Saints begin mining undrafted free agent market in search of keepers
Now that the curtain has dropped on the 2021 NFL Draft, we can look at the all-out scramble to fill out the remainder of the rosters in the league with quality undrafted free agents.
There is always a reason (or two or three) that a player wasn’t drafted, but the trick here is to nab a player who may have had a red flag or perceived deficiency in a certain area that can be overcome with proper coaching and organizational support.
The Saints have a history of striking gold with undrafted players throughout the years. Here’s the list of their early UDFA signings post-draft (see the release confirming the signings below).
Trill Williams (6-0, 210), DB, Syracuse
Likely a safety or nickel corner, Williams did it all in college for his team’s secondary. In 2020, he played in 5 games for the Orange before an injury and then decided to opt out the remainder of the campaign. With 92 career stops with 4 interceptions including one returned for touchdown this past season, Williams heads to the pros will versatility and playmaking as his hallmarks.
Mike Brown (6-3, 340), OG, West Virginia
A classic mauler guard who put up 24 reps on the bench press, he was second team All-Big 12 last season. Married with a small child, Brown is a mature young man who will come to camp hungry.
Shaq Smith (6-2, 245), LB, Maryland
The transfer from Clemson where he spent 2017-’18 seasons is a former 5 star prospect and the No. 1 overall recruit in Maryland who never hit his stride in college. His athletic traits alone make him work a closer look.
Bryce Thompson (5-11, 190), CB, Tennessee
Projected to go as soon as the 4th round, this proven SEC ball hawk is a good open field tackler with a high football IQ. He converted from wide receiver in college and immediately became a regular for the Vols.
Stevie Scott (6-1, 230), RB, Indiana
Totaling 2,543 career rushing yards and 30 touchdowns for Hoosiers over three seasons, he also grabbed 55 passes with two additional scores. Not a game breaker, Scott is a very physical runner who sees creases and makes quick moves. He is a cutback runner, good receiver and rock-solid pass blocker. He has ability to stick.
Josiah Bronson (6-3, 304), DT, Washington
A six-year college player who can play tackle or end, he played on the same line with highly regarded 2021 draft picks Joe Tryon and Levi Onwuzurike. Bronson originally signed with Temple but was injured in 2015 before returning to his home state. Granted additional season in 2020, this hard hat, blue collar worker was highly sought post draft (earning a nice guarantee to sign with the Saints). He not a sack guy, but Bronson can make the team.
Others signed right after the draft by New Orleans:
- Dylan Soehner, TE, Iowa State ($120K guarantee)
- Nolan Cooney, P, Syracuse
- Eric Burrell, S, Wisconsin
- Alex Hoffman, OT, Carrol College
- Lawrence Woods, CB/KR, Truman State
Others of interest signed elsewhere as UDFAs:
Cincinnati–RB Pooka Williams (5-9, 178)…slight build but 4.3 speed and ability to make people miss in space makes the former Hahnville star who left Kansas following his a junior year an intriguing rotational back who may also see snaps in the slot.
Jacksonville–LB Dylan Moses (6-3, 240)…Baton Rouge native was thought to be a potential 3rd-4th round pick but injuries cratered his stock. A tremendous athlete if he’s able to show he’s healthy, the Alabama standout can make the rebuilding Bengals defense.
Tennessee–FB Tory Carter (5-11, 245)…LSU’s hard nosed blocker also has reliable hands as a receiver and is a proven special teamer. He could make some money blocking for Titans star Derrick Henry.
Kansas City–QB Shane Buechele (6-0, 210) …started at Texas as freshman before a move to SMU. In 2020, he completed 65% of passes for 3,095 yards, 23 TD’s and 6 interceptions.
Philadelphia–QB Jamie Newman (6-3, 230)…He opted out at Georgia, and it proved costly. The Wake Forest transfer was once thought to be a potential first rounder but he’s a developmental lotto ticket now.
Minnesota–WR Whop Philyor (5-11, 183)…thought to be faster than he ran at his pro day (4.57), the ex-Indiana Hoosier could be a “find.”
