Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hornets Partially Re-Brand Franchise

New Orleans Hornets officials on Thursday announced that they will soon take steps to improve the local marketability of the franchise, with the first step being what will doubtlessly be considered a controversial alteration to the mascot. Vice-President of Marketing Linus van Pelt said that Hugo, the popular blue and purple giant bee will get a new name and partial makeover in the off-season. “Hugo as a name just doesn’t work down here,” said van Pelt. “When you google ‘Hugo’, you get sites about the dictator of Venezuela. We’ve been looking at an alternative for some time.” According to the team’s marketing executive, the idea for the new name came to him on Mardi Gras night and inspired by one of the city’s most noted carnival float designers. “I was having trouble falling asleep despite being out with the family along Saint Charles Avenue since 5 AM and was looking for something that would knock me out. That’s when I turned on WYES and started watching the meeting of the courts. Just as I was about to zonk out, I see this bespectacled guy in a white tie and tails and it hit me.” “So I was thinking instead of ‘Hugo the Hornet’, why not give him a full name like ‘Henri Hornet’ and give the last name a French pronunciation, kind of like what Stephen Colbert does” said van Pelt. What other changes do the Hornets have install for their mascot, whose name will be pronounced “On-ree Or-nay”? “We’ve had a few graphic design artists try to give him some more pizzazz and character. One proposal is to give him a goatee and a beret to give him a French-beatnik look. We’re still evaluating costume adjustments and we have a marketing team consulting with selected season ticket holders.” This wouldn’t be the first rebranding for the team that moved to the 504 from Charlotte in 2002. The Charlotte Hornets were originally named the Charlotte Spirit though area fans didn’t take to that name. The Hornets sobriquet came from a reference British General Cornwallis made about the city of Charlotte as “a veritable nest of hornets”. The NBA has a knack for maintaining team nicknames that are downright absurd in their current environs. Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Lakers are such franchises. Franklin Schroeder, who dons the giant bee costume at home games, isn’t pleased with the changes but will abide to the dictates of the front office. “What can you really do,” said Schroeder, “it’s April Fool’s Day.”

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mike Detillier Interview, Part II

