Top Saints to watch at training camp: No. 5, Nick Fairley

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Sep 20, 2015; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws the ball as St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Nick Fairley (98) chases in the first quarter at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 20, 2015; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws the ball as St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Nick Fairley (98) chases in the first quarter at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /
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Just a short six days separates us from the first session of training camp for the New Orleans Saints. One of the biggest players fans are eager to see firsthand is defensive tackle Nick Fairley.

We’re at the halfway point of our series that focuses on the top Saints to watch over the next several weeks, and more importantly we’re hoping this countdown to training camp is getting you pumped up for what’s to come. As a reminder, my criteria is based on competition, growth, impact, and overall expectations, and not necessarily a popularity contest.

When the Saints were said to be in the running for Nick Fairley, it was met with a general positive reception. It was reported that the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles were also in the running for the 28-year-old, but the Saints were able to land him on March 28.

General manager Mickey Loomis pulled an interesting tactic with Fairley’s 1-year, $3 million contract by essentially using a ‘shell deal’. The contract is technically three years (dummy years, if you will) to help spread the value of his signing bonus to help with the salary cap, but still gets Fairley paid. Fairley can also earn $1.75 million in bonuses this season based on playing time and sack production.

Growing up in Mobile, Alabama, Fairley actually grew up a Saints fan. Following the announcement of his signing, Fairley appeared on WKRG-TV for an interview (which you can watch below). “I’m going to show it off this year,” Fairley said in the news segment.

The support was there for Fairley to join the Saints, as Dennis Allen told WWL Radio at the end of April. “James (Laurinaitis) stood on the table for him (Nick Fairley),” Allen said in an interview with Jim Henderson. Fairley has only been a happy camper since joining the team, as team Director of Pro Scouting Terry Fontenot noted.

Weight concerns may have been a past issue for the former Auburn Tiger, but he feels that he’s in great shape and very healthy, and how could he not be when he’s trimmed down to around 281 pounds? For this season, Fairley should easily be a key staple in Dennis Allen’s defense. He’ll be called upon to eat the space on the front line and help improve the Saints 31st-ranked run defense from last season. As we approach training camp, it’ll be interesting to see how much rotation he’ll get with first-round pick Sheldon Rankins, as they are both 3-technique defensive tackles.

Not many players get the opportunity to play for a team that they cheered on growing up, but Fairley is ready to make the most of it. In turn, Fairley’s passion is a big reason to keep a close watch on him during training camp.

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