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The five best New Orleans Saints free agent signings under Sean Payton (excluding Drew Brees)

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Scott Fujita

Heading into the 2006 season, the Saints were in a major rebuilding mode. After finishing the previous year at a dismal 3-13 coupled with the events and displacement from Hurricane Katrina, the team’s future seemed bleak.

Enter Scott Fujita, who previously played the first three seasons of his career with the Kansas City Chiefs (2002-2004) and Dallas Cowboys (2005). Fujita joined forces with the Saints on March 13, 2006, and was actually the first free agent signing the team had after the team returned to the Crescent City.

Fujita, along with other linebackers like Jonathan Vilma, Scott Shanle, and Mark Simoneau, would help the Saints defense turn the corner. Fujita was named a captain in the 2007 season, and his leadership impact was evident. Fujita did a lot of things well for the New Orleans Saints defense, and it’s hard to imagine what the Saints defense would have been without him.

Following the Super Bowl season, Fujita would leave in free agency for the Cleveland Browns, and later retire due to a neck injury.

We’ll forever remember Fujita for three things: The Peyton Manning Oreo talk, him retiring as a Saint atop Machu Picchu, and his continued friendship with Steve Gleason. Speaking of retirement, here’s a huge reason why Fujita is a true fan favorite.

"“My family was embraced from the first day we arrived in town,” Fujita said. “People talk about southern hospitality all the time but it’s real. The fans in New Orleans are great. From the first day we got there, they would tell us, ‘Thank you for being here. Thank you for giving everything you had.’ “The community grew to mean so much to us so quickly. We fed off the city and the city fed off us. There was a connection there that’s special.”"

Next: No. 2 - Mighty Mouse