Monday, 14 February 2011 15:18
Will New Orleans Saints Offseason Be On With Brees, Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush?
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Ed Staton--Louisiana SportsSummary: A possible NFL lockout and salaries will make the off-season contract jousting for stars will make it difficult for the Saints even dealing with their stars Drew Brees, Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush

The Saints finished 28th in rushing last season in avalanche of injuries in the backfield, which included Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory and Lynell Hamilton.

Lacking a decent running game put way too much pressure on the shoulders of Drew Brees. who set a career high in interceptions while playing six games with a knee injury. The pass rush did not have to slow down too much, especially with Bush out most of the season with a broken leg and no threat on short passes.

The Saints waived P.J.  Hill, who spent the season on the injured reserve list and are still evaluating the running back position. They have lot of questions too .answer.

Will Thomas get another chance? The team's leading rusher in 2009, he suffered a high ankle sprain and was in and out most of the season. Thomas, depending on the collective bargaining agreement, could be an unrestricted free agent. He wants more money. Do the Saints want him? They attempted to trade him to the Patriots last season for a cornerback, but could not get together on a deal.

Thomas played two of his three seasons near the league minimum, and led the Saints in rushing two of those seasons. He was a bargain.

The Saints gave him just $1.7 million last season, which made him angry and he skipped some offseason workouts. There was a suggestion to a national reporter that that Thomas was not working hard enough to get back from the ankle sprain. There was ill will.

Thomas is still looking for a sweeter deal than the club was willing to offer when he was a restricted free agent. Thomas might be gone, especially with rookie Chis Ivory showing  up big for the season as their leading rusher.

Just how big a paycut is Bush willing to take to remain a Saint?

The NFL's most over-paid player in its history said last month that he's willing to restructure his salary to remain in New Orleans. What a team guy. As if he had a choice in the matter, Bush's contract calls for a salary of $11.8 million this season, and that's after the Saints bit the bullet in the post-Super Bowl honeymoon phase and paid him $8.5 million last year. For that, all they got was eight games of very modest regular-season production.

The Saints say they're still deciding on what to do at running back, but if Bush comes back at all it will be at a deep, deep discount price at their choosing. The Saints should start the negotiation by suggesting Bush give back money and see where the talks go from there.

The definite keeper is Ivory, who rushed for 716 yards and has the speed to run outside and the power to go between the tackles.

Offensive guard Carl Nicks made All-Pro on 2010 and if he isn't franchised, he figures to be a signing target for numerous teams. He yielded only four sacks last season and was durable enough to play every one of the team's 1,216 offensive snaps over the span of the season.

In the wake of last year's payday they gave to Jahri Evans, the Saints seem unlikely to tie up so much money in their guards. In addition, the Saints have some other contractual questions when it comes to the franchise tag and the possibility remains they may tag Nicks. Tackle Jermon Bishrod and center Jonathan Goodwin are contractual issues.

The Saints have 27 potential free agents with three or more years of experience the team must makes decisions on.

Look at the list: Safety Darren Sharper, defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson and defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove. Then there's wide receiver Lance Moore, safety Roman Harper, tight end David Thomas and safety Usama Young.

Kicker returner Courney Roby is a good player and is a free agent. Cornerback Leigh Torrence made some contributions when the secondary was riddled with injuries.

The rookie Jimmy Graham showed up as a very good tight end, which gives the Saints three, including Jeremy Shockey.

Sharper is getting old and could be gone.

The most over-riding factor dealing how much to pay free agents is that Brees is going want a mega-deal this season. He is going into the last season of his contract and Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are getting paid a lot more money.

The Saints may look like another team in 2011, if there is a 2011.

by Ed Staton



Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography.  


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