Larry Warford drawn to Saints in part because of New Orleans culture

New Orleans Saints fans might one day have a unique opportunity to meet the team's top acquisition thus far in 2017. Larry Warford, who signed a four-year deal reportedly worth $34 million, is an aspiring musician and thinks he might eventually take some time to jam around the city.

Football, though, will be the top priority for Warford once he moves to New Orleans. The Saints signed the 25-year-old to be the long-term replacement for Jahri Evans, who held that spot for the past 11 seasons, and the team hopes Warford can provide the same powerful blocking skills he produced with the Detroit Lions the past four years.

Although he received offers from five or six teams as an unrestricted free agent this week, Warford said coming to New Orleans was an easy decision.

"This is definitely where I wanted to be," he said. "Just being here for the last day I'm excited I did -- really happy."

Part of the draw for the 6-foot-3, 317-pound Warford was a familiarity with the offense. A third-round pick in 2013, Warford spent most of 2014-15 playing for Joe Lombardi, the Lions' offensive coordinator who implemented a similar scheme to the Saints when he arrived in Detroit. Lombardi re-joined the Saints staff last year as quarterbacks coach after the Lions fired him.

But Warford is also looking forward to experiencing his new city. While in college playing for Kentucky, Warford began playing the bass. Then, once with the Lions, he started dabbling with the guitar, and last year he began playing the drums.

While in Detroit, Warford went to some open mic nights at a bar, but he didn't do that until he was settled.

"Here, it might take a little bit longer because I want to be focused on football first," Warford said. "Who knows, man? I might find a jam spot area once in a while. It's something I love to do. I like to listen more than play just because I'm not great at guitar. It's just cool to hear how other people interpret music. I'm excited to find all the spots down here and see what it's about, man."

The rich music tradition in the Crescent City isn't often the first thing that comes to mind for football players, but, don't worry, Warford mentioned something about the city about which many New Orleanians can relate.

"I heard there's good eating down here, too, so I'm excited about that," he said. "I just got to watch myself. But, this culture has something about it that you can't really put your finger on, and I'm excited to be down here."

The New Orleans Saints shored up their offensive line on the first day of free agency
And the Saints are surely excited to have him as he joins an experienced and proven group of offensive linemen. In theory, Warford will slot right in between center Max Unger and right tackle Zach Strief while Terron Armstead and Andrus Peat man the left side.

A bright spot in Warford's career has been his durability as he started at least 13 games all four seasons with the Lions. However, his rookie year was his best performance before he started to deal with turnover. In addition to changing personnel, the Lions hired a new head coach in 2014 -- his second season. Warford's offensive line coaches, Jeremiah Washburn and Terry Heffernan, stayed with the team, but the blocking scheme changed under coach Jim Caldwell and Lombardi. Then in 2015, the Lions fired the offensive line coaches, forcing Warford to adjust again.

As he comes to the Saints, Warford thinks his play is improving, though it has always been solid or better.

"I think it's really, really coming together for me right now," he said. "All the coaching changes that I've had in the past kind of threw me off a little bit there my second and third year. ... I feel like I'm on that incline, and I'm only looking to get better. Whatever they need me to do here, I'm going to perform to the best of my ability."

It might be odd next season to see someone else manning the right guard spot after the 33-year-old Evans thrived there for so long. Although the Saints were ready to find a younger option, including a pursuit of Kevin Zeitler before signing Warford, the Saints' newest guard recognizes that Evans was "amazing."

"He has been one of the mainstays as a guard," Warford said. "Like, when you think of great guards, he's one of them. To be even put in the (same) category as him, that'd be awesome. I think he's a great player, have nothing but respect for the dude. I'm looking to come here to try to do everything they ask me to do."

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Neil S. Schwartz

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