With the season now in the rearview mirror – though some would say not far enough behind with wounds still open – we believe at WWLTV.com it’s time to hit on our yearly “roster check,” our assessment of who should be or should not be with the club come training camp in July.
We don’t think this will help close the wound that the playoff game opened. It might, in fact, open it more and for that we apologize.
For the next few work week days, we’ll go position group by position group (secondary, linebackers, defensive line, offensive line and skill players) and give our opinions on the players and situations.
Tackles: Jermon Bushrod, Zach Strief, Pat McQuistan, Charles Brown
Guards: Carl Nicks, Jahri Evans, Eric Olsen
Centers: Brian de la Puente, Matt Tennant
Bushrod: For the first time in his career, Jermon Bushrod earned a Pro Bowl berth. The key for him is following it up with another standout season. He signed a two-year contract prior to 2011 and will be in a contract year. Bushrod shut down tons of talent this past season and, if we were the Saints, we’d figure out a way to extend him now because his negotiations could get messy. Bushrod returns in 2012.
Strief: New Orleans is set at right tackle for now as Strief signed a three-year contract prior to 2011. When he returned after an MCL injury in the second Tampa Bay game, the Saints returned to unbeatable form. Seriously. The Saints didn’t lose until the playoffs. Strief will return.
McQuistan: McQuistan was a mid-season acquisition when Brown went down with a hip pointer. He became the team’s “tackle eligible.” Still, he was on the roster because Brown was IR. Still, the team will go to camp with lots of linemen. We can see McQuistan returning at least for training camp.
Nicks: For the second time in his career, Nicks was a Pro Bowler. For the first time in his career, he was an All-Pro. And now he’s up for a new contract. Nicks has been an integral part of the Saints’ success on offense in both the run game and passing game the past few seasons. He’s regarded as one of the best, if not the best, guards in the league. Unfortunately for the Saints, he’s out of contract and he’s going to command big, big, big numbers. The Saints already have a guard in Jahri Evans who set the bar for interior linemen contracts. In the end, we’re just not sure the money is there for Nicks, receiver Marques Colston and quarterback Drew Brees. We see Nicks plying his trade elsewhere in 2012 as someone (ahem, Dallas) will be willing to pay dearly for him.
Evans: This All-Pro/Pro Bowler is signed through 2016. Nothing else needs to be said. Evans sticks around
Olsen: Another short-timer. Olsen was signed in the playoffs for added depth. We don’t see Olsen around on the 53-man.
De la Puente: Here’s a good story. An undrafted free agent who worked his way onto the team, de la Puente is an exclusive rights free agent. In other words, the Saints are the only team who can deal with him. He’ll be back in 2012.
Tennant: This backup is signed through 2013 after the Saints selected him in the 2010 draft. He was supposed to be the heir apparent to Jonathan Goodwin at center. Instead, de la Puente passed him in the preseason. Still, Tennant knows the system and isn’t expensive. He’s worth keeping around and we see Tennant remaining with the team.
Brown: Charles Brown filled in admirably for Strief when the starter went down in the Houston game. But he showed he was not quite there yet; the Saints went 3-2 with him starting. Still, Brown – a second-round pick by the Saints – showed enough promise. Brown is back.