Keenan Lewis sees Jairus Byrd as ballhawk

Advocate file photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- New Orleans Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis, on new safety Jairus Byrd: 'He’s going to have a lot of interceptions. I promise you that.'
Advocate file photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- New Orleans Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis, on new safety Jairus Byrd: 'He’s going to have a lot of interceptions. I promise you that.'

Tongue firmly jutting into his cheek, cornerback Keenan Lewis was the first Saints player to say something negative on the record about the free-agent acquisition of safety Jairus Byrd.

Byrd might make it impossible for Lewis to reach his goal of seven interceptions in a season in 2014, an objective he also had last year but fell three picks shy of achieving.

“I’m scared to have him back there,” Lewis jokingly said of Byrd at a recent charity softball game.

“I’m pretty sure he’s going to make (getting seven interceptions) real hard for me.”

The numbers back up Lewis. Byrd’s 22 interceptions are the most among NFL safeties — and No. 2 among all players — since entering the league in 2009 as a second-round draft choice by the Buffalo Bills.

He has 11 forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries to go with the interceptions, and all that was enough to convince the Saints — whose No. 4 overall defense in 2013 created the fourth-fewest turnovers — to sign him to a massive six-year deal worth up to $56 million in March.

“He’s going to have a lot of interceptions,” Lewis said. “I promise you that.”

In discussing Byrd with reporters, Lewis said he didn’t feel a Saints defense that was No. 2 against the pass was missing any pieces last year. But he admitted he was pumped up about the additions of players in New Orleans’ secondary such as Byrd; cornerback Champ Bailey, a 12-time Pro Bowler whose 52 career regular-season interceptions are third-most among active NFL players; and cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste, a rookie second-round pick whose 6-4, 218-pound attribute is not commonly found at his position.

Saints sign N.O. native

The Saints on Monday added a tackle who played at Edna Karr High School, and in turn they waived a wide receiver who was hurt throughout his two seasons with the team.

Offensive tackle Jason Weaver returns to New Orleans. Receiver Chris Givens was waived after being an undrafted rookie free-agent pickup out of Miami (Ohio) for the Saints in 2012.

Weaver, who played at Southern Miss, signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent last year. He was waived at the beginning of training camp, claimed by Cincinnati and then cut again before he latched on to Miami’s practice squad for the remainder of the year.

Weaver signed a reserve contract with Miami for 2014 but was waived with a “nonfootball” injury at the beginning of May, which is why he was available for New Orleans.

At Southern Miss, the 6-5, 305-pound Weaver started in 2011 and 2012, playing right and left tackle. He earned second-team All-Conference USA honors one year and an honorable mention the other.

He was at Arizona Western Community College for two seasons and was an All-American there before transferring to Southern Miss for the 2010 season, most of which he missed with a knee injury.

OTAs, Capitol visit

The Saints’ first series of voluntary organized team activities — OTAs — began Tuesday. They last through Thursday, when media will have access.

Other OTAs will be June 3-5 and June 16-19. There will be a mandatory minicamp from June 10-12.

On another note, about 40 Saints players went to the State Capitol on Tuesday to discuss controversial injury compensation legislation concerning pro athletes that was shelved earlier in the day. The players took photos with lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal that were widely circulated on social media.

Among the many Saints in attendance were quarterback Drew Brees, running back Pierre Thomas, wide receiver Marques Colston and defensive end Cameron Jordan.