As they continue to shape their roster in advance of Sunday's opening game at Atlanta, the New Orleans Saints made another key transaction Wednesday, re-signing veteran WR Robert Meachem.
In order to make room for Meachem, the team used its short-term injured reserve/designated to return tag on rookie LB Khairi Fortt.
When the Saints initially announced their final cuts over the weekend, Meachem appeared to have just missed out on a roster spot. However, as we expected, the veteran has been brought back into the fold with the team's first game against the Falcons just four days away.
Meachem graded out as the Saints' best perimeter blocker on the edge last season, and the team's former 2007 first-round draft choice also provides a capable vertical threat in the passing game. His knowledge of coach Sean Payton's system, rapport with quarterback Drew Brees, and his overall skill set are important qualities that have helped facilitate his return to the Crescent City.
In addition, WR Kenny Stills has been battling a nagging quad injury that has left his status for week 1 and the immediate future in some doubt. Like Meachem, Stills is a dangerous vertical threat, so Meachem's ability to play that role will be helpful if the former Oklahoma receiver is out for an extended period of time. Back again: Robert Meachem is ready for another stint with the Saints.
New Orleans had originally re-signed Meachem back in April, with an eye on seeing the veteran battle for a roster spot in training camp. Meachem spent most of 2013 with the Saints, his second stint with the team after being released at final cuts by the San Diego Chargers following a disappointing tenure out west.
For his career, the former Tennessee Volunteer has caught 171 passes for 2,800 yards and 27 touchdowns.
Fortt, meanwhile, was a fourth-round draft pick of the Saints back in April. The former Cal standout suffered an injury during the team's second preseason game against the Tennessee Titans last month, and is expected to be sidelined for a few weeks.
Fortt has a checkered injury history, which contributed to him falling to round 4 of May's NFL Draft. Having started his career at Penn State, the 6-2 240 Connecticut native transferred to Cal-Berkley in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal in State College, and took over as the starter for the Bears at weakside 'backer.
Dating back to his high school days, Fortt has endured injuries to his knee, biceps, hamstring and leg. He underwent a procedure in the spring of 2012 to help stabilize the kneecap which he originally injured as a high schooler. Fortt has been unable to practice since his latest setback, but the team remains confident that he will be able to eventually contribute on special teams and provide depth in Rob Ryan's 3-4 defense upon his return. The rookie had been cross-trained at both inside and outside linebacker spots before going down, and his toughness and physical strength should aid him as he attempts to facilitate his return to action later this season.
Players who are administered the reserve/designated to return tag can begin practicing in six weeks, and are eligible to be activated after week 8. The Saints have an open date during week 6, so it is possible that Fortt could begin practicing in advance of the team's week 7 tilt against the Detroit Lions. Stills and FB Erik Lorig, who has been battling a leg injury since early August, were also seen as possible candidates for the designation.
The Saints' roster dance appears done for now, as the team announced the signing of veteran kicker Shayne Graham yesterday, while simultaneously waiving backup QB Ryan Griffin.
New Orleans travels to Atlanta this weekend, where they will open their 2014 season against the Falcons on Sunday afternoon.