The New Orleans Saints are signing one of their own.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Thursday the team is bringing back defensive tackle Nick Fairley on a four-year, $30 million deal, per sources informed of the situation.
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Coming off the best season of his career, the 29-year-old Fairley was a wire-to-wire contributor for the Saints in 2016, finishing second on the team behind Cameron Jordan (7.5) with 6.5 sacks and 43 tackles in 2016.
Grading out as the league’s 34th-ranked interior defender, per Pro Football Focus, the former Lions and Rams tackle led his team’s position group with 704 snaps and performed well as a pass-rusher.
Fairley wasn’t nearly as strong against the run, but the Saints weren’t about to let him get away. New Orleans now has solid depth at the position with David Onyemata and promising second-year tackle Sheldon Rankins also manning the line.
“Well, first of all, once I found out about it I was thankful for the opportunity to play in New Orleans and the opportunity they’ve given me there; no bad blood,” Cooks said, via Boston.com. “I love everything about the organization and the people. Things just happen in life. Second thing, when I found out about it I was ecstatic to be able to come play for an organization like New England and play for a guy like coach (Bill) Belichick and Tom (Brady) and Mr. (Robert) Kraft and his family.
“The whole process was a blessing as soon as I found out,” Cooks continued. “I couldn’t be more thankful throughout this time, and as far as the praise from coach Belichick, I’ve never known about it. At the end of the day I feel like I have to earn his trust when I come in and play and continue doing what I’ve been doing.”
Cooks then quipped: “I guess I know how to pick quarterbacks, right? I’m looking forward to it. I’ve followed Tom Brady since I was a kid, so to be able to have a chance to play with him is awesome.”
While it’s nice of Cooks to leave New Orleans with grace, it’s important to recognize that he’s not getting dealt to the Browns, Rams or 49ers here. For a potentially dominant 23-year-old wide receiver, getting traded into New England’s offense with a still-electric Tom Brady is like hitting the lottery — especially considering where he played previously. The 2014 first-round pick could potentially have a huge season, and he could be one of the most desirable receivers on the open market once his current contract runs out in 2019.
That was on its way to happening in New Orleans, where Cooks caught 162 balls for 2,311 yards and 17 touchdowns over his last two seasons before the Saints acquired Michael Thomas. It might have not have caused a significant drop off in 2016 but as Thomas becomes more engrained in the offense, Cooks might have seen his targets diminish.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks have all arranged for the former UConn safety to visit their facilities, according to the Houston Chronicle.
But those visits don’t figure to be his last.
Melifonwu has parlayed an impressive week at the Reese’s Senior Bowl with an even more eye-opening performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, making him one of the draft’s fast risers. At the combine, he combined linebacker size (6-foot-4, 224 pounds) with a 40-yard dash more suited for a cornerback (4.40), and combine-best marks in the vertical jump (44 inches) and broad jump (11-9).
The result for Melifonwu has been a palpable buzz about his draft prospects. An AFC college scouting director sees him as a top-40 talent, and NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks believes Melifonwu is creeping into the first-round discussion. As such, interested NFL clubs that pass on Melifonwu in the first round might not get another chance at him. The Steelers’ first two draft picks are at Nos. 30 and 62 overall. The Seahawks’ first two picks come at Nos. 26 and 58, while New Orleans’ come at Nos. 11 and 32, thanks to a trade with the New England Patriots. New Orleans also will pick at No. 42 overall.
They’ll each get a closer look with his pending visits, and he might look familiar to the Seahawks — Brooks sees him as a Kam Chancellor-like player at the next level.