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Saints sign top draft choice Fuaga to rookie deal

Taliese Fuaga New Orleans Saints Taliese Fuaga - Getty Images

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — The New Orleans Saints have signed their first-round draft choice, tackle Taliese Fuaga, to a four-year contract.

The club announced the agreement on Thursday, a day before the opening of the Saints' three-day rookie camp.

The 6-foot-6, 324-pound Fuaga's prospects for playing immediately — if not starting — are high. Andrus Peat, who played both guard and tackle last season, left in free agency for Las Vegas. Meanwhile, James Hurst, who also played guard and tackle, retired.

Adding to the Saints' precarious situation up front is the fact that starting right tackle Ryan Ramczyk had offseason surgery to address a nagging knee injury. Coach Dennis Allen has described his prognosis as “up in the air.”

Meanwhile, 2022 first-round draft choice Trevor Penning did not perform reliably enough to hold down a starting spot in 2023 after missing much of 2022 with a foot injury. New Orleans has by no means given up on Penning, but the pace at which he improves remains to be seen.

This upcoming season, the Saints’ offense will change systems under new coordinator Klint Kubiak, whose scheme is expected to emphasize outside zone runs — a good fit for a prospect such as Fuaga, whose ability to run and block in space was seen as a strength.

Fuaga started all 12 games at right tackle in 2023 for Oregon State, which averaged nearly 5 yards per rush, and he was selected first-team All-Pac-12 last season.

Fuaga was the fourth offensive tackle drafted (after Joe Alt at No. 5, JC Latham at No. 7 and Olumuyiwa Fashanu and No. 11 ).

In the NFL, rookie contracts are determined primarily by a scale in the league's collective bargaining agreement. Because he was selected 14th overall, Fuaga's guaranteed, four-year deal was projected to be worth in the range of $17 million. The club did not release financial details.