This is the second installment of The Onside Kick's interview with college football expert and NFL Draft analyst Mike Detillier. Mike covers the Saints' past season, the upcoming NFL Draft and head coach Sean Payton's recent move to north Texas. TOK: Were you surprised about Jeremy Shockey’s release? MD: I thought he would be back but at a reduced price, so yes. TOK: Are the Saints going to aggressively try and sign Lance Moore, Roman Harper and Jonathan Goodwin? MD: I think they will aggressively try and resign Moore and Harper. Drew trusts him immensely and he is the most consistent receiver they have on the roster. Harper is someone who progressed more than anyone under Gregg Williams. He had a horrible game against Seattle, but he is good football player. You can’t judge him on one game. On Goodwin I think they would like to get him to sign a short term deal. They really love Matt Tennant. They really like him, but Jonathan is solid as a starter and he is versatile. He is getting up in age and it may be a money issue, but I think if it is close, he stays on a short term deal. Lance and Roman need to be back. You never get better by losing good players. TOK: How about Randall Gay? MD: No , he doesn’t return. Too much money and age and injury concerns. TOK: How much of a factor do you think the first-round bye would have had for the Saints? Would it have changed anything or simply delayed the inevitable elimination? MD: I don’t think it would have changed much. You just weren’t good enough this season and they couldn’t overcome the weaknesses on both sides of the ball come playoff time. TOK: Do you expect Jonathan Casillas and Lynell Hamilton to make comebacks next season? MD: I like them both. On Casillas it is can he hold up. He has been banged up quite a bit in just two years and you wonder if his body can hold up in the NFL for a 16 or an 18 game season. He has the talent to start and play well in this league, but it is a health issue, just like Chris Ivory. Lynell was a Sean Payton favorite. He raved about him before the start of last season. He is built like he is carved out of stone, and it is a shame he got hurt in those practices against New England. He is a tough runner, good field vision and body lean and he catches the ball well. Yes, I think he bounces back and he is a good football player. TOK: You and Hokie Gajan talked a lot about this in the off-season. Gajan loved Chris Ivory and you agreed, but brought up that he had a host of injury problems in college and you wondered if he would hold up in the NFL. That turned out to be correct? MD: Well, Chris is a good player, but he wasn’t picked at draft time because of a lack of talent or any trouble he got into in college. He didn’t get picked because teams were afraid he wouldn’t hold up in the league. I wish I was wrong on that feature, but it has turned out to be accurate. I love his aggressive nature and he is super physical, but as much as he gives out, he takes. That doesn’t add up to a long NFL career at running back. TOK: Let’s stay at running back. Do you think Reggie Bush will remain with the Saints on a new deal or will he play elsewhere next season? MD: I think he stays, but at a much reduced price. If he insists on staying at a super high pay level, then he goes, but he is more valuable to this team than any other and Coach Payton loves him. In my opinion he has been given the chance to excel and really not produced at the level you want and need from him. He is hurt way too often, he has not been super productive and when given the chance not stepped up his play. Pierre Thomas doesn’t have his talent, but he is a much better NFL player. I think he stays, but at a much lower number and then write the incentives in playing time and production. You can’t pay him big bucks on potential anymore. TOK: Regardless of Bush’s status with the team, do you think the Saints need to pursue a running back in the draft or free agency? MD: Yes and Yes. The Saints need a veteran back, someone with some mileage and pass catching and pass blocking skills, but with some experience and a young back that can carry the rushing load. They need to use their 2nd or one of their 3rd round choices on a back. It is all about competition and finding the right mix. You never have enough good backs. Never. It is a high impact spot and one you need numbers. Just look at the Green Bay Packers and the Saints at that spot. TOK: Can Adrian Arrington help this club and where does he fit? MD: He is not a starting NFL type end. He can help as a #4 or a #5 wide receiver. He has matured as a person and he finally was healthy for the most part last year. In the way the Saints use multiple receiver sets..he can help. But he is not a starting type end. TOK: Which player was unjustly snubbed from the Pro Bowl? MD: Malcolm Jenkins…. Best player the Saints have on defense. He can play the free safety slot, some cornerback, cover the slot guy and can play all the nickel and dime packages. Terrific football player and he deserved to play in the Pro-Bowl. TOK: In your draft book a few years back you predicted the Saints selecting Jenkins and you stuck to that pick throughout the process. You really liked him didn’t you? MD: Yes… early on I had the Saints taking Ohio State LB. James Laurinaitis in a trade