Atlanta–QB Feleipe Franks (6-5, 230)…the ex-Florida and Arkansas starter was expected to go on Day 3. He has size, arm strength and athleticism to give him a chance.
Carolina–OG David Moore (6-2, 330)…the Grambling product is a good athlete for a squat-built true guard.
Saints Add 11 Undrafted Free Agents
For Immediate Release: Sunday, May 2, 2021
New Orleans Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis announced Sunday that 11 undrafted rookie free agents have agreed to terms with the team following the conclusion of the NFL Draft. Joining the Saints will be cornerback Bryce Thompson, defensive backs Trill Williams and Lawrence Woods, safety Eric Burrell, defensive lineman Josiah Bronson, linebacker Shaq Smith, offensive linemen Mike Brown and Alex Hoffman, punter Nolan Cooney, running back Stevie Scott III and tight end Dylan Soehner.
Bryce Thompson – Cornerback, Tennessee (5-11, 185): Thompson was a three-year letterman/starter for the Volunteers. The Irmo, S.C. native played in 32 career games with 28 starts, recording 102 tackles (73 solo), eight tackles for loss, two sacks, eight interceptions, 19 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. As a junior in 2020, Thompson played in ten games with eight starts and posted 36 tackles (27 solo), two stops for loss, two interceptions, four passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. As a sophomore in 2019, Thompson made 32 tackles (22 solo), two stops for loss, one sack, three interceptions and five passes defensed.
Trill Williams – Defensive Back, Syracuse (6-2, 198): Williams was a three-year letterman for Syracuse who has played both safety and cornerback and in 28 games (15 starts), had 93 tackles (65 solo), 3.5 tackles for loss, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and six pass breakups. Two of his four interceptions were against ACC powerhouse Clemson. He also had three touchdown returns in his career, running back a blocked punt, an interception (off a lateral from a teammate) and a fumble for scores. As a junior in 2020, before declaring for the NFL Draft, he started the first four games and posted 24 tackles, 1.0 tackles for loss, one interception, four passes defensed and a touchdown off a lateral on an interception on the season. The Yonkers, N.Y in 2019 played in 11 games, starting six at nickel and one at cornerback. He registered 38 tackles (25 solo), two pass breakups and one interception, while tying for second in the ACC and 16th nationally with three forced fumbles, recovering one in a victory over Wake Forest and returning it 94 yards for a touchdown.
Lawrence Woods –Defensive back, Truman State (5-9, 180): The St. Louis, Mo. was named a Division II All-American following his 2018 season in which he was also the Great Lakes Valley Conference Special Teams Player of the Year. That season, Woods returned three kickoffs for touchdowns and averaged 50.8 yards per return. He played only four games in 2019 but added another 87-yard TD return in the season opener against Drake (Iowa) while adding a pair of interceptions and eight pass breakups. Woods did not suit up for the Bulldogs this spring season opting to focus on preparation for beginning an NFL career.
Eric Burrell – Safety, Wisconsin (6-0, 195): Burrell, who is a native of Severn, Md., finished his college career playing in 48 games with 26 starts at safety, logging 126 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, five interceptions, 11 pass breakups and four forced fumbles. He graduated in December 2019 with bachelor’s degree in personal finance and in December, 2020 received a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy analysis. As a redshirt senior/graduate student in the Big Ten’s abbreviated season in 2020, Burrell earned his fourth letter, starting all seven games at safety and recorded 23 total tackles, two tackles for loss, one interception and a pass breakup as he was selected All Big Ten honorable mention and All-Academic. In 2019, he garnered conference honorable mention honors, earning his third letter, playing in all 14 games with 13 starts at safety as he logged 55 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, three interceptions, six passes defensed, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Josiah Bronson – Defensive lineman, Washington (6-3, 300): Bronson is a Kent, Wash. native who started his college career at Temple but transferred to Washington in 2017 and was a three-year letterman with the Huskies from 2018-2020. In the Pac 12’s abbreviated season in 2020, Bronson played in all four games with three starts at defensive tackle and posted eight tackles and one fumble recovery. In 2019, he played in all 13 games with 11 starts and made 23 tackles, four stops for loss and two sacks.
