurgent Saints' 2013 season was the loss of veteran corner Jabari Greer, who succumbed to a serious left knee injury during a November win over the San Francisco 49ers. Greer tore multiple ligaments in the knee, and continues to rehabilitate through the summer in New Orleans, where he still resides.
Greer has yet to decide whether or not to pursue another opportunity in the NFL, following his February release from New Orleans. He is focused on his rehab, as well as the newfound time he has to spend with his family. Jabari Greer is still rehabbing from last season's knee injury.
“It just really depends on what God has for me," Greer told ESPN recently. "I think right now, today, I’m very content with where I am. I’m very happy with being able to invest in my wife and children. But in the future, I’m sure that itch is gonna come, because it does for everybody. I guess it just depends if I decide to scratch it or not."
If Greer's rehab continues to go well, the Saints, or any other team for that matter, could have his number on standby in case of emergency. The Saints made similar moves during their triumphant Super Bowl-winning season in 2009, bringing both Mike McKenzie and Chris McAllister into the fold mid-season. Like Greer, McKenzie had suffered a serious knee injury in the prior season, but came back to play a part the following year when needed. Greer, 32, recorded 30 tackles with 12 pass defenses and an interception last year before his season came to an abrupt end.
Life After Football For Devery
Another former Saint adapting to life post-Football is Devery Henderson. Henderson recently conducted a football camp in his hometown of Opelousas, where the former Saints receiver was assisted by current Saints wideout Robert Meachem. Henderson spoke of the adjustment he and so many other ex-pros have to come to grips with at some point in time once the cleats have been hung up.
"It's definitely different; I find myself with nothing to do, but for the most part, it gives my body a chance to rest, to get through all of the aches and stuff like that," Henderson told Baton Rouge news station WAFB. "I have to keep pushing myself through pain and stuff like that. But for the most part, it's been quite an adjustment and I'm adjusting to it pretty well. " Devery Henderson celebrates after scoring against the Vikings in the 2010 season opener.
Henderson has lived quite the Football life. After a standout prep career at Opelousas High School, the speedster, who also excelled in Track and Field, took his talents down I-10 to Baton Rouge and LSU, where he went on to win a National Championship as a senior in 2003. His most memorable play as a Tiger may have come the year before, when he hauled in the famous "Bluegrass Miracle" touchdown reception as time ticked off the clock in a last-gasp road victory over Kentucky.
Henderson was selected in the 2nd round of the 2004 NFL Draft, and went on to carve out a niche as a potent deep threat in the Saints' offense en route to an eventual Super Bowl triumph in 2009. He quickly became a reliable downfield target for Drew Brees, using his speed to pop the top off of many a defense. He had some of the best games of his career against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their notorious "Tampa 2" scheme. In fact, by the end of the 2012 season, what would turn out to be his final year in Black and Gold, Henderson led all active NFL receivers with a 17.9 yards-per-catch average.
Henderson's most memorable play as a Saint came in 2006, just his third year with the team. In the Saints' first game back inside the Superdome, following the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, Henderson took a double reverse 11 yards to paydirt, giving the team its first home offensive touchdown of the season. Only fitting that a native Louisianian was the first to find the end zone as the team made its long-awaited homecoming.
Injuries started to take their toll on Henderson towards the end of his tenure as a Saint. He reached the end of his deal in 2012 and was not re-signed. After a brief training camp stint with the Washington Redskins, he was released last August and ultimately did not latch on with another club. The Saints were considering bringing him back into the fold before Meachem suddenly became available after he was released by the San Diego Chargers. The Saints signed the younger Meachem instead, satisfying their need for a veteran receiver capable of stretching the field.
Henderson told WAFB that he is hoping to eventually sign a one-day contract in order to officially retire as a New Orleans Saint. In the meantime, he is back at LSU, working on finishing his Sociology degree. He hopes to complete the required coursework by December.
"One of the things I really wanted to do was go back and get my degree. In my eyes, I waited too long, but it's never really too late and I'm trying to focus on that right now. It's always good to get that education and get that degree. It's one thing I can always show my kids and have that motivation for them," Henderson said.
A national championship, a Super Bowl ring, two NFC title games with a long list of memorable plays in between, Devery Henderson experieced plenty of magical moments in his football career.
Rookie Ready To Rock
Finally, Brandin Cooks has had a busy offseason since the Saints traded up to select him in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft in May. Cooks took part in the team's rookie minicamp before returning to Oregon State, where his class schedule ran into mid-June, keeping him away from the majority of the Saints' offseason program. He was, however, able to return to New Orleans in time for the club's final round of OTAs in late-June, where he flashed his impressive array of skills in front of his veteran teammates for the first time.
Since then, Cooks has attended the league's rookie symposium, while also spending time with his new Quarterback, Drew Brees, in San Diego in an attempt to learn as much about the Saints' diverse offensive playbook as he possibly can in advance of camp. Cooks also has some lofty goals for his inaugural NFL campaign.
"I want to show that i'm worthy of a first-round pick," Cooks told the Saints' official website. "Try to help the team win a Super Bowl. Whatever it takes. Whether it's two balls or fifty balls, i'm just willing to help the team no matter what. My goal is to come in here and start, and help the team win games."
Cooks was asked about which defensive back he was most excited to line up against, and the answer he gave should come as a surprise to no one.
"I'm looking forward most to playing against Richard Sherman," he said. "Obviously it would have to be in the playoffs since we don't have them in the regular season, but i'm real excited to possibly be able to go up against someone like him."