The New Orleans Saints have hired Darren Rizzi as special teams coach.
The Saints announced the hiring on Monday morning.
Rizzi spent the past 10 seasons with the Miami Dolphins. Over the past eight seasons, his special teams unit in Miami ranked first in the NFL in blocked punts (11) and second in the NFL in total blocked kicks (22). Rizzi’s units served in the top half of NFL writer Rick Gosselin’s annual special teams rankings in all eight years that he served as the Dolphins special teams coordinator.
The new hire came just 10 days after the Saints parted ways with special teams coordinator Bradford Banta and assistants Kevin O'Dea and Mike Westhoff.
The Saints had what seemed to be a solid season on special teams. Kicker Wil Lutz made 28 of 30 field goals, including 26 in a row to break Morten Andersen's franchise record of 25 straight. Lutz also made 52 of 53 extra points this season. The Saints punting unit, led by punter Thomas Morstead, led the league in net yards. In addition, the team had a key blocked punt by Tayson Hill that sparked a victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and converted a fake punt in the playoffs against the Eagles.
Rizzi, who became the Dolphins' assistant head coach in 2017, interviewed to be Miami's head coach this offseason before the team hired Brian Flores.
ERFA frenzy: The Saints are working on retaining some players.
Cornerback Justin Hardee, long snapper Zach Wood, linebacker Vince Biegel and offensive lineman Cameron Tom have signed tenders to remain in New Orleans next season, according to league sources.
Sean Fazende of Fox 8 first broke the news of Hardee's signing.
Hardee ranked fourth on the Saints in special teams snaps last season behind Taysom Hill, Craig Robertson and Chris Banjo. Biegel ranked fifth.
Hardee also played 77 snaps on defense and had one interception.
Wood was a key part of a strong special-teams unit last season, and Tom played 178 snaps on offense, mostly as a reserve.
Exclusive-rights free agents are players with only one or two accrued seasons. They are not eligible to negotiate with other teams, unlike restricted free agents, who can seek other offers.
Breaux stays North: Former Saints cornerback Delvin Breaux has reportedly signed a three-year extension with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
The New Orleans native spent last season in the CFL after failing to hook on with another NFL team after the Saints declined to bring him back. Sources last year told The Advocate that Breaux could not pass a physical due to concerns over his spine.
Breaux was a key part of the New Orleans defense in 2015 but missed the 2016 season due to injury. The cornerback initially was misdiagnosed as having a bone contusion but actually suffered a broken bone, which led to the dismissal of a pair of team doctors.
Follow Nick Underhill on Twitter, @nick_underhill.
This article originally ran on theadvocate.com.