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Defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon, tight end Nick Vannett admired New Orleans Saints from afar before joining team as free agents

'Who doesn't want to be around that?'

Check out photos of the New Orleans Saints new roster addition, defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon, throughout his NFL career.

Partly, Tanoh Kpassagnon looked on the field.

Partly, Nick Vannett looked on social media.

Wholly, each was persuaded to join the New Orleans Saints as unrestricted free agents, with Kpassagnon, a defensive end, agreeing to terms on a two-year contract and Vannett, a tight end, agreeing on a three-year deal.

"Playing against them," Kpassagnon said of what drew him to the Saints. He played his first four seasons with Kansas City, helping the Chiefs win the Super Bowl in 2019. Kansas City played the Saints in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Dec. 20, and even though the Chiefs posted a 32-29 victory, the Saints sacked Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes four times and logged a whopping 92 plays.

"I saw how their defensive line, especially, just got after it," said Kpassagnon, who had a sack, three passes defensed, four quarterback hits and two tackles for loss last season. In his four seasons, he has totaled seven sacks, 18 quarterback hits, 12 tackles for loss and 75 tackles.

"You see it with their production on the field, how they stop the run, how the really get after the passer," he said. "Playing them, seeing that in person really is what made that stick to me."

One of the things that stuck to former Ohio State standout Vannett, who will be entering his sixth season, was what he noticed off the field.

"A lot of guys I played with in college are on the team – Mike Thomas, Marshon Lattimore just to name a couple," he said. "I've talked to Mike Thomas a few times. It's not really so much what he would say, it's just kind of from the outside looking in, if you open up any social media, you'll see all the fun that the Saints have and that they have in the locker room after the game, after they win.

"It just looks like the camaraderie of the team is super special and that's very rare to find. It's very rare to find that in the NFL. When I started my career in Seattle, I think that was another place that had a very strong culture, a very strong camaraderie within the locker room. I just remember how much I enjoyed that and being a part of that.

"I'm a big guy (listed at 6 feet 6, 261 pounds), I pride myself on energy. I pride myself on being energetic and feeding off of other people's energy. When you're part of a locker room that provides that, who doesn't want to be around that? It makes it more fun, it helps with the camaraderie of the team and that helps win games on Sundays. You're going to want to do it for your brother next to you."

Vannett also seized the opportunity to become more utilized offensively. He was the top blocking tight end in his draft class (third round, No. 94 overall in 2016), but said his receiving skills steadily have improved. Vannett said that Saints Coach Sean Payton partly used that as a sales pitch when the team reached out to him.

"Let's be honest: You don't need to really sell much about being a Saint," said Vannett, who has 75 catches for 686 yards and five touchdowns in his career. "It kind of speaks for itself. (Payton) just talked about everything from, like, how well the offense has ranked in the top 10 over the time that he's been the coach here, just the opportunity and the duty that they expect the tight ends to take on in the offense.

"I've always considered myself a dual-threat guy; I'm not someone who's going to take the top off the defense but I can stay on the field and I can do whatever is asked of me. I think one thing that's underrated for me is my hands and the things I can offer in the pass game. Talking to him, it seems like he felt like I'm a guy that's been underutilized and he saw some potential in me, it sounds like he wanted me to be a part of the Saints.

"He thinks that I can add something special to what's going on here. Talking to him and hearing what he had to say about me made me feel good as a player, as a person. I'm getting chills just thinking about it right now. It's one of those things where I feel like it's a solid, great opportunity to be a part of and I just couldn't be any more fired up about it."

Vannett considers himself an ascending player, and believes that will show in New Orleans.

"I think each year I get better and better and better," he said. "I always find areas to work on, or that I think I can improve in, and I always try to focus on that each year in the offseason. I think it's allowed me to become an all-around player, a very solid player. I want to be in the league as long as I can and I think as long as I continue to have that mind-set and continue to have that work ethic, I'll be able to show the true player that I am."

Kpassagnon, too, believes he will see his production rise with the Saints, particularly under the guidance of assistant head coach/defensive line Ryan Nielsen.

"You see it with guys like (former Saints defensive end) Trey Hendrickson, per se," he said. Hendrickson posted a team- and career-high 13.5 sacks last year.

"A lot of people didn't really know who he was but going through this system and being with Coach Nielsen, definitely you see that rise this past year," Kpassagnon said. "Coach Nielsen, just coming out of college I remember him working me out and how he actually coached and I love the passion. You know he's going to get the most out of you."


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