Shaq Smith – Linebacker, Maryland (6-2, 245): The Baltimore, Md. native played two seasons at Maryland after playing the first two seasons of his college career at Clemson. He appeared in only one contest in 2020’s abbreviated Big Ten season. As a junior in 2019, Smith played in 11 of 12 games with ten starts for the Terrapins, racking up 24 tackles, four pass breakups, 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack in his first major role at the college level. Smith saw the field in 28 games as a reserve linebacker during his redshirt freshman and sophomore seasons at Clemson, tallying 29 tackles, 2.5 stops for loss and one interception.
Mike Brown – Offensive lineman, West Virginia (6-3, 345): After starting his career at Eastern Arizona College, Brown transferred to West Virginia in 2018, where he played three seasons and graduated with a degree in multidisciplinary studies. He played in 25 games for the Mountaineers, starting 16 at both left guard and right guard. In 2020, Brown started all ten games at right guard and was a consensus All-Big 12 Conference second-team selection, blocking for the 15th ranked pass offense 27th ranked overall offense in FBS.
Alex Hoffman – Offensive lineman, Carroll (Mont.) (6-6, 295): The Draper, Utah native was a four-year letterman at Carroll and this spring in just five games helped lead the way on a dominant rushing attack that averaged nearly 200 yards per game following a 2019 campaign where the Fighting Saints rushed for an average of 213 yards per game.
Nolan Cooney – Punter, Syracuse (6-3, 202): After serving as a holder in 2018 and 2019, the East Greenwich, R.I. native earned Pro Football Focus honorable mention All-America and third-team All-ACC honors in his first year as the team’s punter in 2020, when he punted in 11 games with 74 attempts for a 44.8 yard average. 25 of his punt went for 50+ yards, 24 downed inside the 20 and only three touchbacks surrendered. Served as Syracuse’s holder for placement kicks the past three seasons. Cooney was also the ACC’s Brian Piccolo Award recipient in 2020, given to the most courageous player in the league, after overcoming a battle with testicular cancer in high school.
Stevie Scott III – Running back, Indiana (6-2, 231): Jones was a four-year letterman for Indiana and played a key role in the program’s resurgence. The Syracuse, N.Y. native finished his career fourth in program history with 30 rushing touchdowns, fifth with 32 total touchdowns, seventh with 562 attempts, ninth with 2,543 rushing yards and tied for 10th with nine 100‐yard games. Scott joined running back Anthony Thompson (1986‐ 89) and quarterback Antwaan Randle El (1998‐2001) as the only Hoosiers to score at least 10 rushing touchdowns in three‐straight seasons. In an abbreviated Big Ten season in 2020, Scott totaled 561 rushing yards (4th in the Big Ten) on 156 attempts (2nd) with 10 touchdowns (2nd, T‐22nd) and ranked second in the conference with 10 total touchdowns. He earned second-team All-Big Ten from both conference coaches and media. In 2019, he rushed for 845 yards on 178 attempts (4.7 average) with 10 touchdowns and caught 26 passes for 211 yards and one TD, despite missing two games to injury and was honored by coaches and media as second-team All-Big Ten. In 2018, he set Indiana true freshman records with 1,137 yards, 228 attempts, 10 touchdowns and six 100‐yard games, also catching 16 passes for 86 yards with one touchdown.
Dylan Soehner – Tight End, Iowa State (6-7, 272): The Prairie Grove, Ark. native played at Iowa State from 2017-20, playing in 49 games and recording 26 receptions for 312 yards with one touchdown. In 2020, he played in 11 games and posted 18 grabs for 205 yards as he was voted by league coaches as Big 12 honorable mention selection. In 2019, he posted seven receptions for 107 yards and one touchdown, earning conference honorable mention honors.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…