Sunday, February 28, 2010

Payton Says Reggie Stays

The Times Picayune reported New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton giving assurances that running back Reggie Bush will remain with the organization in 2010 despite the massive up tick in his salary.

“He’ll be with us. He’s not going anywhere,” said Payton while in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine.

Under the reported terms of his contract, the celebrithete is due $8,000,000 in 2010. By contrast, quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees made $13,000,000 in base salary and bonuses in 2009.

According to USA Today, Bush is already the highest paid running back in the NFL despite ranking 48th in rushing yards and 26th in rushing touchdowns.

Maybe it’s his marketing value or Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis are just that enamored with him as a player. Or maybe they’re just buying time to evaluate their other options.

Bush hasn’t played a 16 game season since his rookie year. And former Saints running back Deuce McAllister isn’t losing sleep that his franchise record is in any danger from Bush as number Twenty-Five racked up his fewest rushing yard total of his professional career, 390.

Bush also had his least receptions, receiving yards and had a disappointing season as punt returner.

Any objective observer recognizes that Bush isn’t living up to his pricey contract, perhaps even less so than perennial fan punching bag defensive end Charles Grant. Then against, Grant doesn’t make plays that end up on the cover of SI or sell as many jerseys.
Despite the recent comments by Payton, the Onside Kick’s position regarding Bush’s future with the Saints can be appropriately punned as such: watch for the fake.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Saints Make Offers to 13 of 18 Restricted Free Agents

According to Mike Triplett of (Times Picayune), the New Orleans Saints have tendered offers to 13 of the team’s 18 restricted free agents.

The list includes:

Running Back Pierre Thomas
Wide Receiver Lance Moore
Tight End David Thomas
Tackle Jammal Brown
Tackle Jermon Bushrod
Tackle Zach Strief
Kick returner Courtney Roby
Safety Roman Harper
Defensive Tackle Anthony Hargrove
Defensive Tackle Remi Ayodele
Linebacker Marvin Mitchell
Safety Usama Young
Safety Chris Reis

Seven of players have started games last season; Moore and Brown started in 2008 but were hampered with injuries in 2009.

Restricted free agents guard Jahri Evans, defensive end Jeff Charleston, cornerback Leigh Torrence, fullback Kyle Eckel and running back Mike Bell have yet to be extended offers.

March 4th is the deadline for teams to make offers to restricted free agents.

Saints Ground Game Alert: Pierre Made Offer, But Has Bell Tolled?

According to Mike Triplett at, the New Orleans Saints have tendered an offer to featured running back Pierre Thomas and twelve other restricted free agents.

Not issued an offer was running back Mike Bell, fullback Kyle Eckel, cornerback Leigh Torrence, sub-in defensive end Jeff Charleston and guard Jahri Evans.

Evans, who was elected to the Pro Bowl and was part of an award winning offensive line, will likely be offered a long-term deal by the Saints, though the future is not so promising for the rest of the restricted free agents not tendered an offer.

Eckel was brought in as a mid-season replacement for starting fullback Heath Evans, who has another year on his contract and played well enough to win fans over after he replaced the popular Mike Karney in the lineup.

Evans had a rushing touchdown and two receiving touchdowns in six games before suffering a season-ending injury at Miami. The former New England Patriot said on WWL several weeks ago that he hopes to end his career with the Saints and play beyond his current contract.

Eckel had six yards rushing and fourteen yards receiving with no touchdowns in seven games. The Saints recently added ex-San Francisco Forty-Niner fullback Zak Keasey to a one year contract further indicating that Eckel’s time with the team is drawing to a close.

The five-year veteran Torrence was the weak link in the Black and Gold’s potent secondary. Torrence played in five games, had no interceptions and half a sack before he was placed on injured reserve and was replaced by returning Saints Mike McKenzie, before he was also relieved. Torrence probably isn’t returning either.

