As Zach Strief cleaned out his locker at the Saints training facility, he hoped it wouldn’t be his last time in the building.
Now he knows it won’t be.
The Saints announced they had come to terms on a five-year contract with the veteran right tackle, who was drafted by the franchise in the seventh round of the 2006 draft.
“Not only has he done an excellent job at the right tackle position, but he has served us well as an offensive captain for the past two seasons and has always been a great asset in the community since he first came here in 2006.”
The deal is worth a reported $20.5 million with $8.4 guaranteed, National Football Post writer Aaron Wilson said.
Strief was rated by NFL analytics site Pro Football Focus as one of the league’s top tackles this past season. He started 15 of 16 games in 2013 and has started 38 games the past three seasons.
He consistently makes school visits and has worked with Café Reconcile in the past. He earned the media’s Good Guy Award, given each year to a player in recognition for his professionalism and cooperation with reporters throughout the season, in 2012.
It’s what he did on the field that earned him the new contract, though. Pro Football Focus had him as the league’s seventh-best tackle, but top-rated right tackle. The site had him giving up only three sacks this past season and only four quarterback hits. He was called for only four penalties this past season.
He wanted to remain in New Orleans, but new after watching teammates Jonathan Goodwin, Carl Nicks and Jermon Bushrod leave in free agency in the past three years that not remaining with the Saints was a real possibility.
“Obviously this organization has been a big part of my life,” Strief said in January. “I feel like I’ve been a part of the success here and I don’t want to leave that. And yet it’s probably my last opportunity to sign a contract in this league. They understand that. I understand that.
“You hope that everybody at some point comes to an agreement to where you can stay. That’s how I feel. I think that’s how they feel.”