August 28, 2007

Saints Meet First Roster Cutdown: Weatherford wins competition at punter; Jones and Branch cut

The Saints made the final three cuts of the NFL's first mandated roster limit, declaring one winner and thinning the receiver and runningback competitions.

Chris Hanson was cut, declaring second year punter Steve Weatherford, an undrafted rookie starter for the 2006 Saints, as the winner of the punter's job.

Also cut were WR Jamal Jones and RB Jamaal Branch, thinning the depth charts at their positions. Jones and Branch were the darkhorse surprises of the 2006 camp, but two of the bigger dropoffs from this year.

Jones' knee injury kept him out of almost all training camp action, dooming him in the toughest position battle on the depth chart. A surprise contributor to the 2006 team, Jones had five catches including a touchdown reception in the Dallas game last December.

Branch was a star of the 2006 preseason and in substitute duty in Week 17 had 45 total yards and a touchdown after spending time on the practice squad. Moved to fullback this offseason, Branch had no shot to start ahead of Mike Karney, and Kevin Dudley's positive impact in preseason made the competition more difficult.

In the case of Branch, the Saints may have chosen to cut him early, hide them from the final cut wires and recover them on the 2007 practice squad. Jones is no longer eligible for the practice squad, having spent more than nine games on the 53-man roster.

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