NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Saints fans got a surprise on Saturday, Max Unger retiring from the NFL.

My guess is Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis were not surprised by this announcement. Knowing Unger and the type of person that he is, my guess is that he’s had these talks with the team and so they saw this coming.

The Saints still have two centers on the team – both young guys – Cameron Tom, who went to Catholic High School and Southern Miss and Will Clapp who went to Brother Martin and LSU.

The Saints like both of those young guys, but you have to believe they are now in the market for a veteran center.

The veteran presence is what Max Unger brought. The Saints are a very young team right now. They have a lot of guys under 27 years old and Unger was a terrific veteran presence on the offensive line and in the locker room.

He will be missed, maybe more for his off-the-field influence on the team as anything, though he was a terrific player for four years.

You’re going to hear the analytic web sites say he had a down year last year, that he graded out as his worst year in his four years in New Orleans, but he was a terrific player while he was here.

This makes the Jimmy Graham trade really interesting. There were three parts to that trade. The Saints dealt a superstar tight end in Graham to the Seahawks for Unger and a first round draft pick.

It turns out Graham was a bust in Seattle, Max Unger was a solid player for four years and the first round draft pick turned into Stephone Anthony, the linebacker, who turned into a first round bust here.

Two of the three components of the trade turned out to be a bust. Max Unger, a terrific player. He will be missed in the locker room, but you have to believe the team already has a plan in place and we’ll see what they do this week.