Saints bring back Meachem, extend Galette

by Patrick Flanagan

Pass-rushing outside linebacker Junior Galette has the contract he coveted and veteran receiver Robert Meachem has his job back.

METAIRIE, La. (AP) - Pass-rushing outside linebacker Junior Galette has the contract he coveted and veteran receiver Robert Meachem has his job back.

"This is the best day of my life," the 26-year-old Galette said Wednesday when he confirmed his $41.5 million extension through 2019, stressing what his newfound financial security meant to him as a father of a young son. "He's going to grow up in a different lifestyle than I grew up in. So that's all that matters."

Meachem, entering his eighth season, was cut on Saturday, but the Saints were able to find a roster spot for him Wednesday when they placed rookie linebacker Khairi Fortt on short-term injured reserve. Meachem was at practice on Wednesday as the Saints prepared for Sunday's regular season opener at Atlanta.

Locking up Galette long-term was an obvious priority for the Saints, who first signed him as an undrafted rookie out of Stillman in 2010 and watching him blossom into one of the more effective edge pass-rushers in the NFL last season. Galette, who was entering the penultimate season of his previous deal, was elevated to a starting role last season in part because of injuries to former Saints outside linebackers Will Smith and Victor Butler. Galette wound up with 12 sacks, second only on the Saints to defensive end Cam Jordan's 12 ½.

Because of his rise from humble beginnings, Galette also has earned respect in the locker room, and will be a defensive captain for the first time this season.

"It's crazy," Galette said. "I'm a captain with Drew Brees, a future Hall of Famer. Obviously I have Hall of Fame dreams as well, but his is already written in stone. It feels great, man. This is the best week of my life."

Galette described walking from Wednesday's practice to an upstairs office at Saints headquarters, still covered in sweat, to sign his new deal, which adds four years to his previous deal that was set to expire after the 2015 season.

"I feel like now I won't have to worry about any negotiations. I told my agent, let's get this done," Galette said. "I love being a Saint, love being in New Orleans. I love the city and I feel like people love me back."

Galette, who describes an early childhood spent in poverty in Haiti, moved to New York later in his youth and initially attended college at Temple, but was kicked out when a relative staying with him was caught with a stolen laptop. He then transferred to Division II Stillman.

His recent emergence could have set him up for a lucrative free-agent contract next offseason, thanks to an opt-out clause in his old deal, but Galette saw wisdom in sticking with a situation he liked, even if his deal winds up looking like a discount, as he hopes it will.

"How much is enough?" Galette said. "If you're not content with what they gave me, you'll never be content. ... I feel like if I wanted to play here in the future, I'm going to give them a discount."

Meachem, a 2007 first-round draft choice of the Saints, had 16 catches for 324 yards and two TDs last season, when he returned to New Orleans after one disappointing season in San Diego. While his role in the passing game is diminished from what it was from 2009-11, coach Sean Payton said Meachem retains some qualities that can help the Saints succeed on offense.

"He's someone that I feel like still runs. I think he's someone that still can help us in the run game, blocking. I think he's a big target. He's pretty consistent and I think the key with him is his ability to go and get down the field - and I think he's weight where it needs to be," Payton said. "So for him, there's a handful of things that he does well and we think he still does those things."

Meachem was not available to speak with reporters after practice, but quarterback Drew Brees said of the receiver, "I'm glad he's still with us."

"We knew that this journey was meant to be with him," Brees said. "He certainly can help us win."

Notes: FB Erik Lorig (ankle) and S Marcus Ball (Hamstring) did not practice Wednesday. WR Kenny Stills (quad) was limited.