Jeff Charleston, the high-energy rotation defensive end for the Saints since 2008, has re-signed with the Saints. Charleston arrived in time to join the Saints in their scrimmage on Saturday.
The Saints had placed a restricted free agency tag on Charleston before the prior CBA expired under the rules of the Final League Year, but in the new CBA Charleston was an unrestricted free agent. He remained on the market since the league re-opened and did not find a better situation around the league.
Charleston, 28, arrives back on the squad in familiar territory- on a loaded defensive line depth chart fighting for snaps in a rotation at defensive end. At 6'4, 265 and four years out of Idaho State, he has six sacks in 42 games over three seasons and played in Super Bowl XLIV, recording one tackle. He overcame an elbow injury in training camp 2009 to make the team and contribute to the rotation behind Charles Grant, Will Smith, and Bobby McCray.
In the 2010 regular season finale against the Bucs, Charleston recorded the trifecta for a defensive end - a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery of Bucs QB Josh Freeman in Saints territory. The previous week, Charleston made the biggest play of his career, stripping Falcons RB Michael Turner within feet of the Saints goal line. MLB Marvin Mitchell recovered the ball, preserving a 10-7 Saints lead in the third quarter.
In 2008, Charleston collected his first two sacks as a Saint on Kansas City QB Tyler Thigpen in a November game won by the Saints, 30-20.
Charleston spent his rookie season with the Colts, where he ended up starting three games because of injuries in 2007, collecting his first NFL sack and forced fumble on Ravens QB Kyle Boller in a blowout Indianapolis win.
A champion of Gregg Williams' turnover-forcing style, Sean Payton acknowledged that Charleston continues to improve each season. Charleston enters the 2011 competition at defensive end behind Will Smith, first round pick Cameron Jordan, Alex Brown, rising youngster Junior Galette and free agent addition Turk McBride. Jordan and McBride can slide inside to defensive tackle, much in the way that now ex-Saints Anthony Hargrove and Jimmy Wilkerson were used last season.
To make room on the 90-man training camp roster, the Saints cut DE Curtis Johnson.