Monday, March 8, 2010

Saints Nation: Scott Fujita Says His Goodbyes, Heads to Cleveland

Hearing the news that Scott Fujita had signed a 3 year $14 million contract with the Cleveland Browns came as a pretty big surprise. I fully expected him to end up back in New Orleans. Fujita has been a steady starter at linebacker in the Sean Payton regime since 2006, and his play was consistent enough last year that I assumed the team would want him back. Now the Saints have a glaring hole at linebacker with his departure, and more importantly they have a glaring hole in the leadership department. Fujita was known during his time with the Saints as one of the main leaders. When you hear about the Sean Payton regime targeting character players, no one fit that description better than Scott Fujita who had ultimate respect from his teammates, coaching staff and fans. That's not to say that the Saints were willing to shell at that kind of dough for him, though. Let's be honest, the Browns are paying him a significant amount of money ($8 million guaranteed) and clearly the Saints didn't want to get in a bidding war. quoted Fujita as saying, "in planning for their future, the Saints just didn't value that partnership the same way;" as he talked about how much the team and city meant to him. My guess from that quote, reading between the lines, is that the Saints weren't interested in bringing him back at all. Perhaps down the line at a discount, but not at the price the Browns were willing to have him.

One interesting point of note was that Fujita was seen blitzing more than ever under the 2009 Saints' defense, orchestrated by new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. While Fujita is a well rounded versatile player that's capable of doing most things fairly well, he doesn't exactly strike fear coming off the edge as a legitimate passing rushing threat. My guess is the Saints want to get younger at linebacker with Vilma and Shanle holding down starting spots of their own, and they want to find a young pass rushing linebacker that can be more of a threat blitzing in passing situations. We'll have to see how that pans out in the draft. With Grant and Fujita both gone, the Saints have some work to do to upgrade their defense. The only good news that comes from this departure is that the Saints are now able to sign a free agent, though it's a small consolation.

Scott - thanks for the memories. You were a great Saint and you're a terrific guy. I'll really miss seeing you play in a Saints uniform, but I'll continue to root for you on Sundays (as long as you're not playing the Saints!).