With the 2014 NFL Draft in their rear-view mirror, the New Orleans Saints hosted a total of 70 players at their three-day rookie minicamp, which began Friday and concluded Sunday. The Saints got an exclusive up-close look at first round draft choice Brandin Cooks and his 5 fellow 2014 draftees. The team also ran the rule over a long list of undrafted players and unattached veterans in search of a new club. After a busy weekend, the franchise will now shift its attention to OTAs, with another three-day session set to run from May 27-29. Here are some notable blurbs from this past weekend's events:
Saints Rookie Minicamp Quick Hits
-The Saints agreed to terms with 1st rounder Brandin Cooks on a four-year deal with a club option for the 2018 season. Cooks had coaches gushing after flashing his skills over the course of the weekend. Said Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan. "Anytime a player is hand picked by Sean Payton to play offense at receiver, you’d better believe he’s gonna be something. I’m out here watching and it’s like, ‘Oooh.’ This guy opens your eyes." Expect the Saints to take advantage of Cooks's versatility, a characteristic they liked when they traded up in the first round to select him. Brandin Cooks catches a ball at minicamp.
-The team also agreed to terms with 2nd round pick CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste. The former Nebraska Cornhusker signed a four-year deal, believed to be worth approximately $3.57 million. Jean-Baptiste joins Cooks, 5th rounders Vinnie Sunseri and Ronald Powell, along with 6th rounder Tavon Rooks under contract. Only 4th rounder Khairi Fortt remains unsigned.
-Among the notable players who participated on a tryout basis over the weekend, two locals stood out. Former LSU Fullback Jacob Hester and Quarterback Jordan Jefferson took part in the minicamp, but were not offered deals. Hester has spent time in the pros with the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos.
-One veteran participating on a tryout basis who did earn himself a contract is former Bears and Texans LB/DE Cheta Ozougwu. The 2011 NFL Draft's "Mr. Irrelevant," Ozougwu will look to earn a spot in training camp. Former Illinois WR Steve Hull and Tulane DB Derrick Strozier also earned themselves contracts. Strozier, who played Cornerback at Tulane, spent time in camp over the weekend operating at Running Back. Offensive Lineman Thomas Welch, a 2010 7th round pick of the New England Patriots, was also signed. Welch has appeared in 27 career games with the Patriots, Rams and Bills.
-The best moment of the weekend came when the team announced the signing of Strozier's former Tulane teammate Devon Walker. Walker, a former Safety for the Green Wave, was tragically paralyzed during a game against Tulsa in September 2012. "For me, this is one of my dreams come true," said Walker, 23. "I've been a Saint since before I was walking." The signing capped off a memorable weekend for the newest Saint, who received his diploma in Molecular Biology earlier that day. Walker and Strozier were coached at Tulane by former long-time Saints assistant Curtis Johnson.
-Former Titans QB Rusty Smith took part in minicamp, looking to provide competition for the backup QB job. Luke McCown, Ryan Griffin and undrafted free agent Logan Kilgore will vie for the role of Drew Brees's caddy. Smith had a brief stint on the New York Giants' roster earlier this offseason.
-The Saints waived G Micajah Reynolds and DT Brandon McCray. The pair were among the group of undrafted free agents assembled immediately following the draft.
All in all, a productive and fruitful weekend in New Orleans before the next round of OTAs, which begin next Tuesday.