With the Super Bowl set for Sunday, we thought it’d be a good time to look at the roster the Saints ended the season with and give our two cents into what players should stick around and which players should go.
You know, because this is the end of the NFL season. Also, fans continue to clamor for information and opinion on the Saints.
So, this week, we’ll go by position groups (secondary, linebackers, defensive line, offensive line and skill players) daily and give our beliefs on who should return and who shouldn’t.
It should be noted that this is all with the assumption that A) the collective bargaining agreement, or lack thereof, doesn’t kill the 2011 season and B) a new CBA doesn’t drastically alter roster or free agency rules.
Wednesday: Defensive Line
Thursday: Offensive Line
Left tackle: Jermon Bushrod, Charles Brown
Left guard: Carl Nicks
Center: Jonathan Goodwin, Matt Tennant
Right guard: Jahri Evans, Tennant
Right tackle: Jon Stinchcomb, Zach Strief
Bushrod is an interesting case. He’s a lot better than people give him credit for, but he’s not a standout All-Pro left tackle and is a free agent this year. Bushrod was tied with Stinchcomb for the second-most penalties called on the team. The six accepted penalties were false starts and as a left tackle, that’s not unusual because he’s generally facing the best pass rusher from the other team. Regardless, he was consistent this season and rarely was beaten for a sack. He’ll be back next season in our eyes.
Nicks is scheduled to be a restricted free agent under the old CBA rules. He was a Pro Bowl selection this year and is generally considered one of the top guards in the game. There’s not much more to say here. He’ll be re-signed.
Goodwin is another interesting case. He’s a free agent, a 10-year pro and will command a decent chunk of money to be re-signed, even at the league minimum (which will be decided in the new CBA). A few years ago, that was $820,000 for a 10-plus year veteran. The Saints have shown in the past that they’re not afraid to cast aside a veteran (see: Faine, Jeff) and they have Tennant waiting in the wings and the staff likes the youngster. As much as we like Goodwin for his availability inside the locker room, we see him playing his trade for another team in 2011.
Evans, like Nicks, is considered one of the best guards in the league. He signed the largest contract for a guard in league history before last season and is on board through 2016. Combined with Nicks, the Saints have the best interior line in the league and that could be a reason Goodwin has a chance for sticking around – consistency inside. Evans, by the way, will be on the roster.
Stinchcomb is heading into his ninth season and is signed through 2013 after re-signing prior to the 2009 season. He was a Pro Bowler in 2009, but crashed back down to the average this past season. He was called for holding five times this season and appeared a step or two slower at his peak. The Saints drafted a tackle in the 2010 NFL draft to push the current tackles. Stinchcomb will be back, but he’ll be pushed to get his level of play back up.
Strief is a free agent after signing his one-year tender before last season. He’s not a guy who will be a season-long starter, but he’s a player who knows his role and does it exceptionally well. He’s athletic and adds bulk to sets where the offense needs an extra blocker. He’ll be heading into his sixth season and has some tread left on the tires. We expect him back next season.
Tennant has tons of upside and signed a four-year contract in July 2010. He backs up both the center and right guard spots and is the center of the future. There’s really not much more to say here because there’s no doubt Tennant will be back.
Brown, like Tennant, was taken in the most recent draft. Unlike Tennant, he went south in regard to being favored by the coaches. He was inactive in 12 of the final 14 of the final 15 games after playing an integral role in a near-blocked field goal in the San Francisco game. But this coaching staff has proven time and again they’re willing to let a guy develop (see: Meachem, Robert) and Brown will stick around.