According to Mike Triplett at nola.com, 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.