March 1, 2008

Saints Retain Henderson, Stecker; Ax MLB Simmons

Territorial war with TB over Stecker, Henderson apparently ends in Saints' favor; Randall Gay visits Saturday

Stung by the departure of Jeff Faine to Tampa Bay for crazy money, the Saints are apparently determined not to allow any further defections to the Buccaneers.



When Tampa Bay called for WR Devery Henderson and RB Aaron Stecker, one a Buc-slayer and one a former Buc himself, the Saints stepped up to the plate and re-signed both on the second day of free agency.

The Saints have yet to sign a new free agent, though they added MLB Jonathan Vilma in a trade, but have instead focused on retaining a number of their own. Offensive role-players Henderson and Stecker are the latest to stay put.

Speedster Henderson, who will be 26 later this month, a second round pick in 2004 out of LSU, has had his problems with consistent catching and route-running. He has had more than four catches in a game only once. The 5'11, 200 pound deep threat has 74 career catches and 12 total touchdowns, one on a rushing attempt in the Saints' post-Katrina home opener, but has been underwhelming as a starting receiver.

Similar to 2007 first round pick Robert Meachem, Henderson played little as a rookie, in part thanks to an ill-advised training camp holdout. Henderson appeared in only one game as a rookie with no receptions. In 2006 he blossomed as a deep threat for Drew Brees, averaging over 23 yards per catch with 745 yards on only 32 catches. Henderson started nine games this past year, five of which he finished with one or no catches. In his last three games against Tampa Bay, Henderson has three touchdowns on four catches. He met with the Bucs on Friday.

Henderson's contract terms are as yet unknown.

Stecker, who will be 33 in November, is a reliable and versatile runningback whom the Saints signed away from Tampa Bay in 2004. A talented special teamer, Stecker also has filled in admirably when called upon to start for the Saints due to injuries to Deuce McAllister and this past season when both McAllister and Reggie Bush were out.

After four years with the Bucs and tours in NFL Europe that earned him legendary status with the Scottish Claymores, Stecker arrived in New Orleans and promptly returned a kickoff for a touchdown against his old team. Tampa Bay only this year returned its first kickoff return for a touchdown in franchise history. Stecker's touchdown in Tampa Bay was a highlight reel play when the opening kickoff went through his hands and bounced behind him near the goal line. He recovered and following his blockers, returned it 98 yards for the score. The Saints won the game 21-17.

Stecker reportedly received a one-year, $1.4 million deal from the Saints and while it was similar to an offer from the Bucs, Stecker preferred to stay put.

Simmons Cut: As we predicted with little effort yesterday, the Saints with newly-resigned Marc Simoneau and newly-acquired Vilma on the roster had little need for veteran MLB Brian Simmons.

A free agent bust from last year's signing class, Simmons had far less in the tank left than the Saints anticipated when the signed him to a three-year contract one year less five days ago. Simmons had a great Week 10 game in a loss to St. Louis with eight total tackles and a sack, but otherwise collected no more than two solo tackles in a single game in 2007.

Simmons was due a base salary of $3.3 million, more than both Simoneau and Vilma combined in 2008.

Randall Gay In: The Saints hosted Randall Gay on Saturday in New Orleans but no word on a contract. Gay is scheduled to visit with Tampa Bay on Monday. Should the Saints want the former LSU star, undrafted rookie Super Bowl starter and New England Patriot, they need to wrap him up to a deal before he goes to Tampa, where money is being shot out of cannons.

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