When the Saints pruned their roster back to 75, several recent draft picks were among the casualties including wide receiver Nick Toon, safety Vinny Sunseri and linebacker Ronald Powell. Sunseri and Powell were both 5th round picks in 2014; Toon was a 4th round selection in 2012.
Technically, all three players have been waived/injured, which means any of them could end up on the Saints injured reserve list, if no other team claims them.
“The player that is waived/injured, more than likely, reverts back to injured reserve,” head coach Sean Payton said. “There are two elements to it. The club has flexibility. In some player cases, there might be an injury settlement and the player can come back to the roster this year. A player that is placed on injured reserve cannot come back to the roster. If a player was waived/injured and the club was able to injury settle the player, he could end up back in the fray here this year, as opposed to an injured reserve player.”
Trainers carted Sunseri off the field in Sunday’s exhibition game against the Texans after the backup safety was injured on punt coverage. Competition in New Orleans’ secondary is stiff, especially given that Kenny Vaccaro, Jairus Byrd and Rafael Bush presumably have their spots locked up. Sunseri saw action as a rookie last season on special teams before a broken arm sidelined him.
The decision to potentially part ways with Toon was also likely driven by the depth of competition amongst potential targets for quarterback Drew Brees.
“Nick has been great in regards to the competition,” Payton said. “Certainly, he has had real good weeks that he’s put together in practice, and yet, there are some other players that have really done a good job. We’ll see what happens with him and his transaction specifically, but it is hard for a young player that hasn’t received a lot of snaps because of an injury to make the 53.”
Toon’s departure means the window of opportunity opens even wider for undrafted free agents Brandon Coleman (Rutgers) and Willie Snead (Ball State) in the Saints final exhibition game in Green Bay versus the Packers.
Although it’s doubtful Brees will play Thursday, the veteran signal caller says he has a great comfort level with both hopefuls.
“Brandon has had a phenomenal offseason and preseason,” Brees said. “Just like any young player, it is that transition from the plays that you make in practice to the game and that will only come with more opportunities, but I am excited for him. I love his approach. I love his focus and his maturation process from last year to this year. He deserves a lot of credit. He has worked extremely hard to get to this point.”
Meanwhile, Snead played so well in the Saints contest with the Houston Texans – 4 catches for 56 yards – that coaches rested him for part of the game.
“I am really happy for Willie,” Brees said. “Again, a guy who’s traveled the hard road, comes in on the practice squad kind of mid-season last season. I am sure he was not on anyone’s thought process as the early predictions were being made for who were going to be the top guys to make this team, but certainly he has made a ton of plays this offseason and preseason. A lot of people know who he is now. Every time you throw him the ball something good happens. Man, he has soaked it all up, every coaching point from his position coach and from the quarterbacks, the extra work after practice and all the little things that you want to see out of player who wants to be great.”
Even after making the decision to part ways with three draft picks this pre-season, the decisions aren’t likely to get any easier for the Saints’ front office.