Player who don’t hear their names called in the NFL Draft commonly face more challenges in making a 53-man roster. However, some of those players can join a team and provide significant contributions. The New Orleans Saints finished the 2011 season with 18 players on the roster who went undrafted, including five in a starting role. Today, the Black and Gold agreed to terms with 18 rookie free agents who will join the team and hope to follow this route of some of the players below, starting with a rookie minicamp from May 11-13.
The most notable of these players is wide receiver Lance Moore. Moore originally signed with the Cleveland Browns in 2005 as an undrafted free agent from Toledo. He spent most of the 2005 and 2006 seasons on the Saints practice squad before making the active roster. Since then, Moore has transformed into one of the team’s best playmakers. For his career, the proven veteran has recorded 244 receptions for 2,783 yards (11.4 avg.) with 30 touchdowns which ranks fifth in team history. The versatile receiver has alsocontributed on special teams, returning 18 kickoffs for 354 yards (19.7 avg.) and 44 punts for 382 yards (8.7 avg.).
Cornerback Jabari Greer joined the New Orleans Saints in 2009 after spending five years with the Buffalo Bills. The former Tennessee Volunteer has been able to establish himself as one of the NFL’s premier cornerbacks. For his career, Greer has recorded 348 tackles (277 solo), nine interceptions returned for 187 yards with four brought back for touchdowns, two sacks, 78 pass defenses, and three forced fumbles. Greer enjoyed a standout season in the secondary for the Saints in 2011, anchoring the defensive backfield with 83 tackles (63 solo), one interception, and a team best 23 pass defenses.
Running back Pierre Thomas signed with the Saints in 2007 after going undrafted from the University of Illinois. Thomas originally signed as special teams expert and has evolved into a versatile weapon for the high-powered Saints offense. He led the club in rushing in both 2008 and 2009. Thomas has carried 521 times for 2,501 yards (4.8 avg.) with 23 rushing touchdowns while adding 166 receptions for 1,363 yards (8.2 avg.) and seven receiving touchdowns. The former Illini ranks third in club history in yards per carry, tenth in rushing yardage, and is tied for fifth in rushing touchdowns. In 2011, Thomas was able to add 987 total yards from scrimmage, carrying 110 times for 562 yards (5.1 avg.) with five touchdowns and recording a career-high 50 receptions for 425 yards (8.5 avg.) with one touchdown.
After serving stints on the practice squad in Kansas City, Carolina, and Seattle, Offensive Lineman Brian de la Puente joined the Saints practice squad for the final two months of the 2010 season. After making the 53-man roster in 2011, de la Puente eventually moved into a starting role in the middle of an offensive line that set an NFL record for total net yards.
Fullback Jed Collins joined the Saints in 2010 after spending three seasons on practice squads with Philadelphia, Cleveland, Arizona, and Chicago. Collins won the starting position out of a 2011 training camp competition. Collins appeared in all 16 games in 2011 with 11 starts and four touchdowns. The converted linebacker out of Washington State helped improve the Saints rushing attack that ranked 28th in 2010 to sixth in 2011.
Signed out of NCAA Division II Tiffin, running back Chris Ivory has been productive in New Orleans since joining the club in 2010. Ivory led the team in rushing in his first year with 137 carries for 716 yards (5.2 avg.) while adding five TDs. After missing the first six games, Ivory was able to add 374 yards on 79 carries (4.7 avg.) and one touchdown in 2011. His best game of the year came in the regular season finale against Carolina on January 1 where he recorded 127 yards and a touchdown.
Quarterback Chase Daniel was originally signed by Washington in 2009 after a standout career as a Missouri Tiger. For the last two seasons, Daniel has served as Drew Brees’ backup while also serving as the holder for extra points and field goals.
Defensive end Junior Galette joined the club prior to the 2010 after finishing his college career at Stillman College. Galette serves in the team’s defensive rotation, primarily as a pass rusher. In 2011, Galette appeared in all 16 games with one start and finished ranked third on the team with 4.5 sacks.
Safety Isa Abdul-Quddus was a major contributor on the Saints special teams unit in 2011. After joining the club from Fordham, Abdul-Quddus made the 53-man roster and saw action in all 16 regular season games and both postseason contests in his rookie campaign. Abdul-Quddus recorded 11 tackles on special teams which ranked second for the club. He also contributed with nine tackles (five solo), two pass defenses, and a forced fumble from the safety position.
Defensive Tackle Tom Johnson spent time on the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad in 2006 and 2007 before moving his talents to the Arena Football League and the Canadian Football League from 2008-10. Johnson joined the Saints in 2011 and became an important part of the defensive line rotation. The former Southern Mississippi defender appeared in 13 games for the Saints in 2011 and recorded 25 tackles (11 solo), one sack, one pass defense, and a forced fumble.
Jonathan Casillas joined the club in 2009 after finishing his collegiate career at the University of Wisconsin. Casillas made an immediate impact on defense and special teams. Going in to 2010, the former Badger was challenging for a starting position before being side-lined for the season with a foot injury. Casillas bounced back in 2011, appearing in 13 games while recording a career-high 57 tackles (33 solo), three sacks, and three pass defenses.
Safety Jonathon Amaya originally signed with Miami in 2010 after playing at Nevada. Amaya spent the first six weeks of the season on the Dolphins practice squad before joining the active roster and led the team with 15 special teams stops in just ten games. Amaya joined the Saints in a trade for RB Reggie Bush. Amaya finished 2011 ranked third on the club with nine special teams stops.
LS Justin Drescher, a high school teammate of Daniel and K Garrett Hartley spent the spring of 2010 with Atlanta after signing with them as an undrafted free agent out of Colorado. After serving as the team’s long snapper for the final seven contests of 2010, he has handled the club’s duties flawlessly since.
Signed by New Orleans at midseason in 2008, Hartley has made 42-of-49 field goal attempts, as well as nailing the game-winning kick in the NFC Championship and being the only kicker in Super Bowl history to make three attempts of 40 yards or more.
TE Michael Higgins joined the Saints in training camp in 2011 out of Division II Nebraska-Omaha. After spending the first three months of the season on the team’s practice squad, Higgins was elevated to the active roster for the season’s final eight games, where he saw action both on offense and special teams.
Signed by Tennessee as an undrafted free agent out of Iowa in 2009, DT Mitch King has appeared in seven games the last two seasons for both Indianapolis and New Orleans and is expected to compete for a spot in the club’s defensive line rotation in 2012 in training camp.
Among one of the club’s newcomers from the 2012 free agent class, LB David Hawthorne originally joined Seattle as an undrafted free agent out of TCU in 2008. Hawthorne made the Seahawks roster as a rookie and emerged as a starter his second season, leading the team in tackles each season, as he recorded 100 or more stops each campaign.