down, but once Jenkins didn’t blaze the trail at the Combine, I had a feeling he would be there. I thought he could be an All-Pro back then and I know he is one now. TOK: Back then there was a caller on WWL-Radio that would call and ask about DT.B.J. Raji from Boston College every week. You really liked him, but you thought he would be picked before the Saints selected him. He has turned out to be special, right? MD: Yes, that gentleman was a Boston College graduate living in New Orleans and he insisted that B.J. would last until the Saints picked. I had him going 5th overall to Cleveland, but I knew that he could fall a little because of some off-the-field concerns and he had some weight and conditioning issues, but there was little chance he could fall to 14. We laughed every week because I knew he was going to ask about Raji. Someone on another web site wrote that I said the Saints would pick him and he called and laughed it up about how some have some comprehension problems. I would figure someone could tell the difference between my voice and someone from Boston, but apparently not. Raji has turned out to be outstanding for the Packers and his work ethic and maturity has really been lifted. The big guy is a load in the middle. In a 3-4 you need a very active and tough man in the middle to take on blockers and tie up the inside so the linebackers have a free shot at the running back in the hole. He can do it. TOK: Will Smith had a Pro-Bowl year in 2009. What happened this year? MD: He got a lot more attention in blocking schemes and he had a tougher time getting off of blocks in 2010. Will is a very good NFL starter, but he is not an elite pass rusher like Mario Williams, Jared Allen, Dwight Freeney, Julius Peppers or John Abraham. The Saints were running in the left hand lane in 2009 and that gave him more chances to really pin his ears back and get after the quarterback. The games in 2010 were much closer and his extra opportunities to gain sacks disappeared. TOK: Why didn’t Gregg Williams interview for the Tennessee Titans job? You wrote during the season that he was very close to Titans owner Bud Adams. MD: Two things. One it was a timing issue. His closest friend in this business is Jeff Fisher and he had great respect for what he brought to Tennessee. But Gregg got caught in a bad position in Buffalo and I can tell you that the Titans aren’t loaded with talent on defense and they have a huge void at quarterback. Had Fisher been fired right after the year I bet he goes for the interview, but it was real late and it would have been hard for him to piece together a strong staff that late. I was in Mobile at the Senior Bowl when that story broke and that is late in the process and I think he didn’t want to get caught up in another muddled organizational issue like what happened to him in Buffalo. He is close to Bud and he told he probably would have taken the defensive coordinator spot in 2009 with the Titans, but he insisted that he could work with his son and Adams didn’t want close relatives on the same staff and that opened the door for the Saints to land him and his son. He wants to be a head coach again, but it has to be the right spot. He knows what it is to fall short and I think the Titans job was appealing because he knew everyone inside the organization, but the timing was bad and just look at that roster and you can see that it will take some time to retool that team. Jeff squeezed all the lemonade out of that orange. TOK: What do you make of the Sean Payton to Dallas-moving issue? MD: I don’t cover his personal life. I don’t really care where he lives. All I want is for him to win games in New Orleans. I grew up here and didn’t leave a few years back because I had both of my kids in high school. They didn’t want to relocate and my wife didn’t really want to leave either, so I stayed in Louisiana. I understand other people’s feeling on this issue, but to me it’s a non-issue. All I know from being married for almost 30 years is that when the wife and kids aren’t happy then it doesn’t make any difference how much money you make. Your life is not easy when those events occur. Ed Orgeron is a friend of mine and when he left the Saints to coach at the University of Tennessee his wife and kids stayed in Louisiana. He is in his second year at USC and his family still lives here. He commutes weekly from Los Angeles. What some people don’t realize is that in a coaches’ life you hardly see your family at all during the season. It’s not a 7 to 5 job. It’s 6:AM in the morning until midnight or later during the week. It’s a personal decision and it doesn’t concern me. The one thing that is news worthy is to hear the coach say he would not be a lifer as a head coach. He has two more years on his contract and I wonder today just how much longer he will continue to be a head coach in the NFL after that. TOK: Do you think Jerry Jones would offer him the GM position in Dallas. MD: No.. Jerry is a lifer as general manager in Dallas. The only person Jerry gives the GM job to is his son Steve Jones and that may be quite a while before that happens. TOK: How can they order the draft book? MD: They can log on to or and pre-order the book. It will be out soon.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Interview Mike Detillier, Part I

