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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
John Sigler

13 former Saints players advancing to conference championship games

No teams in the NFL divisional round rostered more former New Orleans Saints players than the Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles, who have each progressed further to the AFC and NFC championship games, respectively. Cincinnati will visit the Kansas City Chiefs (who have a pair of former Saints of their own) while Philadelphia hosts the San Francisco 49ers (with three former Saints players in their lineup).

Why were so many former Saints players suiting up in playoff games this weekend? It’s actually not that unusual — the Carolina Panthers had the same number of former players on playoff rosters around the league, for example. So many players enter and exit practice squads these days that it’s almost inevitable to find familiar names in unexpected places.

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That’s not to say the Saints didn’t commit some self-inflicted wounds here. They didn’t handle the C.J. Gardner-Johnson situation well last summer, which led to the Philadelphia Eagles fleecing them in a trade. Their salary cap machinations led to Trey Hendrickson and Vonn Bell getting priced out of New Orleans. Poor talent evaluation cost them Boston Scott.

At the same time, nobody is shedding tears over the likes of Ian Book, Joe Bachie, Cameron Tom, and Eli Apple joining other teams. Bachie and Tom were replacement-level practice squad players. Book and Apple’s time ran out with the Saints. It’s more happenstance than anything to see these high numbers of former Saints players on competitive playoff teams.

But with that said, it’s still painful to see Gardner-Johnson taking on a leadership role with the Eagles and creating turnovers while Hendrickson is screaming off the edge to put the Bengals over the top, with Bell putting the game away. Especially when their replacements haven’t worked out. Marcus Davenport hasn’t panned out at defensive end for New Orleans, and Marcus Maye wasn’t able to stay in the lineup at safety. The Saints ostensibly let Bell and Hendrickson walk so they could pay players like Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Williams, only to lose both of them.

That’s enough angst. Here’s a quick recap of the former Saints players whose teams have a shot at the Super Bowl with a win next weekend:

Cincinnati Bengals S Vonn Bell

Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Bengals DE Trey Hendrickson

Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Bengals CB Eli Apple

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Bengals LB Joe Bachie

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Philadelphia Eagles S C.J. Gardner-Johnson

Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Philadelphia Eagles RB Boston Scott

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles C Cameron Tom (practice squad)

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Philadelphia Eagles QB Ian Book

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs FB Michael Burton

AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

Kansas City Chiefs C Austin Reiter

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco 49ers DT T.Y. McGill

Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco 49ers CB Janoris Jenkins (practice squad)

Derick Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco 49ers WR Willie Snead IV (practice squad)

AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn
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