Wednesday, March 31, 2010
So the big questions become: Can the Saints afford to keep all four of these players, and if not, which one do they let go?
As of now the Saints have Stinchcomb locked up longterm, and Bushrod, Strief and Brown have all been tendered to restricted free agent contracts that make it unlikely other teams will attempt to sign them away. Right now, if healthy, Jammal Brown still represents the team's best option at left tackle. It remains to be seen based on his injury history, though, if the Saints are willing to risk investing in Brown long term. It also remains to be seen if he's fully recovered enough from his serious hip surgery in 2009 to play at the level he's accustomed to. Brown is a premiere tackle when on his game, no doubt, but he's gone through patches of injury and poor play before. Bushrod did prove that he could fill in admirably for Brown last year, but his performances were up and down, and the Saints devised many blocking schemes targeted at helping Bushrod. Whether it was line shifts, double teams, chips from a back, or play action plays run away from the left side, the Saints often focused on relieving Bushrod of as much pressure as possible. While the offense still managed to have tons of success that way, it would be nice to put less pressure on the other players on the line and allow coach Payton to be more versatile in his play calling. Bushrod should only get better, but will he ever be good enough to give the Saints reason to invest in him long term? As far as Strief, it seems as though he's best suited for a spot at right tackle, and right now there's no way he's bumping Stinchcomb from the starting rotation.
Ultimately the Saints, while it was difficult, found ways to get three tackles involved in the gameplan last year. I don't think it's realistic that they'll be able to do that with four healthy tackles, and with the current value that Jammal Brown and Jermon Bushrod carry, I think they are the most likely to get shipped. Strief is too valuable as a backup and role player to the team, and he's not valuable enough on the open market, so I don't see him leaving. I think Bushrod, based on his performance last year, may actually be overvalued on the current open market. Brown is a little bit of an enigma, because while he's probably valued highly based on his accolades, he carries a high price tag and a big injury risk. I can't imagine the Saints will keep all four players, but I'm not certain of which player they would part with. It is possible that the Saints will keep the four tackles for one more year in an effort to get more answers as to who should be in their long term plans. Either way it's a good problem to have for the team. Too many good tackles is the opposite of what most NFL teams deal with, which is not enough.