Below is Part I of an extensive interview with NFL Draft guru and College Football expert Mike Detillier. In this portion of the interview, Mr. Detillier covers a great deal of ground, ranging from the Two Dat that didn't happen and some of the top prospects in the 2011 NFL Draft.

In addition to being a frequent contributor on WWL 870 AM's Sports Talk program, Mr. Detillier produces an annual NFL Draft Guide, which can be ordered from his website,

TOK: What was the key factor in the Saints not getting the “Two Dat” ?

MD: The lack of a real strong and consistent pass rush was the main reason. Bottom line. They didn’t get it most of the year and it came back to haunt them against in the playoff game against Seattle.
An inconsistent running game, and a lot of that involved injuries was a factor, but they have to get better rushing the quarterback. They weren’t talented enough to hide those weaknesses. To win it all you have to have it all. That wasn’t the case this year.

TOK: The offensive line didn’t perform up to the same level as last season, why?

MD: Part of that involved injuries to the running backs. In part more and more emphasis was placed on Drew Brees throwing the ball and opposing teams understood this. He felt more pressure, blitz wise, than ever before. Early on I felt Jahri Evans wasn’t playing even close to being the best guard in the business, but he played real well late. Jon Stinchcomb didn’t play really as well as a year ago. His pass protection skills fell off.

TOK: Jermon Bushrod struggled in 2010, why wasn’t 2nd round pick Charles Brown given an opportunity to play in his place?

MD: I thought Bushrod played better this season than in 2009. He has really improved as a pass protector. He wasn’t the weak link. He’s a good player. It shows up more on the left side because he rarely gets help. He is out on an island, like a cornerback and he can make 52 great blocks and then on play 53 he gives up a sack and people say he sucks. I like what I saw from Bushrod last season.

Now in watching Brown in the summer practices and in preseason he got much better, but he needs work improving his overall body strength. He is still a football puppy at the tackle spot. He was recruited as a tight end at USC and played that spot early on in college. He has a chance to be a real good player in this league. It wouldn’t surprise me someday down the line to see Bushrod at right tackle and Brown on the left side, but I thought Jermon played pretty well in 2010.

TOK: Was letting Bobby McCray go a very wise move in retrospect?

MD: Bobby isn’t playing anywhere. If he was a real good player someone else would have swooped him up real quick and that didn’t happen. He was a bit player, nothing more than that. People always will remember him for the big hit on Kurt Warner in the playoff game, but he was not a real consistent pass rush force for the Saints and his work habits weren’t great either. No real football loss with his release. Jeff Charleston is a better football player than McCray.

TOK: Where was the long ball with Drew Brees this year?

MD: Good question. It had to do with just missing on a few early on, especially some real deep throws to Devery and some of it was Drew just being a little off and the receivers were dropping passes more than any other year I could remember. Robert Meachem was never completely healthy also and that showed up on the deeper throws. He just wasn’t able to get the separation we saw a year ago. But the big reason is that Drew was hurt in the Atlanta game and there was a time early and into the middle of the season that they tried to protect him from sitting in the pocket longer. Some of it was that teams were giving them the short pass and guarding better against the deep throw, but it came down to early disappointments throwing deep and Drew having the knee injury against Atlanta.

TOK: Do you believe that Drew was injured more than he and Coach Payton let on?

MD: No question. It was not as serious as others made it out to be, but he fought through it. Throwing the ball is such a timing issue and he went through a stretch where the injury had an effect on his throws, but we all saw him get progressively better as the knee healed. Great competitor. Just terrific to fight through it and play through the injury, but without a real healthy wheel it has an effect on your throws because it is the set-up issue. But it was more serious than the coach made it out to be, but I understand the camouflage. I would have handled it the same way once I got the medical “good and bad” from the doctors.

TOK: Let’s jump to the draft quickly. You have said for quite some time that LSU’s Patrick Peterson is the best player in the 2011 NFL draft. Do you think he will go with the top pick?

MD: Yes and no. I have him the highest rated player in this draft and I think he is the best cover-cornerback I have seen come out of the SEC since Champ Bailey came out of Georgia, but I don’t think he will go Number One. I think Nick Fairley from Auburn or Da’Quan Bowers from Clemson will claim that top spot. Once Andrew Luck decided to stay, then Peterson vaulted to the top spot. He also adds great value as a return man.

Let me add that in my 27 years doing this Peterson is the best football player I have seen come out of LSU. Great prospect. Only one cornerback in my time evaluating college talent has graded out higher at the cornerback slot and that was Deion Sanders when he came out of Florida State.

TOK: You and Bobby Hebert have differed on thoughts on Peterson, right?

