By John McMullen, NFL Editor
REPORT DATES: July 20 (rookies), July 24 (veterans)
SITE: The Greenbrier, White Sulpher Springs, WV
CAMP CONFIDENTIAL: The Saints are taking their training camp on the road to the Greenbrier, an award winning luxury resort located just outside White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.
Despite having little salary-cap room at the beginning of free agency New Orleans was able to bring in a difference maker for the back end of its defense in former Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd. He, along with fellow safety Kenny Vaccaro and cornerback Keenan Lewis, now give the Saints a host of upper-echelon players in the secondary, meaning defensive coordinator Rob Ryan can get exotic with the pass rush.
The Saints do need to replace the production of departed scatback Darren Sproles but head coach Sean Payton is as inventive as it gets and rookie receiver Brandin Cooks should step in as NOLA's new "Where's Waldo" player. Meanwhile, the team avoided a potential messy situation by signing star tight end Jimmy Graham to a big-money, four-year contract on July 15.
KEY OFFENSIVE ACQUISITION: You gotta keep the franchise (in this case Drew Brees) happy and the Saints did exactly that by trading up to draft the dynamic Cooks, who some have compared to ex-Carolina star Steve Smith. Cooks is undersized but he's got explosive speed and should fit in nicely as the replacement for the departed Lance Moore.
KEY DEFENSIVE ACQUISITION: Byrd got a monster six-year, $54 million deal with the Saints, including $26.3 million guaranteed to join a defense which was already ranked fourth overall and second against the pass. He amassed 22 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles in his 66 starts in Buffalo and looks like a tailor-made fit for Ryan.
PRESEASON SCHEDULE (All Times Eastern):
Aug 8 - at St. Louis, 8:00 PM Aug 15 - vs. Tennessee, 8:00 PM Aug 23 - at Indianapolis, 8:00 PM Aug 28 - vs. Baltimore, 8:00 PM
07/17 12:52:30 ET