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John DeShazier: Safety Kurt Coleman sold on Saints vision for him

Posted Mar 13, 2018

Coleman: 'I think this team is right there'

Kurt Coleman has had the feeling before, and that helped shape his choice.

The free agent safety, who signed a three-year contract with the New Orleans Saints, had a similar feeling to this offseason of free agency in 2015, when he signed with the Carolina Panthers, one of the Saints’ NFC South Division rivals. And that season, the Panthers finished 15-1 in the regular season and advanced to the Super Bowl, where they lost to Denver.

So Coleman, a nine-year veteran who played collegiately at Ohio State – yep, another Buckeye on the Saints’ roster – made quick work of his free agency tour.

“Knowing them, knowing the organization, having friends and teammates play for them, I think all those are a number of reasons (to sign with New Orleans),” Coleman said. “But one of the most important factors was when I met with the Saints and (Coach) Sean (Payton), he gave me a great vision for how he saw me fitting within this team, within the defense, and playing alongside several guys that I’ve played with or that I know through the Ohio State connection. It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s intriguing for me.

“But then when you couple that with the fact of this team was literally knocking on the doorstep of a Super Bowl last year – I think had one play gone their way, they could have been in that position – I’m excited. I think this team is right there, right where they want to be and it was the same/similar feeling of three years ago, when I signed with the Panthers.

“This team has what it takes. It has all the intangibles – they have the great coaching staff, a great organization, a great fan base. And for me, it’s just about me plugging in, doing what I do best which is being able to be a play-maker, be a leader within this team, within the organization or within this community, and just playing football.”

In three seasons with the Panthers, Coleman had 11 interceptions. Last year he started all 12 games he played and finished with 77 tackles, a fumble recovery and three passes defensed. In 2016, he started all 15 games he played and had 90 tackles, a sack, a team-high four interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), four passes defensed and a forced fumble. In ’15, he tied for third in the league with seven interceptions (one returned for a score), led Carolina with 103 tackles, and added a sack and five passes defensed.

In addition to the sales pitch offered by Saints coaches, Coleman also was swayed by a former teammate, Roman Harper. Harper, a second-round pick by the Saints in 2006, played under Payton (from ’06-’13, and ’16) and with the Panthers (’14-’15).

“I picked a couple of guys’ brain,” Coleman said. “I talked to (Saints linebacker and former Panthers teammate) A.J. (Klein). Roman Harper – who has been a tremendous friend, teammate of mine, family friend of ours – I think was one of the biggest resources that I could lean on. Because he’s been in that atmosphere for so many years, he understands the dynamics.

“He understood the defensive scheme with (Saints defensive coordinator) Dennis Allen. I think that played a big role, because I favor his advice a lot. He’s been through it all, he understands the game and the defensive scheme. I think the thing that he saw was that if Sean used me correctly with Dennis Allen, I think this could be a great, great fit, because I do a lot of different things for a team. And it’s not just playing on Sunday. I think it’s Monday to Saturday, nurturing, growing – we have a young defensive secondary, and I’m excited to work with those guys.”

The Saints’ secondary last year finished the season starting a rookie cornerback and safety (Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Williams), and two second-year players (cornerback Ken Crawley and safety Vonn Bell).

“The talent level of these guys, they’re just scratching the surface of what they’re going to be able to do in this league,” Coleman said. “I just want to help be a catalyst, help be an earpiece to them to kind of bounce ideas off of, show them what works, maybe what doesn’t work. I just want to help elevate their game to the next level.”

And, too, Coleman wants to show that he still has plenty of game left. And the Saints believe they have the proper vision for his role.

“Just allowing me and putting me in position to make the plays,” Coleman said. “I was very successful when I’m able to get eyes on the quarterback, move me around in multiple positions and being able to just impact the game in a lot of different ways. I think that’s how (Payton) sees me and my skill-set.

“But obviously, fitting within the defense. I’ve been a great cover safety, but also playing in different coverages – quarters, halves, in the post. Moving me around, I think, allows me to keep the quarterback kind of on his toes. It allows me to play at the best of my ability.”