The Saints' selection of Southern California defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis with the seventh pick of the first round in last week's draft got the ringing endorsement of running back Reggie Bush.
Of course, Bush may be a little prejudiced. But he also has some inside knowledge as he and Ellis were members of the same recruiting class at USC in 2003, when they were brought in by former recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron.
"He was a great teammate at USC, a hard worker," said Bush, who played three seasons with Ellis before departing for the NFL. "He will have an impact on our defense right away."
That's good news for the Saints, who were trying to upgrade their 26th-ranked defense when they traded up three spots to grab Ellis. The Saints also attempted to move up to the fifth spot to select LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, but were rebuffed by the Kansas City Chiefs.
All it cost the Saints to get Ellis was a third-round pick, but they also received a fifth-rounder from the New England Patriots in the deal. And as far as Saints coach Sean Payton, the trade was well worth it considering the Cincinnati Bengals were thought to be eyeing Ellis at No. 9.
"The thing all of us felt was if we could come out of this first pick with one of those two tackles, we were going to be real excited," Payton said. "And certainly, there were other players that we were going to be excited about. But we were fortunate, and that was through preparation and research."
Ellis, a 6-foot-1, 309-pounder who starred at the Senior Bowl workouts in late January, is a versatile player who is expected to help the Saints against the run and pass.
He played primarily the nose at USC, but he moved over to the three-technique on passing downs. He had 8 1/2 sacks as a senior and 17 1/2 the past three years.
After a poor effort at the combine workout, Ellis shed 10 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 5.02 seconds, did 36 repetitions of 225 pounds in the bench press at his Pro Day back in Los Angeles to sell the Saints.
"When you don't do as well as you like, of course it's going to be frustrating," Ellis said of his combine performance. "But I think the true mark is how you bounce back from those kinds of things."
COOPER, THREE OTHER WAIVED: Saints general manager Mickey Loomis announced Thursday that the team has waived four players -- including defensive end Josh Cooper.
Cooper, a two-year veteran, had 1 1/2 sacks while playing in 21 games for the Saints in 2006 and '07. While he was mostly as a backup, he started three games in those two seasons.
Also waived were defensive tackle McKinley Boykin, running back Jamaal Branch and wide receiver Carlton Brewster.
Boykin played in three games last season and Branch played in four before both finished the season on injured reserve. Brewster was signed as a free agent earlier this offseason.
SAINTS SIGN 16 UDFA’S: The Saints announced the signing of 16 college free agents that they lined up following last week's draft.
Topping the list of signees are LSU middle linebacker Luke Sanders, a two-year starter for the reigning BCS national champions, and Stanford quarterback T.C. Ostrander.
Others signed were wide receivers Todd Blythe (Iowa State) and Evan Moore (Stanford), offensive linemen Jason Boone (Utah), Nate McManus (Georgia Tech), Akim Millington (Illinois) and Kevin Tuminello (Georgia Tech), linebackers JoLonn Dunbar (Boston College), and defensive end Jeremy Geathers UNLV).
Also signing were running back Lynell Hamilton (San Diego State), punter Waylon Prather (San Jose State), safeties David Roach (TCU) and Rocky Schwartz (Houston), long snapper Ryan Senser (Ohio University) and fullback Olaniyi Sobomehin (Portland State).
"Each of the last couple of years, we've been able to a find a player through free agency," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "Our message to those guys is no different than to any draft pick once they're on board: it doesn't really matter how they got here, they have an opportunity to make the team."
GEATHERS RETURNS, SORT OF: Jeremy Geathers has a last name that is familiar to Saints fans. He is the son of James "Jumpy" Geathers, the team's top pick in the 1984 draft.
Jumpy Geathers, a second-round pick out of Wichita State, played six seasons with the Saints. Geathers was a 6-foot-8 defensive end with a huge wingspan who engulfed quarterbacks when he sacked them. He tied for the team lead with nine sacks in 1986.
Jeremy Geathers is a native New Orleanian, being born there while his father was playing for the Saints. Jeremy Geathers, a 6-2, 245-pounder, played two seasons at UNLV, leading his team in sacks both years.
"(New Orleans) is where my dad made his name and had so many of his best years," Geathers told The Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Sun News. "I was kind of praying for that (to be drafted by the Saints). I feel like it is home. I would love to go play for the fans for New Orleans."
Jeremy Geathers survived a 2005 armed robbery attack in which he was shot twice. His mother, Debbie, was killed in a car accident in front of the family's South Carolina home in 2000.
STEROID DEALER NAMES LEHR: The Dallas Morning News reported last week that a convicted steroids dealer claims he sold steroids and human growth hormone to Saints guard/center Matt Lehr.
David Jacobs told the newspaper that Lehr, who played with Dallas, Atlanta and Tampa Bay before signing with the Saints in March, used a hair loss prevention drug that can mask steroid use.
Lehr's attorney, Paul Coggins, told The Associated Press his client hasn't used banned substances since he was suspended for four games during the 2006 season while with the Falcons, and has passed NFL drug tests.
"Mr. Jacobs has peddled these tales to the government unsuccessfully," Coggins said. "He is a confessed felon awaiting sentencing, and is desperate to implicate others."
Authorities are investigating allegations that Lehr distributed steroids, possibly to other players, but hasn't been charged. Coggins said Jacobs wants to end Lehr's career because he wouldn't pay Jacobs' legal fees.