<
>

Khairi Fortt the latest disappointment among Saints newcomers

10/9/2014

METAIRIE, La. -- Rookie linebacker Khairi Fortt reportedly missed two team meetings before being released by the New Orleans Saints, according to The Advocate and WWL Radio.

I have not been able to confirm how much of a factor that was in the Saints’ decision to surprisingly cut ties with their fourth-round draft pick a week before he was eligible to come off the short-term injured reserve list. Two sources did confirm, however, that it was a “football decision” and not any violation of league rules or legal issues.

Perhaps it was the Saints’ way of sending a disciplinary message to the entire roster. Regardless, the draft choice clearly has to be considered a bust for the Saints, since they didn’t deem the linebacker from Cal to be worth trying to salvage.

And Fortt is the latest in a long list of offseason moves that haven’t panned out for the Saints.

First-round draft pick Brandin Cooks and free-agent center Jonathan Goodwin have been the only major contributors among the Saints' new acquisitions.

Cooks, a receiver from Oregon State, has immediately become a huge part of the Saints’ offense, ranking second on the team with 32 catches for 255 yards and a touchdown -- plus five carries for 64 yards. Goodwin has started every game and played well when healthy, though he's been battling a variety of nagging injuries lately.

No other draft picks have made a significant contribution yet, with sixth-round offensive tackle Tavon Rooks being relegated to the practice squad and cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste, safety Vinnie Sunseri and linebacker Ronald Powell being relegated to special-teams roles.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said the plan was to use Jean-Baptiste in a red zone package for the first time this past week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but Tampa’s offensive alignments made the Saints shift Jean-Baptiste off the field.

Free agency has been an even bigger bust so far, largely because of safety Jairus Byrd’s season-ending knee injury last week. Big things are still expected in future years from the Saints’ blockbuster free-agent signing, despite the fact that he showed inconsistency in the first four weeks. But obviously Byrd won’t help for the remainder of the 2014 season.

The other big-name signing was cornerback Champ Bailey, who didn’t make the roster coming out of training camp.

And fullback Erik Lorig also hasn’t played yet because of an ankle injury suffered early in training camp, though the Saints are clearly still expecting a possible impact since they kept a roster spot devoted to him.

The later additions of Goodwin and defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick have produced more fruit so far.

It also doesn’t help matters that two of the players the Saints let go (running back Darren Sproles via trade and safety Malcolm Jenkins via free agency) are off to great starts with the Philadelphia Eagles.

I don’t believe that all of these moves bundled together signal the need for any sort of rethinking or retooling in the front office. I agreed with most of the Saints’ decisions at the time, including the Byrd signing. I was more hesitant on letting go of Sproles, though I understood it since the Saints were loaded at the running back position. And sure enough, all three remaining running backs have been thriving so far this year.

Clearly, though, it’s not an exact science. And so far, the 2014 season is rivaling 2007 as the best evidence of that fact. That was the year the Saints added Jason David, Brian Simmons and Kevin Kaesviharn, among others, and wound up essentially redshirting first-round choice Robert Meachem. They also cut their fourth-round pick that year, running back Antonio Pittman, though he had a better excuse since he got beat out by undrafted rookie Pierre Thomas.