Saints have busy week in free agency

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
The Saints have signed former Colts tight end Colby Fleener. Photo courtesy of NewOrleansSaints.com.

The free agency period opened up in the NFL last week, and the Saints were busy right from the start.

New Orleans is desperately trying to turn things around after a second straight 7-9 season.

One of the moves the Saints made was bringing in a new kicker in Josh Scobee. Scobee is a veteran that kicked for the Jaguars for 11 years before being traded to the Steelers last season. He played in four games for Pittsburgh.

He has made 80.1 percent of the kicks in his career and ranks ninth among active NFL kickers in field goals made and career points.

Scobee will be competing with Kai Forbath after he was re-signed last week. Forbath was brought in by the Saints in week six of last year after Zach Hocker was cut due to an inconsistent start.

He had an up-and-down season in New Orleans. He went 9-13 and made game-winners against the Giants and the Falcons. However, he missed a late 38-yard chip-shot in the Saints' 41-38 loss to the Panthers.

The Saints also parted ways with two starters in Brandon Browner and Benjamin Watson.

Browner was just signed by New Orleans last season, fresh off of playing for two straight championship teams in Seattle and New England. However, he never came close to matching that caliber of play with the Saints.

Though, his addition to the team garnered plenty of excitement heading into 2015, Browner often became a lightning rod for Saints fans' frustration over their defensive woes. Browner led the league in penalties--many of them often extending opposing offenses' drives.

It all contributed to a horrible year for the Saints defense as they gave up 30 points per game and ranked second-to-last in total defense. As a result, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was fired.

Browner's departure will actually free up $2.25 million in cap space.

The loss of Watson is one Saints fans will find much harder to digest.

After the Saints traded away Jimmy Graham last offseason, Watson was looked upon to fill that void at tight end. He did just that.

The 35-year-old had the best season of his career as he came away with 74 catches for 825 yards and six touchdowns.

Along with being a great asset on the field, Watson became one of the most popular Saints off of the field due to his great professionalism and charity work. He was the team's nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

After three years in New Orleans, Watson signed with the Ravens last week. With his departure, he sent out a moving letter to the city and all members of the Saints fanbase.

To fill the void, the Saints have signed tight end Cody Fleener.

Fleener was thrilled about the new opportunity that has been presented to him. He said, "I think knowing that they have been so successful on offense with Drew (Brees) leading the way and using the tight end was something that was easily exciting for me."

Fleener comes from Indianapolis, where he was selected as a second-round pick in the 2012 draft out of Stanford.

Fleener said that he thinks he will mesh well with his new quarterback.

"I think it will be a new experience, and I think the last time I played with a different quarterback was at Stanford before Andrew (Luck) got there, but I would say that Drew has been so successful and such a good player for so long that I don't think it will be a huge challenge," Fleener said.

Last year, Fleener made 11 starts and snagged 54 passes for 491 yards and three touchdowns. Since 2013, his 15 touchdown grabs are tied for eighth-most in the NFL among tight ends.