The league is set to host its first ever NFL Veteran Combine on March 22 in Tempe, Arizona. 100 players are set to undergo a very similar array of testing, ranging from measurements, workouts, and combine drills. Why is this relevant to the New Orleans Saints? It’s a chance to potentially discover some talent at relatively cheap costs.
After going through the initial chaos of the first wave of free agency, we have a better understanding of what the Saints will need going forward. There are still voids to be filled at outside linebacker, interior lineman, defensive tackle, and even wide receiver.
So, who are some of these said players that we should keep an eye on?
Adam Carriker, DE
Carriker was subject to a bad wave of misfortune in the injury department. He missed 30 consecutive games from a torn quadriceps. Originally a 1st round selection (13th overall) by the St. Louis Rams in 2007, Carriker was known for being a 3-4 defensive end who primarily excelled in run stopping. He could also get after the quarterback.
Carriker hasn’t given up on things, using deadlifts to help strengthen himself. The Saints do have Cam Jordan, Akiem Hicks, and Glenn Foster as their current options at defensive end, and perhaps Carriker could push the youngsters.
Mikel Leshoure, RB
It wasn’t so long ago (2012) that Mike Leshoure was a 1,000-yard rusher for the Detroit Lions. Leshoure was originally a 2nd round (57th overall) in the 2011 draft, but fell victim to a torn achilles in a practice on August 8. He’d be suspended for the first two games of the 2012 season, but bounced back in his first appearance of the season by running for 100 yards and a score against the Tennessee Titans.
Set to turn only 25 on March 30, Leshoure could benefit tremendously from a good showing at the veteran combine. As you already know, Sean Payton loves his running backs, and it wouldn’t be the worst thing to carry another experienced back heading into training camp.
Matt Armstrong, C
Armstrong already had some time with the New Orleans Saints last season, joining the team as an undrafted free agent from Grand Valley State (where Tim Lelito attended). Armstrong played in all four games for the Saints during the preseason, but would eventually be released on August 30, 2014. He was one of the final cuts made by the Saints, and would never appear on the practice squad.
This time around, there’s a good chance that Armstrong could return to the Saints after a good showing. Center Max Unger is set to be the staple in the middle for the team, but I’m not convinced that Tim Lelito will back Unger up this year. I believe that he’ll move to guard, which would require a need for a backup center.
Marcus Forston, DT
Marcus Forston went undrafted in 2012, but was later picked up by the New England Patriots. Forston was a five-star recruit coming out of high school, and considered the nation’s top defensive tackle. He’d experience his fair share of coming and going to the Patriots organization, but would see action in three games between 2012-2013, including playing for Vince Willfork against the Saints in the Week 6 matchup. He’d start in Week 7 against the New York Jets, contributing two tackles (one for loss). He’d be released by the organization on August 21, 2014.
The reason I’m looking at someone like Forston? The team has to replace Tyrunn Walker, who signed with the Detroit Lions on March 12. Both are comparable height, with Forston weighing in at 305 pounds to Walker’s 293. Both are 6’3″. There’s no guarantee that Forston would be the long-term answer, but could certainly ease the burden of having to draft an interior lineman high.
Thomas Keiser, LB
Not so long ago, Keiser was making an impact with the San Diego Chargers as an outside linebacker in 2013. Keiser was originally an undrafted rookie free agent in 2011, and was picked up by the Carolina Panthers. After being released on May 13, 2013, he’d be picked up just four days later by the San Diego Chargers. Keiser played in 12 games in 2013, including three starts. He’d pile up 21 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and an interception. The last we heard of Keiser, he was playing Arena League Football with the San Jose SaberCats.
An outside linebacker who is familiar with a 3-4 scheme is always a plus. Keiser played primarily as a Will outside linebacker, which specializes in pass coverage. If you’re telling me that’s not an area where the Saints can benefit from, then you’re dreaming. Keiser is also known for his physical style of play.
You are able to view the NFL Veteran Combine on NFL Network and NFL.com starting at 7:00PM CST. Some former Saints players going through the combine include center Matt Armstrong (as mentioned previously), cornerback Johnny Patrick, and tackle Manase Foketi.
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