MD: A little. I like him better than Bobby does yes, but he is an old quarterback so he goes in the direction of offense. (Laughing) He would like to see him be a more physical player, but he played with Deion Sanders so he understands what they pay Peterson to do.

TOK: Let’s get back to Andrew Luck. During the summer you did a feature article on Andrew Luck, it was picked up nationally by just about everyone at the Manning Camp, and I remember you saying he was the best college quarterback you have seen since Troy Aikman came out of UCLA.

MD: The crazy thing was that he pretty much stayed sitting alone for almost the complete hour in the media room. When I walked up to ask for the interview he had no other reporter around him. There was much more attention paid to Kellen Moore from Boise State and Greg McElroy from Alabama than Luck. We did a television shot with him for the local television station, HTV, and twice he told me he was coming back for his senior season. It’s his poise, his intelligence, his accuracy skills and his ability to lift a team up not just a notch, but two or three notches that make him special. He’s the best college quarterback I’ve seen since Aikman.

TOK: I heard your reports from Mobile at the Senior Bowl and you said that defensive linemen will dominate the first round, so that is the strength of this draft class?

MD: No question…. I put out a mock draft in mid-to-late January and I have 9 defensive ends going in Round One, and three defensive tackles going in Round One and so there will be a pretty large amount of defensive tackles in Round One also. Ryan Kerrigan from Purdue and Cameron Jordan from California were the two best defensive linemen in Mobile. Both really aided their draft stock. But OLB./DE. Von Miller was the best pass rusher in Mobile.

TOK: Do you think Von Miller is a top 5 pick?

MD: Yes… no question. The guy didn’t have a huge impact in the Cotton Bowl against LSU, but he is a terrific pass rusher from the edge, outstanding football instincts, great motor and a top five pick.

TOK: I saw since your list and your mock draft came out plenty of others nationally are saying the exact same thing, but after the fact?

MD: It’s pretty obvious to see what is the real strength of this draft class is so I think you figure it out quick.

TOK: How would you rate Patrick Robinson’s performance: is he worth the first round pick or not?Will he blossom in the future or be the next Alex Molden?

MD: He has great talent, but it is the structure of his game. He minds flutters around and he needs to concentrate more on his techniques and not freelance as much. He is exactly what you would love to have in a cornerback. He has great size, quick feet, good recovery skills and he has great leaping skills. But it is the mental toughness to excel at the spot that is in question. He is an undisciplined technical guy and still is right now.

TOK: That is exactly what you said about him on draft day and why you didn’t have him ranked as a first round pick correct? You had him an early to mid 2nd round pick grade.

MD: Yes… Now Gregg Williams really was on him about his techniques and his focus all training camp and in the practices. It’s way too early to label him an Alex Molden guy. Alex had no ball reaction skills. Patrick has good ball skills. It is just the consistency part and the focus that is lacking right now.

TOK: Do you see Darren Sharper on this team in 2011?

MD: No… Age, money and injuries say he is gone.

TOK: How about Scott Shanle?

MD: Yes, he returns, but I think he moves to the strong side spot.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

NFL 2011: Greed 1 Fans 0

There was a time when my world revolved around baseball.

It was during the late eighties, an era before the internet, 24-hour sports channels with constant sports score crawlers and automatic text messages giving inning by inning play.

In order to learn how my Houston Astros fared in their rainbow-bright uniforms, I would feverishly flip channels during the 10 PM news. When really desperate I would turn on an old shortwave radio to pick up an armed services channel carrying a game and hope that the commentators would pass a score along.

The first thing I would do in the morning when arriving at school was make a bee-line for the library to peruse the USA Today Sports section (which contained more finals than the Times Picayune).

I was pretty damned obsessed but I was cured by Donald Fehr, head of the Major League Baseball Players Association. The union chief called a players’ strike over owners’ plans to implement a badly needed salary cap.

While I do still love the game, the fire that was once a conflagration is now a votive candle for the passion I once had for baseball.

