New Orleans Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis announced Monday the team has signed tackle Hutch Eckerson, cornerback Nick Hixson, guard DeOn'tae Pannell and linebacker Lawrence Wilson. The club has also waived tackle Dan Hoch, guard Nick Howell, linebacker Stephen Johnson, tackle Phil Trautwein and cornerback Josh Victorian. All four new additions participated in last weekend's rookie minicamp.
Eckerson is a 6-6, 310-pound product of South Carolina who first entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent signed by the San Diego Chargers in 2011, before being waived prior to the regular season. The Lumberton, N.C. native played for the Gamecocks from 2006-10. He started 23 career games, seeing action at both tackle spots.
Hixson (6-0, 189) participated in this weekend's camp after a standout four-year career at Hillsdale (Mich.) College. He excelled at cornerback, wide receiver and kickoff returner for the Chargers, where as a senior in 2011, he had two interceptions and broke up 11 passes, while also averaging 22.3 yards per kick return, as he was a First-Team All-GLIAC selection.
Pannell, a rookie from Penn State, also participated in the Saints' rookie minicamp on a tryout basis last weekend. The 6-5, 310-pound native of Southfield, Mich. has extensive starting experience for the Nittany Lions at both guard and tackle. After alternating at both positions early in his college career, Pannell moved to the interior as a junior and started at guard for Penn State as a senior in 2011.
Wilson is a 6-1, 225-pound product of the University of Connecticut who first entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick of the Carolina Panthers in 2011. After being waived by Carolina prior to the start of the regular season, he spent two months on their practice squad and spent most of the 2012 offseason on the roster of the Tennessee Titans. The Tuscaloosa, Ala. native played for the Huskies from 2007-10, where he ended his career as one of the most accomplished defensive players in the school's history. He appeared in 52 contests with a school-record 51 starts and ended his career second in school history with 449 tackles, also adding 35.5 stops for a loss, 9.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries, five interceptions that included a school-record three returns for touchdowns and ten passes defensed. As a senior in 2010, he started all 13 games at middle linebacker and was a first-team All-Big East selection as he led the concerned for the second consecutive season with 123 tackles, while adding ten stops for a loss, 3.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, one interception and three passes defensed.