Saints cut Roby, Leonard; keep Vilma, Tanner
METAIRIE (AP) — New Orleans special teams leader Courtney Roby, veteran safety Jim Leonard, defensive end Jay Richardson and 18 others were among the Saints’ final cuts Saturday as the club trimmed its roster to the regular-season limit of 53.
For now, the Saints have elected to retain injured veteran inside linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who did not play this preseason because of arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, the same knee on which Vilma has had several procedures during the past two years. Also kept was promising but unproven receiver Andy Tanner, who has spent the past two-plus seasons on New Orleans’ practice squad.
“Thanks to everyone who believed in me,” Tanner tweeted. “I’m overwhelmed by the support from whodat nation. Excited for the season to get started!”
Roby has been a Saint the past four seasons and was one of the primary kick returners on the 2009 team that won the Super Bowl. He began to see most of his action on kick coverage during the past two seasons.
Punter Thomas Morstead wrote on Twitter that Roby was a great teammate and a “big part of our success” during playoff runs from 2009-11.
“NFL cut day is the worst,” Morstead wrote.
Richardson, a five-year pro out of Ohio State, seemed to be having a strong preseason, both at end and outside linebacker, registering a pair of sacks and fumble recovery. He had seen a lot of action because of injuries to outside linebackers Junior Galette and Martez Wilson, who are expected to be ready to return as soon as New Orleans’ regular-season opener against Atlanta on Sept. 8.
New Orleans’ roster now includes 10 rookies, while two players — Tanner and 2012 fourth-round draft choice Nick Toon — have not played in a regular season game.
Four of the rookies were drafted: safety Kenny Vaccaro in the first round, offensive tackle Terron and defensive tackle John Jenkins in the third round, and wide receiver Kenny Stills in the fifth round.
The six undrafted rookies are running back Khiry Robinson, cornerback Rod Sweeting, defensive end Glenn Foster, inside linebacker Kevin Reddick, tight end Josh Hill, and guard Tim Lelito.
Foster, out of Illinois, had four sacks, five quarterback hits and a forced fumble during the preseason, and his chances of making the team rose further when veteran defensive end Kenyon Coleman went on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle. The decision to keep Robinson makes him one of five running backs on the roster, along with Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Travaris Cadet.
Rookie outside linebacker Rufus Johnson, selected in the sixth round, was the only draft choice not kept on Saturday (the Saints had no picks in the second, fourth or seventh rounds). Still, Johnson and several other young players could be brought back on the Saints’ practice squad after they have cleared waivers.
Others released by New Orleans on Saturday were receiver Preston Parker, tight end Keavon Milton, inside linebacker Ray Shipman, veteran cornerback Chris Carr, fullback Austin Johnson, nose tackle Isaako Aaitui, guard Elliot Mealer, rookie quarterback Ryan Griffin, guard Andrew Tiller, safety Jerico Nelson, outside linebacker Baraka Atkins, tackle Marcel Jones, cornerback Korey Lindsey, receiver Saleem Hakim, tight end Michael Higgins, center Jeremiah Warren and cornerback Jumal Rolle.
Center Eric Olsen was placed on injured reserve.