Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Saints Add Veteran Back-Up Quarterback; Sign 3rd Round Pick

The Saints organization finally followed through with a long anticipated free agent signing, coming to terms with ex-Tulane quarterback and Ruston native Patrick Ramsey on Wednesday.

According to the New Orleans Saints, the Ramsey contract is for one season.

Ever since the team decided not to retain the services of 17-year veteran Mark Brunell, whose contract expired this year, the Saints were in a precarious position as they wanted to sign an experienced hand though were handcuffed until recently by league rules related to the uncapped season.

In a bit of a coincidence, reported on Wednesday that Brunell signed a two-year agreement with the New York Jets, where he will back-up/mentor sophomore starting quarterback Mark Sanchez.

The Saints paid Brunell $1,555,000 in 2009 with his main on-field duty being a ball holder for Saints field goal kickers, though his one regular season appearance as starting quarterback doubtlessly signaled the beginning of the end of his time with the Black and Gold.

Saints head coach Sean Payton benched most of his starters including quarterback Drew Brees, in the regular season finale at Carolina. Brunell completed 15 of 29 passing attempts for 102 yards, no touchdowns and an interception in a loss to the Panthers, giving Saints fans a ghoulish vision of what their team would look like without the franchise player in the huddle.

It became apparent that there had to be less expensive option for ball holder and a better alternative as back-up quarterback.

The Saints, Jets, Indianapolis Colts and Minnesota Vikings, by virtue of playing in conference championship games, were hamstrung under the “Rule of Four” in their capacity to sign new unrestricted free agents until July 22nd. (Thanks to the Tennessee Titans’ website for illuminating the intricacies of free agency in this contractually unique season).

Hence the delay in signing Ramsey, who had already visited with the Saints.

The Washington Redskins selected Ramsey with the last pick in the 2002 NFL Draft’s first round. In a bit of irony, Ramsey served as Brunell’s backup in 2005 and assumed a journeyman role after the Redskins traded him to the Jets in 2006.

During his NFL career, Ramsey has thrown for a combined 5,930 yards, 35 touchdowns and 30 interceptions for the five teams that employed him and is a virtual lock to serve as Brees’s main back-up in 2010.

The Ramsey signing puts pressure on 2009 undrafted free agent Chase Danels and 2010 seventh round draftee Sean Canfield, who will battle for the team’s third quarterback slot during training camp and the four preseason games…assuming the Saints decide to keep a third quarterback on the 53-man roster.

In another move, the Saints inked third round draft pick Jimmy Graham (tight end, University of Miami) to a four-year deal. The ex-college basketball player, with his impressive height (6’6”) and vertical leap (38.5”), could be an attractive target for Brees.

With health and durability concerns following starting tight end Jeremy Shockey, Graham is expected to be the member of the team’s 2010 draft class to see the most playing time this season.

First round draft pick Patrick Robinson (cornerback, Florida State University) is the lone player selected by the Saints in the 2010 draft that has not signed with the team.

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