Training camp might still be two months away, but the competition on the New Orleans practice fields is already beginning.
New Orleans opens the formal practice sessions of its offseason program with a rookie minicamp that spreads five practices over three days and serves as an introduction for the 24 rookies the Saints added during and after the NFL draft at the end of April.
For everybody other than the Saints’ five draft picks and a few hand-picked undrafted free agents, this minicamp carries big stakes. In addition to the rookies already under contract, New Orleans will be hosting a sizable contingent of unsigned rookies and a handful of veterans who are bent on earning their own shot at making an NFL roster.
New Orleans, as always, is far from done building its roster.
“We’re going to look at every opportunity to improve our team,” Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis said after the draft. “If it’s a veteran down the road, a free agent or maybe a trade, we’ll explore a lot of opportunities. I wouldn’t say that there is anything glaring that we feel we have to do. But there are some things that we will look at pretty seriously.”
The rookie minicamp also represents a chance for some of the young players the Saints added in the offseason to get a head start on their development. For example, then-unknowns Delvin Breaux and Willie Snead played through the rookie minicamp last season; the pair, picked up out of the CFL and off of the practice squad line, ended up becoming key starters and rising talents for the Saints in 2015.
No official list of tryout players has been released yet, but the Saints typically hold their rookie minicamp on the second weekend after the draft, allowing New Orleans to get a second chance at tryout players who might have been in a rookie minicamp for another team last week.
Wide receiver Kyle Prater, who made it to training camp last year and then was re-signed this offseason, was brought in last year after initially trying out for Cleveland.
If the Saints like what they see out of any of those tryout players, New Orleans — which enters the weekend right at the maximum of 90 players on the roster — will have to make a corresponding move.
Read more about the Saints minicamp at theneworleansadvocate.com