Saints QB Drew Brees gets his wish: WR Lance Moore
METAIRIE, La. (AP)
Moore and New Orleans agreed Wednesday on a five-year contract that he plans to sign Friday, said Alan Herman, president of Sportstars, the agency that represents the elusive 5-foot-9 receiver.
Moore, who was undrafted out of Toledo, has been with the Saints since he was signed to their practice squad as a rookie free agent in 2005. He steadily worked his way up from special teams to become one of Brees' favorite targets.
He was the Saints' leading receiver in 2008 with 928 yards and 10 touchdowns on 79 catches, and had another strong year last season with 66 catches for 763 yards and eight touchdowns.
Throughout the offseason, Brees referred to Moore as an important part of an offense that has been among the best in the league the last half-decade and said he hoped Moore would return.
''Drew is a huge factor in my decision-making,'' Moore said in a phone interview with WWL-AM, the team's flagship radio station, after he had agreed to return. ''I'm one that personally believes there's not (a quarterback) out there better than Drew right now.''
Like other veterans who sign free agent contracts league-wide, Moore is not expected to practice until Aug. 4, by which time the NFL Players Association plans to be recertified as a union and ratify a new collective bargaining agreement that ended a nearly five-month lockout on Monday.
When Moore returns to the field, he'll find himself among a slew of unfamiliar faces.
The Saints also have signed 21 undrafted rookie free agents who will be allowed to practice right away.
New Orleans had to load up on such players because they only had 47 players under contract when the lockout ended and the first practice of training camp is scheduled for Friday, nearly a week before Moore or any other veteran free agents will be able to take the field.
The addition of undrafted rookies, along with whichever of the Saints' six draft choices sign contracts this week, should give the Saints about 70 players for their first few practices. Veteran right tackle Jon Stinchcomb said he was not surprised that would initially comprise more than a quarter of the Saints players on the field when practice opens.
''I would assume you have to do that,'' Stinchcomb said. ''It's a good opportunity for some of the undrafted guys to get their foot in the door and make an early impression, and I can definitely see how you would add a few more of those specific players to the roster now so you can at least get a good practice going.''
The new Saints rookies include former Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel, Ohio State defensive tackle Dexter Larimore, Fresno State quarterback Ryan Colburn, Texas receiver John Chiles, Illinois receiver Jarred Fayson and Southern California running back C.J. Gable.
A number of the rookies also come from Football Championship Subdivision schools and even one from Division III - Millsaps receiver Michal Galatas, who grew up in the New Orleans area.
Saints starting safety Malcolm Jenkins, who was among a number of players who stopped by team headquarters on Wednesday, when the team began conducting physicals, figured he had better prepare himself for an unusual first few practices.
''It's going to be a little weird,'' Jenkins said, noting that he was the only veteran safety under contract when the lockout ended on Monday. ''So, technically, probably until Aug. 4, I'll be the only safety that we have from last year back, and it will be me and two undrafted rookies.''
Saints players are scheduled to report on Thursday afternoon and undergo conditioning tests. Practices will start on Friday morning. According to a training camp schedule the Saints released, the team will practice only once per day, a decision that likely stemmed in part from rules in the newly negotiated and soon-to-be-ratified collective bargaining agreement which prohibit more than one practice per day in which the players wear pads.
''Hopefully, that gives us a better product in the long run,'' Stinchcomb said. ''A lot of your injuries occur in training camp, so hopefully it'll keep guys safer and healthier and you'll have that recovery period to try and stay fresher than you have in the past.''
The schedule also is friendly to fans. All 15 practices and the team's intrasquad scrimmage on Aug. 6 are open to the public, weather permitting.
The Saints will break camp following their second preseason game in Houston on Aug. 20.
New Orleans open's its regular season on Sept. 8 at Green Bay in a Thursday night contest that kicks off the NFL season.