Team Report: Saints

The Saints went to the league's spring meetings last week hoping to heat up talks on a possible trade with the Patriots for free safety Tebucky Jones, a veteran player that would provide a major upgrade for their struggling secondary.

But the talks, if there were any at all, apparently fizzled because no trade was made before the meetings convened Wednesday afternoon. Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis said he hadn't talked with anyone from the Patriots and added, "There's nothing going on."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick became so tired of being asked about a deal that has reportedly been in the works for weeks that he and Saints coach Jim Haslett agreed to not talk about Jones, who has been tagged as the Patriots' franchise player, to anyone other than themselves.

"Anybody else can say what they want to say," Belichick said. "I don't comment on players and transactions. I'm not denying it. I'm just not commenting on it."

The holdup is with the compensation to New England, which is seeking a second-round draft pick in exchange for Jones. The Saints, however, are willing to give only a third-rounder to the Patriots for the five-year veteran, the second of their two first-round draft choices in 1998.

Jones became the target of trade speculation earlier this month when the Patriots signed veteran free agent Rodney Harrison to a six-year. $14.5 million contract. Harrison ($1 million cap figure), Lawyer Milloy ($5.8 million) and Jones ($3 million) would eat up nearly $10 million of the $75 million salary cap although Belichick said the team could keep all three.

The Saints would love to have Jones to add to the back end of a secondary that had all kinds of problems in 2002. While it was a combination of things, the Saints finished 27th in the league in pass defense in giving up 237.8 yards per game (the league average was 212.2) and 25 touchdown passes.

Strong safety Sammy Knight is an unrestricted free agent who probably won't be re-signed. Knight, a Pro Bowl pick in 2001, makes a lot of big plays, but doesn't have the speed the Saints are looking for. Free safety Jay Bellamy will likely find himself on the bench if he makes the team at all because second-year pro Mel Mitchell -- a fifth-round draft pick in 2002 -- has already been penciled into the starting lineup.

Former Steelers safety Lee Flowers is expected to be in New Orleans for a free-agent visit this week. A starter since 1998, Flowers played under Haslett when he was the Steelers' defensive coordinator from 1997-99.

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