The New Orleans Saints began the new year by signing their first few players to the seldom discussed "reserve/futures contract." Four Saints players that finished the season on the team's practice squad were re-signed: G Tim Duckworth, TE Buck Ortega, CB Anwar Phillips and DE Josh Savage.
While another young, promising prospect has joined the fold, and should be familiar to area football fans: former LSU star WR/KR Skyler Green.
Reserve/future contracts are contracts that are signed for the 2008 season, even though the upcoming season does not officially begin until March. Only players who were not on any NFL team's active roster when the 2007 season ended are eligible for such signings; if they were under contract, then they would remain so until March.
Players who were on practice squads at the end of the season are eligible to sign with any team, as was the case with Green, who ended the season on the practice squad of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Green, a 5-9, 190-pound product of L.W. Higgins High School in Marrero, La., was a fourth-round draft choice of the Dallas Cowboys in 2006. He began his rookie season on the Dallas Cowboys' practice squad and played in two games as a rookie after being activated to the active roster. He was then acquired via waivers by the Bengals in December of 2006 and spent time between the Bengals' active roster and practice squad this season.
The Saints were able to get a better look at Green when the Saints and Bengals held a joint day of practices in August, two days before a preseason game. In 2007 Green played in games one through seven for the Bengals and was inactive for the eighth game of the season before being waived to make room on the roster for a player who was returning from an eight-game suspension. While active, Green was the Bengals' primary punt returner in games while also adding three receptions for 33 yards. After being waived he was quickly re-signed to the Bengals' practice squad, where he spent the remainder of the season.
As a collegian at LSU, Green played 40 games over four seasons (2002-2005), and finished his career with the school-record for punts returned for touchdowns, with four. Green compiled 986 career yards on 69 punt returns (14.3 average), and also had 663 yards on 31 kickoff returns (21.3). He had 104 career receptions for 1,072 yards (10.1) and nine touchdowns and added 22 rushes for 211 yards (9.6 avg.) with one touchdown. His top season, in terms of yards from scrimmage, came in 2003 (his sophomore year), when he played 14 games for team that won BCS National Title and was 48-for-519 receiving with five touchdowns and 8-for-90 rushing with one score. Green scored LSU's first TD in the national title game vs. Oklahoma on 24-yard run.
Green was born in Houma and considers his hometown to be Avondale, La. Green played at L.W. Higgins High School in Marrero, La., where he rushed for 2,174 yards on 194 carries as a senior QB. Off of the field Green has been an active participant as a volunteer coach/manager in 2007 Special Olympics Track & Field competition at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Green is a cousin of two former LSU players who have been in NFL - DL Jarvis Green (New England) and DL Howard Green (formerly with Baltimore and New Orleans).
Duckworth, a well-built offensive lineman from Auburn, signed with the Saints late in training camp and quickly opened eyes with his athleticism and potential, and thus spent the season on the club's practice squad, where he helped run the scout team offensive sets. The 6-4, 318-pound product of Auburn was a two-year starter at RG during his collegiate career who made a rapid adjustment to the offensive side of the ball after originally beginning his college career as a defensive tackle. He went onto to earn two second-team all-conference honors before being a first-team All-SEC honoree as a senior.
Ortega, 6-4, 250 pounds, was signed to the Saints' practice squad on November 27, 2007. The former Miami Hurricanes tight end originally broke into the NFL as a rookie free agent with the Washington Redskins and also spent time with the Cleveland Browns and the Miami Dolphins. Ortega is the son of former Atlanta Falcons LB Ralph Ortega.
Phillips, 6-1, 185 pounds, was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Saints shortly after the 2006 NFL Draft and has spent the past two seasons on the team's practice squad. Phillips played his college ball at Penn State after graduating from Northwest High School in Germantown, MD. At PSU he was an All-Big Ten performer as senior and concluded his college career with 104 tackles and seven interceptions.
Savage, 6-4, 276 pounds, also spent the majority of the 2007 season on the Saints' practice squad, as well as making an appearance on the active roster late in the season. The former rookie free agent signee of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hails from the University of Utah and joined the Saints' practice squad just prior to the start of the regular season after being waived by the Tennessee Titans. He was signed to the active roster on December 22. He has played in 12 career games in parts of three NFL seasons, totaling six tackles. Savage was claimed off waivers from the Falcons on September 3, 2006 and went on to play in five games for the Titans. In a reserve role he registered a career-high four tackles with one quarterback pressure. In 2005, Savage saw action in one game after spending 12 weeks on the Falcons practice squad. As a rookie in 2004, Savage played in five games for Tampa Bay and totaled two tackles.