Travaris Cadet sets sights on expanding role with Saints

Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ--Pierre Thomas heads down court with a stolen ball as the New Orleans Saints players participate in the Black and Gold Hoops Challenge III  basketball game Wednesday against local police officers, fire fighters and military members at the Jefferson Playground gym  in Jefferson, La. Wednesday, June 4, 2014. The SaintsÕ opponents in the game were  local police officers, firefighters and military members..
Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ--Pierre Thomas heads down court with a stolen ball as the New Orleans Saints players participate in the Black and Gold Hoops Challenge III basketball game Wednesday against local police officers, fire fighters and military members at the Jefferson Playground gym in Jefferson, La. Wednesday, June 4, 2014. The SaintsÕ opponents in the game were local police officers, firefighters and military members..

Travaris Cadet’s career with the Saints began in 2012 as the latest undrafted free agent to make the regular-season roster out of training camp.

Cadet’s tale continued last season as an offensive apprentice to one of the most dynamic running backs in NFL history.

This summer, his latest chapter of experiences is undetermined.

Cadet could emerge as the newest playmaker in a Drew Brees-led passing attack. He could become the heir to Darren Sproles — who was traded this offseason to Philadelphia — offering his improved skills to one of the top NFL offenses while contributing as a returner on special teams.

Or the selection of first-round draft pick Brandin Cooks, another nifty and speedy playmaker, coupled with the surprising development of second-year running back Khiry Robinson, part of an always-crowded backfield, could make Cadet expendable late in the 2014 preseason as the fifth running back in a four-back depth chart.

Of course, Cadet is working toward the first option.

“I want to be a guy that’s a mastermind at every position, whether it’s returning kicks, covering kicks, catching balls, running the ball, picking up blitzes; whatever they may want me to do,” said Cadet, a third-year pro.

“I just try to separate myself from the average guy with my versatility.”

It’s the same versatility that made Cadet an offensive project during coach Sean Payton’s Bountygate-suspended season away from the Saints. It’s the same versatility that made Payton, upon his return, take a liking to Cadet’s skill set. The same versatility this offseason that made Payton consider Cadet as a replacement for Sproles, who in 2011 set an NFL record in all-purpose yardage in a season with 2,696 yards.

“He’s got very good ball skills,” Payton said in March at the NFL Annual Meeting in Orlando. “He’s a guy who can run the routes. ... He can play from in the backfield from extended positions.

“He is a utility player that has gotten better at the core skill sets of being a runner, but he’s very comfortable at being a receiver out of the backfield.”

The same versatility that made the Saints switch Cadet from receiver to running back, and perhaps the same versatility that has made the question of how to utilize him during his first two seasons a rhetorical one.

So far, Cadet has seven catches for 49 yards and one touchdown reception. He also has one carry for 5 yards. On 35 kickoff returns, he’s averaging 26.5 yards. He’s returned two punts for 2 yards.

Here’s what we do know: Cadet wants to do more.

He’s spent the past two seasons learning from Sproles. Up close. Picking his brain, figuratively, for information about how to work, how to work even harder. How to dedicate himself to the sport.

He will have to to stay in New Orleans.

While Cooks is a receiver, his ability mirrors that of Cadet. So does Robinson, who like Cadet earned a roster spot as an undrafted free agent (2013).

Receiver and running back are expected to be two of the most contested depth-chart positions this summer at training camp.

We also know: Cadet wants to be one of the greatest. He wants more. Cadet said he’s far from satisfied with just making the roster, and no longer a pupil.

“I want to be that guy they can depend on to come through,” he said. “So I feel like it’s a great opportunity to finish what I started.”