But the Saints plan to pick up a few veteran cornerbacks before the season starts, which means Sean Payton and the front office are thinking clearly after all.
The news comes just after the Saints signed running back Devonta Freeman to a one-year deal, and it’s a pair of extra smart signings that fans have been longing for. Amukamara and Russell aren’t household names by any standard, but they’re strong depth pieces that can boost the Saints’ backfield defense.
At 32, Amukamara is past his prime but proves especially durable: he’s started 99 of the 113 regular season games he’s played in. Last season, he landed on the Arizona Cardinals practice squad, but he’s obviously no stranger to first-team experience.
He spent most of his nine-year-career on the New York Giants and Chicago Bears and has a total of 10 interceptions, 78 passes defended, and 488 combined tackles.
Oh, and Amukamara has a Super Bowl ring, too, from his rookie season with the Giants. And his last name sounds eerily similar to another player on the team….
New Orleans Saints sign a duo of veteran CBs to help out secondary
The slightly younger 27-year-old Russell carries a bit more mystique in his league career history. He was the Kansas City Chiefs’ third-round pick in 2016 but he never even made it to preseason – Russell was cut in September of that year and no one ever knew why.
The current most plausible theory is that the Chiefs just gave up on him and literally decided to cut their losses, but most teams don’t do that to high draft picks. Very mysterious indeed.
Russell found a home in Cincinnati instead, where he played for three seasons mostly as a special teamer. In 2020, he played on Green Bay’s practice squad but featured in a couple playoff games.
Russell totaled about as many snaps in the kicking game as reps on defense in his career, which makes him one of those versatile toys Payton loves so much.
These two signings don’t change the fact that the current Saints cornerback unit still needs to perform. Amukamara and Russell aren’t automatic plug-and-play players, nor does Payton expect them to be.
In a post-training camp practice conference this weekend, Payton had this to say about the No. 2 cornerback competition:
"There are guys we view as inside guys and guys we view as outside guys. I mentioned at the start of camp that it’s a position we’re still looking at heavily and, in the meantime, you have to work on developing the guys that are here. That’s our approach right now."
With Marshon Lattimore the designated ring leader of the corners, Amukamara will at least give fellow vet Patrick Robinson a good challenge.
Russell’s special teams experience means he’s more likely to compete for covering punts and kickoffs. Paulson Adebo should get plentiful opportunities to move up the depth chart, and don’t count Ken Crawley or Grant Haley out just yet.
A key to almost any championship winning team is depth, and that’s exactly what Amukamara and Russell bring to the table. So far, the Saints are making all the right moves. (But, er, maybe focus some more on that wide receiver unit.)