The New Orleans Saints signed another defensive tackle in Tony McDaniel, which many have taken as a bad sign for Nick Fairley’s prognosis.
Whatever ends up happening with Fairley — and we all hope the news is good — McDaniel’s signing means nothing about his chances. The Saints made a precautionary move. Minicamp is over and if the Saints don’t ink McDaniel, there’s a chance he lands elsewhere. And with Fairley’s future very much up in the air, that’s a situation the Saints can’t afford.
But this does not suggest that the Saints expect Fairley’s career has ended. As Sean Payton said at the end of Minicamp, after word of McDaniel’s contract emerged, the Saints have not heard back from the third doctor.
Fairley may very well never play again. Heart conditions are nothing to joke around with, and if the third doctor has any doubts then he’ll likely retire. But things are slightly more promising in Fairley’s case than in the typical heart problem situation, considering his condition has been known since he entered the league. Things change, but just as often an indication that gave one doctor pause might be an anomaly. At this point, the last official word we have is that the Saints are cautiously optimistic that Fairley can get back on the field. For more than that, we’ll have to wait.
Tony McDaniel, in the meantime, is a less-than-ideal stopgap. But he has some value to the Saints as a run defender.
The Saints clearly expect Sheldon Rankins will get the lions share of DT snaps in Fairley’s potential absence, with Tyeler Davison at NT and David Onyemata filling in as a backup. But it never hurts to have more bodies on the DL, and McDaniel is a proven veteran that can play the field on early downs.
McDaniel most recently played for the Seattle Seahawks. He’s 32 years old. This signing feels a lot like Darryl Tapp’s, who the Saints signed after minicamp in 2016. Tapp played some positive snaps over the season and looks to return this year as a DE/DT backup. If McDaniel can provide the same contribution, this could be a solid signing for the Saints. But ideally, Fairley comes back to the lineup and McDaniel doesn’t crack the final 53.