The New Orleans Saints barely had gotten through the first portion of Practice on Day #4 of their 2019 Training Camp earlier today, when the news became official: veteran wide receiver and former Chicago Bears star Cam Meredith, who the team had signed last off-season in Free Agency, had been given his release and was no longer with the team.
Meredith's release isn't all that surprising; considering that he was only was active for the first few weeks of the 2018 Regular Season, until the team’s coaching staff decided to place him on Injured Reserve after it was determined that his knee hadn’t fully healed as anticipated.
The team had been tight-lipped regarding Meredith’s current status, and initially, the belief was that the Saints organization along with the team’s medical staff were either being overly cautious with his seemingly never-ending recovery from surgery, or perhaps that he had experienced some sort of set-back.
But Meredith told reporters last month that the team chose to rest him so that he will be ready to participate in Training Camp, which officially began last Friday. But although Meredith successfully completed his mandatory-conditioning run after Practice that day, it quickly became obvious that the former Illinois State University star had already been surpassed in the team's "pecking order" at the WR position
Meredith quickly found himself with a ton of competition, including players such as 2nd-year star Keith Kirkwood, undrafted veterans Austin Carr and Simmie Cobbs, and undrafted rookies Lil’Jordan Humphrey,Deonte Harris, and Emmanuel Butler.
Additionally, recently-signed former LSU track star and super-fast Cyril Grayson, Jr. and 8th-year veteran Rishard Matthews have been thrown into the mix as well, meaning that Meredith needed to step up physically and mentally (knowing the offensive playbook in and out) to prove himself worthy of keeping his roster spot.
Obviously given today's events, the Saints coaching staff ultimately determined that he had NOTdone so, prompting his release.
Speaking with the media after Practice. Saints head coach Sean Payton said the organization released Meredith because "the injury had set him back and it was going to be hard for him to catch up to the younger guys who have been impressing in camp".
While some Who Dats will now include him on the team's very notable list of previous Free Agent "busts". the one good thing that happened is that at least the Saints won't get stuck paying out a whole lot of money on the failed union between them and Meredith; since he already agreed to a pay cut of $2.1 million in March. He was only due to earn $1.3 million in base salary, $500,000 of which he had been fully guaranteed to receive.
MEANWHILE, THE RAPID RISE OF EMMANUEL BUTLER CONTINUES
One main reason among many as to WHY Meredith got cut: the rapid rise and emergence of several exciting new rookie receivers (and a few veterans as well) that have been very impressive since signing with New Orleans. and all of whom appear more than capable enough of making the team's Final 53-man Roster when the final cuts are made on Labor Day Weekend in early September.
Head and shoulders above them all is former "small school" superstar Emmaunuel Butler. who for the 4th straight day's worth of Practices, once again made his presence felt; and who at the current moment at least. would appear to be all but assured of earning one of the team's available WR spots now that Meredith is no longer with the team.
Butler — who played at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. Arizona; which is a FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) level school (formerly known as (Division I-AA) about 2 hours to the north of Phoenix (Butler's hometown) — was a two-time All-American for the Lumberjacks program in the Big Sky Conference, holds the school's single-season receiving yards record (1,208 receiving yards in 2015), and ranks first in career receiving yards and touchdowns at the school.
Butler played in 45 games during his five year career at Northern Arizona, finishing with 187 receptions for 3,217 yards (17.2 avg.) and 33 touchdowns.
He isn't necessarily the biggest and certainly not the fastest of wide receivers that you'll ever see, but what he can do is reliably catch everything thrown his way, and makes BIG PLAYS with the ball after the catch. That might remind some Who Dats of former Saints WR and team living legend Marques Colston; who Butler has said he patterns his game after and who we all know had an incredible chemistry with Saints QB Drew Brees.
That same type of chemistry was on display once again a few hours ago, as Butler made a leaping catch on a back shoulder throw from Brees during 11-on-11 drills, while #1 CB Marshon Lattimore was all over him in pass coverage.
At this point, there isn't anything that seemingly would prevent Butler from making the team (other than some sort of injury), as he continues his rapid rise — and looks poised to be around the NFL for a long time with the Black and Gold.
OTHER NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
Players not participating in today's Practice included Michael Thomas — who obviously continued his well-documented hold-out for a 4th straight day — as well as RB Latavius Murray, RB Buck Allen, WR Ted Ginn, Jr., safety Marcus Wiiliams, and DB Chris Campbell and Patrick Robinson....
All THREE players in the competition for the center position (veteran Nick Easton, 3rd year star Cameron Tom. and rookie Erik McCoy) split repetitions with the 1st Team offense....
For a 2nd straight day: rookie defensive backs Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Saquon Hampton continued making great plays in pass coverage; and it's easy to envision them both not only just making the team (unlike last year's rookies Natrell Jamerson and Kamrin Moore, who both were eventually cut); but Gardner-Johnson potentially could become a starter at some point during the season.
Once again, it can't be emphasized enough: for a team that ONLY had a total of five players drafted this year. the Saints 2019 Draft Class was one of the better ones "player for player" talent-wise, in the entire NFL.
The Saints resume Practice in full pads tomorrow, and are OFF Wednesday before returning to action on Thursday Morning.....