METAIRIE, La. (AP) The New Orleans Saints added two undrafted rookies and two veterans to their roster following last weekend’s three-day rookie camp.
General Manager Mickey Loomis announced Monday that rookie receiver Steve Hull, rookie running back Derrick Strozier, veteran outside linebacker Cheta Ozougwu and veteran offensive lineman Thomas Welch were signed after taking part in rookie camp on a try-out basis.
The 5-foot-8, 181-pound Strozier was a defensive back at Tulane, but is trying to make it professionally as playmaker on offense. During rookie camp, he wore the same No. 43 that Darren Sproles had for the previous three years before his trade to Philadelphia this offseason.
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Storzier’s speed, catching ability and elusiveness in space could make him a candidate to fill some of the roles Sproles did.
Loomis, who spoke with reporters before playing in a celebrity golf scramble Monday to raise money for the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame, said the Saints gave Strozier a look on offense on the advice of Tulane coach Curtis Johnson, who is a former Saints receivers coach, and Saints quarterbacks coach Mike Neu, who is a former Tulane assistant under Johnson.
”These guys told us about this kid and talked about how they moved him to defense primarily because of their shortage of players on the defensive side of the ball,” Loomis said. ”It wasn’t that he wasn’t going to be a good player offensively.”
Strozier returned two interceptions for touchdowns during his Tulane career, including one for 99 yards last season, when he also returned a blocked field goal 62 yards for a score.
The 6-2 Hull was Illinois’ leading receiver last season, when he moved to offense after playing safety for three seasons. He caught 59 passes for 993 yards and seven touchdowns.
The 6-2, 255-pound Ozougwu was a seventh-round draft pick by Houston in 2011, and has seen action in nine games with Chicago during the past two seasons, highlighted by one sack and one forced fumble.
Welch, who is 6-7, 310, was New England’s seventh-round pick in 2010. He also has spent time with St. Louis and Buffalo, playing in 27 career games with one start. Last season, he appeared in 16 games with the Bills.
This week, New Orleans is holding voluntary, non-contact practices which will be closed to the public and media. The club heads into those sessions with two centers who have no experience playing the position in the NFL. For now, the primary candidate to fill the starting spot vacated by center Brian de la Puente during free agency is Tim Lelito, who as a rookie last season saw limited action at guard.
”Obviously, we feel real good about him because otherwise we would have made a stronger push to bring somebody in at that position,” Loomis said. ”In an ideal world we’d like to have some additional competition, but we feel real good about Tim.
”He’s a tough, intelligent, athletic player and he needs time on the job. That’s his deficiency right now, is just time on task, and so we’re going to give him plenty of that” in practice and preseason games, Loomis added.
The other center on the roster is 6-2, 302-pound rookie Matthew Armstrong, who like Lelito played for Grand Valley State. He was named by the Rimington Award committee as the nation’s top Division II center last season. Asked if Armstrong was Lelito’s top competition for the job, Loomis smiled and responded, ”Today, yeah.”
New Orleans still could add a veteran center in free agency, though Loomis also has said a young center could succeed in New Orleans because of the experience the Saints have at both guard spots with Pro Bowl players Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs, as well as at quarterback with Drew Brees.
Right tackle Zach Strief, who also played in the charity golf event Monday, agreed.
”Obviously, Drew kind of runs the show for us,” Strief said, referring to blocking assignments made at the line of scrimmage. ”It’s an opportunity for a young guy to step up, and if not, I’m sure they’ll bring in a real good veteran for us and we’ll be fine.”
Notes: The Saints also announced Monday they had released two undrafted rookies who’d been signed last week: former Louisiana-Lafayette nose tackle Brandon McCray and former Michigan State guard Micajah Reynolds.
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