With NFL rookies already at training camp and veterans due to arrive this coming week, the New Orleans Saints begin the process of preparing for another Super Bowl run. Compared to the beginning of last year’s training camp, I have high hopes and expectations for the Saints this year. Head coach Sean Payton is back, Drew Brees is coming off of his second consecutive season throwing for 5,000 or more yards and new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is here to correct last year’s defensive deficiencies.
Despite all the reasons I have to be excited, there is a bit of a mystery on the offensive line, specifically at the left tackle position. Previously, Jermon Bushrod filled that spot and performed fairly well. The Saints, however, value their guards more so than their tackles and let Bushrod test the waters of free agency. It’s no surprise that the Chicago Bears ended up signing him to a five-year deal worth $17 million guaranteed.
The question then remains, who will replace Bushrod?
At present, there are three likely candidates to fill that void. Entering his fourth year, Charles Brown has been with the Saints the longest and has shown promise. Last year, he was able to get some time at the right tackle position and performed well. The main issue with Brown is that he has suffered injuries throughout his career. If Brown continues to have lingering injuries, don’t expect the Saints to wait around. Protecting Brees is of the utmost importance.
Another potential candidate to replace Bushrod is Jason Smith. Originally drafted second overall by the St. Louis Rams in the 2009 NFL Draft, Smith suffered a concussion in November of that year and missed the remainder of the season. Smith was then traded to the New York Jets in 2012 and released at the end of last season. Coming to New Orleans could be an opportunity for Smith to rejuvenate himself and find success.
The third candidate and least likely to take over the position full time is rookie Terron Armstead. Armstead impressed at the combine and definitely has the skills and talent necessary, but he is a rookie with no NFL experience. It’s likely the Saints will use him only in a limited capacity so that he can gain experience and learn the Saint’s system.
Regardless of who ends up filling Bushrod’s spot, I have faith in the Saints organization and Payton to make the best choice possible for the team. Still, though, Saints fans should be keeping a close eye on the offensive line during training camp and the preseason games. I know I will be.