Saints to leave empty chair in draft room as tribute to Tom Benson

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The Saints will hold a draft for the first time anyone can remember without owner Tom Benson in the room. Benson died in March at the age of 90.

The Saints believe he will be with them in spirit.

“We’ll have an empty chair for him, and we’ll be thinking about him for sure,” Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis said, via Joel Erickson of the New Orleans Advocate. “We miss him.”

New Saints owner Gayle Benson is expected in the war room for at least part of the draft. Her NBA team, the Pelicans, begins the next round of the playoffs Saturday in Oakland.

“She’s been there with Tom; I’m sure she’ll be there again,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said. “The conflict would only be the Pelicans’ success, but she’s been at every draft that I’ve been here since ’06. She’ll have her spot, two down from me to the right, and we’ll make sure it’s ready for her.”