Saints coach Sean Payton has said his team always places a premium on good pass rushers, and one is set to tour their facilities.
Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence has set up a visit with the Saints, an NFL source confirmed to The Advocate on Friday.
New Orleans, however, isn’t alone in its interest — the NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport reported Lawrence had already visited the Falcons and was supposed to do the same with the Patriots, Jets and Cowboys, among others.
The 6-foot-3, 251-pound Lawrence has drawn second-round draft projections after leading the Mountain West conference with 10.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage in 2013. He is relatively quick for a defensive end, having clocked a 4.8-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine and another one of 4.69 seconds in another workout, according to CBSSports.com.
On the flip-side, the site judged, Lawrence seems to have less than ideal speed for a linebacker and does not have the same bulk typically seen in defensive linemen.
The Saints have good pass rushers in defensive end Cameron Jordan (12.5 sacks in 2013 and a Pro Bowl appearance) and outside linebacker Junior Galette (12 sacks last year). Other solid defensive linemen on the roster are Glenn Foster and Akiem Hicks.
New Orleans’ pass-rushing depth should be helped with the expected return of outside linebacker Victor Butler, who missed the 2013 season with a knee injury.
However, 2014 is the last season in Butler’s two-year deal. Another outside linebacker, Parys Haralson, is also only under contract through 2014, making the Saints’ decision to take a look at Lawrence logical.
Small-school TE eyed
A 6-foot-4, 238-pound tight end who was reportedly on pace to be a small-school All-American in 2013 on Thursday declared a visit with the Saints “a success,” suggesting New Orleans might be interested in grabbing him either late in the upcoming draft or in free agency if he’s not chosen.
Central Arkansas’ Chase Dixon on Wednesday announced via Twitter he was flying to New Orleans to visit the Saints the following day. He then tweeted, “Visit with the Saints was a success! Ready to head back home.”
Before his flight to New Orleans, Dixon played 32 games for Central Arkansas from 2010 to 2013, catching 33 passes for 379 yards and 10 touchdowns for his career at a school that competes in the Southland Conference of the Football Championship Subdivision.
He hauled in 22 of those grabs, 262 of those yards and six of those TDs last season. But he broke his leg in October and played in only six games all season. He had scored once in each outing, causing at least one local paper to speculate he was en-route to an All-America selection.
Dixon earned second-team, all-conference honors at the end of the year. In a news release touting Dixon’s recognition, former Central Arkansas coach Clint Conque said, “I’m especially happy for Chase ... that the voters recognized what kind of year he was having, even though it was cut short by injury.”
It does not appear that any outlets expect the sizable Dixon will be drafted. But, under Payton, the Saints have never been shy about bringing in unheralded college prospects and putting them on the roster if the team thinks they can contribute.
Other prospects the Saints have either had in for visits or are planning to meet with include Southern California receiver Marqise Lee, Wyoming wideout Robert Herron and Oklahoma defensive back Aaron Colvin. They had dinner plans Wednesday with Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, both well-regarded receivers from nearby LSU.
Preliminary auditions for the 2014-15 Saintsations will be held April 27 at the Saints’ practice facility, 5800 Airline Drive in Metairie. Auditions begin at 9:00 a.m. for prospects who are at least 18.
A packet with more information and required forms can be found online at NewOrleansSaints.com orSaintsations.net. Send any questions to email@example.com.