Reserve defensive end Jeff Charleston may return to the team though his 2009 numbers were not impressive, with zero sacks (down from 3 last season) and made fewer tackles than he did in 2008. There isn’t much of a demand for Charleston on the open market and the team will be able to resign him at their convenience.

Which finally leads to Mr. Bell. The ex-Bronco running back best game was the regular season opener against the Detroit Lions, where he rushed for 143 yards as he filled in for Thomas, who had been injured in the preseason. As the season went on, the running back committee largely became the Pierre Thomas show with Reggie Bush making cameo appearances as Bell settled into a reduced role.

As mentioned in my previous column, the addition of running back LaDainian Tomlinson, which is not a certainty, would make Bell’s future certain with the Saints, as in gone.

That Bell was not made an offer could be a sign that quarterback Drew Brees’s not so discreet lobbying efforts to bring aboard his Super Bowl ring-hungry friend from San Diego is making headway.

Bell has an attitude reputation while Saints head coach Sean Payton has a reputation for having thin skin and a willingness to show players who’s the boss (see ex-Saints receiver Joe Horn).

Bell’s drop in productivity as the season progressed, Payton’s impatience and Brees’s desire to be reunited with his ex-Charger teammate may have a lot to do with Bell’s undetermined status with the Saints organization.
The possibility of Tomlinson signing with the Black and Gold is no longer the pipe dream local sports talk hosts have claimed it was once word spread that San Diego would not be retaining one of the greatest running backs to play the game.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010



The New Orleans Saints Super Bowl parade might have been the last time celebrithete running back Reggie Bush donned a Saints jersey in the Crescent City.

Due a staggering $8,000,000 next season under the terms of Bush’s contract, the Saints front office has two choices: pay the cameo superstar or cut him. Trade is not likely an option not because Bush is unwanted by other teams, since his talents are certainly coveted in addition to the marketing bonanza that follows the 4th year player that has yet to make a Pro Bowl but because nobody else would want to assume the running back’s contract.

A renegotiation/restructuring of Bush’s contract is improbable; not because of his stats but because of his stature. Stars like Bush, due to pride and/or perception, don’t take pay cuts. And if they have to settle for one, it’ll be with another team.

One source I won’t identify who is very familiar with the Saints organization mentioned to me just before the playoffs that Bush’s departure as a virtual certainty because the running back wants to return to the west coast, the location of his roots, his interests and his girlfriend.

Bush played high school football in San Diego and moved up the Pacific Coast for college at USC. And though Bush has played professionally in New Orleans, it’s apparent that he has immersed himself in the Crescent City like other Saints players have. Bush isn’t the adopted local icon quarterback Drew Brees is and never will be.

Number nine has supplanted all of the professional sports legends before him owns this town, just like George Brett owns Kansas City and John Elway owns Denver; Reggie Bush just works here.

That said, I don’t mean to discount his charitable work in New Orleans, which has not been inconsiderable, as Bush was donating money to entities struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina before he had inked his deal with the Saints.

But New Orleans just isn’t his city; and it’s not Kim’s either.

Saints fans shouldn’t take it personally. Nola just isn’t home.

Bush has no shortage of options beyond the Saints. Even with limited play in 2009, Bush was a major contributor to the Saints offense as a running back (averaging a career high 5.6 yards per carry), receiver (7.1 yards per reception) and as a distraction (see the high level of productivity by the other receivers). Bush also scored a combined 8 touchdowns rushing and receiving, including the spectacular “fleur-de-leap” against the Miami Dolphins that made the cover of Sports Illustrated.

The one area where Bush was largely a bust this season was as a punt returner. Bush averaged a meager 4.8 yards per return with two fumbles and no touchdowns. The 2008 season was Bush’s best as a punt returning with a 13.5 yard return average and having taken 3 back for touchdowns.

The divisional playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals was unquestionably his finest in the 2009 post-season though Bush's star did not shine as bright in the NFC Championship game against the Minnesota Vikings nor on the biggest stage of all, the Super Bowl.

