Saints claim Packers' preseason star QB Joe Callahan off waivers

The Packers were hoping to re-sign Joe Callahan to their practice squad after releasing him Thursday, but the Saints stepped in and claimed him. William Purnell/Icon Sportswire

METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints snatched one of the NFL’s great Cinderella stories away from the Green Bay Packers on Friday when they claimed undrafted rookie quarterback Joe Callahan off waivers.

The Packers were hoping to re-sign Callahan to their practice squad after releasing him on Thursday. But they knew there was a risk that another team would be impressed by Callahan’s remarkable preseason performance.

The 6-foot-1, 216-pounder came seemingly out of nowhere (actually, he came out of Division III Wesley College in Delaware) to complete 54 of 88 passes (61.4 percent) for 499 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions during the preseason.

When he cracked the 53-man roster, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said, “I mean, how the hell does he not make the team? It was clear. Just watch the games.”

The Saints will now carry Callahan as the third quarterback on their active roster behind veterans Drew Brees and Luke McCown. And it could lead to second-year quarterback Garrett Grayson being released from their own practice squad -- unless they decide to keep two developmental QBs around.

To make room for Callahan on the 53-man roster, the Saints released veteran offensive lineman Khalif Barnes on Friday.

Callahan’s story -- which was told in two very entertaining reads by ESPN Packers reporters Rob Demovsky (here) and Jason Wilde (here) -- is hard to believe in this day and age where NFL teams are sophisticated enough to find talent from anywhere around the globe.

He threw for 5,068 yards (a D-III record) as a senior, along with 55 touchdowns, and he won the Gagliardi Trophy, which is the D-III equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. But he was so far off the scouting radar that when Packers scout Mike Owen wanted to arrange the chance to see Callahan at Monmouth’s pro day, he wasn’t actually allowed to participate. So Callahan had to wait until Monmouth’s players finished before he worked out for Owen and a handful of other scouts.

But the Packers liked what they saw on tape and in that workout enough to offer Callahan a summer job. And he got a breakthrough opportunity to play a ton in the preseason because of an ankle injury to backup QB Brett Hundley. He clearly made the most of it.