The union “won” and played resumed slightly delayed the following season though the game suffered. 1994 could have been one of the most special seasons in the modern era.

So it goes without saying that I am not exactly sympathetic to player unions.

There is a single exception.

The bull the NFL owners are trying to pull over the players is ludicrous. The owners are demanding a free billion dollars, a rookie pay scale that shifts the savings back to their pockets and not deserving players who signed on the cheap and have played above their compensation level and my least favorite aspect, the 18-game regular season.

What’s disgusting is how the league has dressed the latter up as “something for the fans”. Are they serious?

If the owners wanted to be generous to those who fill the stadiums, buy their merchandise and pay $4 for a fifty-cent bottle of water, they could bring concession prices down. But that’ll happen when Al Davis gets awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (though they’ve given it to less deserving).

Their “favor” would generate additional television revenue off of week three and four preseason contests that go largely ignored. The 18-game season was a gambit intended to win the fans over to the owners’ side, though their self-interest in the matter is so blatant that there hasn’t been a tidal wave of “thank you” notes pouring into team headquarters from fans.

And what are the players asking for? The exact same deal that’s worked out so well for one and all for the past several years. And if things are not going so swell as the NFL claims, then full financial disclosure proving that this billion-dollar entertainment juggernaut is somehow just scrimping by.

I think only the folks at Arthur Andersen could produce books that say that, if you catch my drift.

The owners will probably win the standoff. First, they have more resources at their disposal from either their accrued wealth or from their other business endeavors.

By contrast, I would imagine quite a few players have lived beyond their means in the expectation that they will make more later. Or in the case of the extremely naïve, that they will actually see the full return on their incentive laden contracts.

Secondly, the owners can control the debate better than the players. They also have their own in-house spokesmen and media operation (the NFL Network). As there are only 32 owners, it’s easier for them to get on the same page while there are thousands of players out there who have had trouble reining in their tweets during football contests. To say nothing about their equally loose-lipped agents, who are also feeling the pinch.

Though times will be tight, I think the players can win this war of wills if they have discipline, curtail their personal spending and have everyone saying the same thing and nothing more, reminding the fans that unlike 1987, the players are not on strike but are being locked out by management.

Sports talk radio has simplified this dispute as a fight between billionaires and millionaires; I don’t think that’s fair since not all players see the big money. It’s about trusting but verifying and not surrendering ground just because the owners think this is a capital time to get a larger piece of the pie at the expense of shorter playing careers and defiling impressive statistical achievements by some of the games greats.

I often ask myself why I spend so much money annually to watch something in person when I could watch the same thing from the comfort of my home for free…and in the case of my nosebleed seats, with a better view as well.

There’s something about being there. When I pay my $70 or so per game ticket, I’m not just there witnessing, I’m participating. I’m making noise to disrupt an opposing offense’s huddle or contributing my fair share of racket to make the other team’s defensive line jump early. I go there to not only give energy but to immerse myself in it.

There’s an intangible I get from attending Saints games that can’t be described and it can’t be bottled. It can only be experienced.

As the owners begin sitting on our hard-earned money and obtusely dig in for a protracted hold out, they run the risk of hundreds of thousands of fans starting to ask themselves why they spend money there and not somewhere else. If you’re the NFL owners, that lucidity is no good, since they make billions off of our emotions.

Kill the season and you roll the dice on killing the magic.

Just like the MLB players did in the nineties.

I know baseball isn’t the NFL; but a long standoff might make people half the fans they used to be and it might be possible to measure that in dollars with enough financial data.

Is it wise to haggle over an extra billion on the front end if you end up losing billions on the back end?
We’re about to learn how stupid everyone is, owners, players and fans.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Letter from Roger Goodell to the Fans

Below is an email that NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell has sent to NFL season ticket holders.