While Bush isn’t a durable player, he is capable of making exciting plays on a limited basis, selling jerseys and attracting klieg lights.

The most natural fit for Bush would be his hometown of San Diego, which is close to LA, USC and KK. Conveniently enough, the Chargers are shorthanded at running back with the release of LaDainian Tomlinson, one cannot help think in part anticipating the arrival of Bush as a free agent.

The second most logical option is a reunion with his former college coach Pete Carroll, who made a hasty departure up the coastline to Seattle.

While Bush will be dearly missed in the Big Easy, the Saints will have an opportunity in the draft to pick up a player that could partially (key word) supplement the dynamo gap left by Reggie’s departure.

The Saints may already have one part in place with the probable return of wide receiver Rod Harper, who impressed the Saints front office and fans with two punts returned for touchdowns in the 2009 preseason but spent all of the regular season either inactive or on injured reserve.

Talk of Tomlinson’s possible singing by the Saints, publicly encouraged by his old Chargers team mate and good friend Brees, wouldn’t replace what Bush takes with him. If anything, Tomlinson’s addition would more probably be an indication that running back Mike Bell’s days with the Saints organization are numbered as the two share a similar running style.

Bush has been a valuable player for the Saints and his contributions to the team on the field, off the field and from a marketing perspective cannot be denied nor discounted.

But Reggie isn’t worth 8 mill. And Reggie isn’t taken a nickel less from the Saints.

Leaving general manager Mickey Loomis with no other choice than, for the second off-season in a row, to cut a popular running back from the roster.

The only question is when.

And so the ReggieWatch begins.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Welcome to The Onside Kick

This marks the first post under my Saints exclusive blog titled in honor of the 164th overall pick in the 2009 draft.

Though he was a rookie this past season, it would take one of hell of an imagination to think of a bigger future play for punter Tommy Morstead to execute than AMBUSH, the code-name Saints head coach Sean Payton assigned to his plan to on-side kick in the Super Bowl.

Hopefully, Morstead will have as lengthy of a career as Jeff Feagles and that the SMU product will spend the lion’s share of his time in the NFL with the team that drafted him.

Ironically enough, one of the heroes of Super Bowl XLIV was an unwanted acquisition by many Saints fans who thought it foolish for the team to not only use a 5th round draft pick to grab a player considered the second-best punter in the draft but to also cough up a seventh round pick in 2009 and a fifth round pick in 2010 to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Call the Morstead pick-up Loomis’s Folly in the same vein that the purchase of Alaska was called Seward’s Folly.

Unfortunately, most football fans forget the first-part of the sport they love so dearly.

Perhaps it’s easy for someone of my mindset to appreciate early on the selection of a punter; after all, my favorite Saints player while growing up was the Great Dane, Morten Andersen- the kicker who lifted the Saints to a number of wins and is the NFL’s all-time leading scorer.

Kickers tend to not receive much respect from their peers and sportswriters as the greatest punter of all time Ray Guy is still waiting for his invitation to Canton. However, number Seven should be a first ballot inductee in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in five years, joining fellow Saints standouts linebacker Rickey Jackson and likely future inductee tackle Willie Roaf. But I digress.

Considering the Saints only had four draft picks due to previous trades and that two of the players selected ended up on injured reserve before the start of the regular season, the team received immediate dividends from Morstead and to a lesser degree from their first round pick safety Malcolm Jenkins, who struggled establishing his presence due to injury, rookie errors and a depth in the secondary- who’d a thunk it?

A few weeks into the season, I had the opportunity to briefly meet number Six at an autograph signing where I stated my appreciation for his early contributions to the team.

As they were the most glaring weaknesses for the team since 2007, who’d have thought that the two areas that would make substantial contributions towards the Saints first ever Super Bowl season would be the secondary and the kicking game?

And so, without further ado, I hereby christen my Saints football blog in honor of one of the gutsiest plays in Super Bowl history and the once unwanted draftee who flawlessly pulled it off.