Mar 4, 2011

Saints Make Key Signings as CBA Nears Expiration

The Saints have been active this week, as the NFL labor situation hangs over the entire league.

The Saints first locked down free agent DT Shaun Rogers to a one-year deal, which should help the defensive line and the run defense. Rogers is getting older, but upgrades across the defensive line were needed, and the Saints have taken chances with older d-linemen in the past.

Next, the team signed kicker Garrett Hartley to a five-year contract. Hartley has had an up-and-down first couple of years in the league, but despite some early struggles last season, he had a solid year. Hartley remains a fan favorite and has a well-established place in Saints history based off his game winning field goal in the NFC Championship game, sending the Saints to the Super Bowl. Holding the record for three 40+ yard field goals in the Super Bowl, also accentuates his resume. Locking down Hartley was another good move for the team, since kicker has been a revolving door since Sean Payton took over (John Carney, Olindo Mare, Taylor Mehlhalff, Hartley, Carney again, Hartley, and on and on ...).

Lastly, the Saints made a somewhat surprising move yesterday in signing a four-year deal with RB Pierre Thomas. The move isn't surprising that they'd resign Pierre, it's just that it came virtually out of nowhere. After the two sides remained far apart on an extension before last season, there seemed to be bad blood and then he got hurt. Rumors surfaced of the coaching staff questioning Thomas' toughness/healing ability; Thomas questioned team doctors as misdiagnosing his injury. All in all, many felt that it was Pierre's last year in the Black and Gold. Then out of the blue, he is signed to a four-year extension.

Thomas is a solid player and fits the Saints offense well. He can get tough yards and is one of the top screen-play running backs in the league. Brees loves checking down to him, and Payton loves calling screens for him. Pairing him with Chris Ivory creates a great 1-2 punch in the backfield. The signing does open up more questions, though, about the future of Reggie Bush. Will Bush be willing to take a pay cut, and if so, how much? Peirre reportedly got a $12 million deal over four years, Bush should get similar, but what if he gets more? How will that change the dynamic of both deals and the feelings of both running backs? Also, with three quality players at running back now, how do you split the load?

The signings of Rogers and Thomas fill needs for the Saints and they can now focus on other areas in the draft. Many had the Saints looking for a new running back in the offseason, but now I don't see them going in that direction. They may still bring in another defensive tackle, since Rogers is older and on a one-year deal, but it's no longer as big of a priority.

In other news, former Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey has signed with division rival Carolina and former kicker John Carney is looking to be brought onto the coaching staff as a consultant or coach. Good luck to Shockey, except for when he plays NOLA and I like the Carney move, as he has filled that role before, consulting Hartley during the Saints Super Bowl run.

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