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New Orleans Saints tailback Pierre Thomas. (Associated Press)

New Orleans Saints tailback Pierre Thomas. (Associated Press)

Saints change mind about Thomas

Last Modified: Thursday, March 13, 2014 3:03 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

Just when Who Dat? was being replaced by Who Dem?, the Saints signed a familiar face.

On the second day of free agency, the Saints welcomed back Pierre Thomas.

While he never actually left, reports just a few days earlier had the Saints trying to trade the tailback or saying they would release him to make salary cap room.

Thomas went so far as to thank Saints fans for their support over the years on his Twitter account.

Instead, New Orleans took a second look at its leading rusher since they signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2007 and decided to keep him.

“Glad to be back in the gold & black,” Thomas tweeted after he agreed to a two-year extension that will keep him signed through the 2016 season.

While no details were released, you can bet the new deal is cap friendly to the team.

Thomas led the Saints last year with 549 yards. He also had 513 receiving yards also were the most for a running back, scoring five touchdowns.

The Thomas re-signing came one day after New Orleans landed its No. 1 target, safety Jairus Byrd.

Byrd, the former Buffalo Bill, signed a six-year deal for a reported $54 million with $28 million guaranteed. He has gone to three Pro Bowls in his five years and will join Kenny Vaccaro on the Saints’ back line.

Saying he liked the Saints’ “winning culture,” Byrd signed with the Saints after making New Orleans his only stop in free agency. He talked to the media by way of a phone conference Wednesday.

“That’s a really big factor and what allowed me to weigh all my options and think about what the best situation was for myself,” Byrd said of the team’s recent success.

Vaccaro impressed Saints officials last year with his aggressive play and hard hits.

“I know he was a first-round pick last year and from everything that I have heard he is a really good player,” Byrd said of his new partner. “I am looking forward to playing with him. I really look forward to seeing what he does really well.”

As for what really sold Byrd, it just might have been the fans.

“Playing here last year, I saw how the atmosphere was,” he said of the Saints’ 35-17 win over the Bills on Oct. 27. “It was electric. They were really behind their team. The Dome was rocking when I was here, and they feed off that.”

All is not going smoothly in the Saints’ remodeling.

Veteran running back Darren Sproles will not be release as the Saints first said but instead is being shopped around in a trade. That is not sitting well with Sproles.

“I want to get released. I don’t want to be traded,” Sproles told ESPN. “I don’t know where they would send me because I have no control over it, and I want to be able to pick.

“The good thing is none of the teams I’m told they’re talking to are terrible. It’s more than two. I feel I should have more of an idea later on today.”

The Saints believe there is a market for Sproles and they hope to trade him in time to use his money for more cap space in going after other free agents and trying to come to terms on a long-term contract with All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham.

Both Sproles and Thomas became expendable because of the play of Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson. In the playoffs the duo combine to show New Orleans officials a power two-back style they could use in the future.

However, after more consideration the Saints decided to bring back Thomas as an extra back to go along with Ingram and Robinson.

That doesn’t appear to be the case with Sproles.

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