Dear NFL Fan,

When I wrote to you last on behalf of the NFL, we promised you that we would work tirelessly to find a collectively bargained solution to our differences with the players' union. Subsequent to that letter to you, we agreed that the fastest way to a fair agreement was for everyone to work together through a mediation process. For the last three weeks I have personally attended every session of mediation, which is a process our clubs sincerely believe in.

Unfortunately, I have to tell you that earlier today the players' union walked away from mediation and collective bargaining and has initiated litigation against the clubs. In an effort to get a fair agreement now, our clubs offered a deal today that was, among other things, designed to have no adverse financial impact on veteran players in the early years, and would have met the players’ financial demands in the latter years of the agreement.

The proposal we made included an offer to narrow the player compensation gap that existed in the negotiations by splitting the difference; guarantee a reallocation of savings from first-round rookies to veterans and retirees without negatively affecting compensation for rounds 2-7; no compensation reduction for veterans; implement new year-round health and safety rules; retain the current 16-4 season format for at least two years with any subsequent changes subject to the approval of the league and union; and establish a new legacy fund for retired players ($82 million contributed by the owners over the next two years).

It was a deal that offered compromise, and would have ensured the well-being of our players and guaranteed the long-term future for the fans of the great game we all love so much. It was a deal where everyone would prosper.

We remain committed to collective bargaining and the federal mediation process until an agreement is reached, and call on the union to return to negotiations immediately. NFL players, clubs, and fans want an agreement. The only place it can be reached is at the bargaining table.

While we are disappointed with the union's actions, we remain steadfastly committed to reaching an agreement that serves the best interest of NFL players, clubs and fans, and thank you for your continued support of our League. First and foremost it is your passion for the game that drives us all, and we will not lose sight of this as we continue to work for a deal that works for everyone.


Roger Goodell

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Saints Make Big Moves As Lock-Out Looms; Shockey Joins Panthers

The New Orleans Saints had a busy few days, signing a new defensive tackle and inking two key components from the 2010 Super Bowl championship team to multi-year deals.

DT Shaun Rogers, an eleven year veteran, had been released by the Cleveland Browns and met with a few suitors before accepting a one-year deal with the Black and Gold. Though Rogers has 37.5 career sacks, his last two seasons have not been impressive, bagging only four sacks.

The Saints are gambling that a new scheme and environment will rekindle Rogers’s productivity.

Rogers reportedly passed up more money to come to New Orleans because of the Saints’ use of the 4-3 defensive alignment and the franchise’s prospects of success.

Rogers’s last two teams were the Detroit Lions and the Browns.

The Saints also moved to retain the services of two starters, signing running back Pierre Thomas and kicker Garrett Hartley to new contracts.

The Thomas signing was somewhat of a surprise for many observers due to his injury-plagued 2010 season and refusal to participate in the early part of last season’s training camp stemming from the team’s failure to offer him a long term deal to his liking.

Pending on the terms of the agreement the NFL owners reach with the players union, Thomas could have been either a restricted or unrestricted free agent in 2011.

Though less of a shock than Thomas’s deal, the Saints’ decision to hold on to Hartley is a strong vote of confidence in a kicker who had a frustrating 2010 season and at times rode the pine.

Thomas signed a four-year contract and Hartley signed a five-year contract.

The Thomas deal likely ends any chance of the Saints selecting Alabama running back Mark Ingram in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft.

The addition of Rogers brings a critical piece of the Saints’ defensive line. Defensive tackle was considered a position of need for the Saints going into the draft. With Rogers on the roster, the likelihood that the team will pick the best defensive end available in the first round has increased significantly.

Shockey Joins Cats

It looks like the Who Dat Nation has not seen the last of released tight end Jeremy Shockey, even if he will be sporting different colors the next time he trots out on the Superdome’s FieldTurf.

According to the Associated Press, the ex-Saint signed a one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers. As a division rival, the Saints face the Cats twice in the regular season, playing one game in the Superdome and one game in Charlotte.