April 8, 2013

Saints Ink Leonhard to One-Year Deal

The Saints have signed former Broncos S Jim Leonhard to a one-year free agent deal, adding experience to the safety position where the Saints have two veterans and a host of unseasoned backups.

Leonhard was a reserve defensive back and "safety" punt returner for the Broncos last year, averaging only 5.9 yards/return on 15 situational attempts. On defense he collecting 12 tackles and two interceptions as a backup, starting one game.

Leonard was a full-time starter at strong safety for the Bills, Ravens, and Jets over five seasons prior to joining the Broncos in 2012.

With interceptions in six straight seasons, the undersized Leonhard at 5'8, 190 is far from the prototypical thumper at safety, but is a hard-working overachiever and a fan favorite in previous stints.  With Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper entrenched in starting jobs for one reason or another, the Saints will use Leonhard in dime formations and on special teams.

In his best season as a 16-game starter for the Jets, Leonhard collected 2.5 sacks, an interception, 54 tackles, a forced fumble and 21 punt returns for an 8.2 yard/return average.

A journeyman since arriving in the league as an undrafted rookie with Buffalo in 2005, Leonhard has played for four different AFC teams and has played in two different AFC championship games with Baltimore and the Jets.

Leonhard posted a humorous confirmation of the news on Twitter this afternoon, writing "I got the okay from my agent. New year, new opportunity. We are glad to be joining the New Orleans Saints. pic.twitter.com/4b8Y3UwI2L" The link is an picture of Leonhard holding his "agent" infant.

In Wisconsin, the most outstanding high school defensive back each year is awarded the Jim Leonhard Award by Wisconsin Sports Net.  The award is named for Leonhard, "one of the most beloved players from the state of Wisconsin."

Prior to signing Leonhard, the Saints had just over $1.84 million in salary cap space.

UPDATE: As suspected, Jim Leonhard's one year deal is at the veteran minimum.  He will make $905,000 in 2013, but only will count $620,000 toward cap because of the veteran benefit.

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