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TE Michael Hoomanawanui placed on IR as Saints cut down roster

The loss of Michael Hoomanawanui to injury is a huge blow to the Saints' tight end depth. AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman

The New Orleans Saints cut 21 players and placed one on injured reserve Saturday, trimming their roster to the NFL-mandated 53 players. Here's a closer look at the final cuts:

Most significant move: The guy the Saints will miss most is one they didn't want to lose -- tight end Michael Hoomanawanui. They placed him on injured reserve with the unspecified leg injury he suffered last week. He's not eligible to return this season since he was placed on IR before Week 1. Hoomanawanui was a versatile backup who proved to be a valued resource as a blocker/pass-catcher after being acquired in a trade with the New England Patriots last year. In his place, the Saints kept former basketball player Chris Manhertz as their third tight end.

Most significant cuts: There were no huge surprises on New Orleans' list of cuts. Among the mild ones: CB Brian Dixon, who had been the Saints' top gunner on special teams the past two seasons; DE Bobby Richardson, who started 11 games as an undrafted rookie last year; DE Davis Tull, whom they drafted in Round 5 out of Chattanooga in 2015; and DE Chris McCain, whom they acquired in a trade with the Miami Dolphins earlier this week for a conditional seventh-round draft pick. The Saints won't owe Miami anything since the pick was conditional, and coach Sean Payton described it as a one-week tryout. The Saints also released veteran OL Khalif Barnes after signing him earlier in the week -- though he could potentially be back after Week 1, when veteran salaries are no longer guaranteed for the full season.

Most significant non-move: The Saints kept four undrafted rookies -- something they've made a habit of in the Payton-Mickey Loomis era. They kept cornerbacks De'Vante Harris and Ken Crawley, guard Landon Turner and perhaps the most intriguing of them all -- 5-foot-7, 168-pound receiver/return man Tommylee Lewis. Payton admitted this summer that Lewis was nowhere near the Saints' radar until he was recommended by their shared mentor, Bill Parcells. ... Another great story who earned a spot on the Saints' roster is safety Erik Harris, who didn’t even get a tryout with an NFL team in 2012 and went to work in a potato chip factory. He then became best friends with Saints CB Delvin Breaux when they were teammates in the Canadian Football League. The rest is history.

Forbath wins kicker battle: In perhaps the most stunning move of all, the Saints stuck with the same kicker they had last year. Nothing against Kai Forbath -- who had a very strong summer performance and earned the Saints' trust last season by kicking a 50-yard game winner against the New York Giants -- but kickers typically don't last long in New Orleans (the Saints have used 10 in the past 10 years under Payton). Forbath beat out Connor Barth in a tight battle.

Nothing set in stone: Keep in mind that this is the 53-man roster for today only. Payton hinted strongly last week that the Saints will take a hard look at the players cut around the league -- they've already traded for McCain, then signed DE Paul Kruger after he got cut by the Cleveland Browns. Now New Orleans' biggest focus will likely be on the guard position. How can the Saints not inquire about former Green Bay Packer Josh Sitton, a three-time Pro Bowler?

Saints moves: Placed TE Michael Hoomanawanui on injured reserve. Released CB Brian Dixon, DE Davis Tull, DE Chris McCain, DE Darryl Tapp, DL Bobby Richardson, DT C.J. Wilson, LB Jeff Schoettmer, S Trae Elston, WR Jordan Williams-Lambert, WR Jake Lampman, FB Austin Johnson, TE Garrett Griffin, OL Khalif Barnes, OT Tony Hills, OT Tyrus Thompson, OT Joseph Cheek, G John Fullington, C Jack Allen, C Marcus Henry, K Connor Barth.